I Have Decided…

Both Trinity and Southern have so much offer. I wish I could enter the Ph.D. programs at both schools. However, this is one of many parts of life where it is not possible to have it all. I have made my final decision.

Lord willing, this fall I will matriculate (again) at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

For a few days early on I was actually leaning the other way. However, my Dad told me I would find the answer on my knees, and that is exactly what happened, though not as I expected. I prayed about the decision itself, but a moment of clarity came to me as I was praying for something else. One afternoon I was praying for my church members, and the thought occurred to me that I have put a great deal of prayer and labor into this church over the last two years. It would certainly be a shame to move at a time when it looks like some of those prayers are finally coming to fruition. I know I am not indispensible to God’s work, either at my church or anywhere else (no servant of God is). However, I know that I was called to this particular church, and at this time God has not called me away:

– Over the next year, Joyce will either succumb to cancer or she will beat it; I want to be there either to rejoice with her or to preach her funeral.
– Ron and Peggy just joined our church a few weeks ago, and in the process I have built a good relationship with them. I want to see them become an integral part of the church, and I can’t wait to see how God will use them to reach others with the gospel.
– I want to see the new baby that will be born to Travis and Amanda this summer. I hope to be there to baptize their older children when the time comes (Lord willing). I long to see Travis become a strong leader in the congregation, and I have had plans in place for months to take him under my wing for that very purpose.
– Over the last two years, I could count on one hand the number of times I have seen Judy and Lisa, but now they have been coming to church regularly. I am anxious to see what God is doing in their lives, and I want to be a part of it.
– Who knows what else God has in store for us? A number of signs lead me to believe that all of the prayers I have poured into this church are starting to bear fruit, by God’s grace. Again, I realize I am not the only person God could use for this task, but I do believe that changing pastors now would do damage to the church at a time when things are looking more hopeful than they ever have since I began serving there. The academic study of theology is supposed to be done in service to the church. While I know I would still serve the church even if I went to Trinity, at this point in time service to the church means service to real flesh-and-blood people whose names I know and whose hands I have shaken.

My love for systematic theology ultimately stems from my love for preaching. Of all theological disciplines, preaching most overlaps with systematic theology, which is the discipline of applying the whole of Scripture to the contemporary world. It has become clear to me over the last week that the pastorate is an ideal context for me to study systematic theology. God has provided me the opportunity to enter an excellent Ph.D. program in systematic theology while also continuing to pastor a church that I have grown to love over the last two years. In addition, this situation also provides the ideal context for me to be both a full-time student and provider for my family. This would not be the case at Trinity. Yes, we would get by if we went to Trinity, but at what cost? Years ago, Joni and I made the decision that she would devote herself to full-time motherhood if the Lord ever granted us the gift of children. Now that he has done so, I have chosen the option that will give Joni the freedom to be the kind of mother that we both want her to be. The costs of tuition and living expenses at Trinity would have required her to find some way of generating income, and I don’t want that pressure to be put on her. I believe God has opened doors here that will enable us to have the kind of family life that we want while also pursuing further education. Even if I have to pass on the benefits of diversity and depth that Trinity has to offer, as well as the experience of getting in touch with the wider world as represented in the Chicago area, I am happy to do so for the sake of my wife and son. God wants us here. It has been a difficult decision, but ultimately, the will of God is all that matters.

I received my acceptance letter from Southern today. I have been assigned to a faculty supervisor, Dr. Gregg Allison. Dr. Allison is himself a Trinity graduate with strengths in the doctrine of revelation and Scripture, Roman Catholic theology (he lived in Rome for several years as a missionary), ecclesiology, and anthropology. He is very conversant with historical theology, which is a definite plus. I took his class on revelation and Scripture last semester, and I enjoyed it very much. A few of my most recent theological “aha!” moments were hammered out as a result of that class. I look forward to many more over the next few years.

Thank you to all those who offered help with this decision. It was a very difficult one to make, but I am thankful that it was a decision between two great choices.

Advertisements

6 Responses to “I Have Decided…”

  1. G. F. McDowell Says:

    I am heartened by the love you are displaying for your local church, and how it has had an impact on your decision making process.

  2. Craig Says:

    There’s no better reason to choose a place than the one you’ve given here– to be with a particular group of people.

    Great choice.

  3. Celucien joseph Says:

    Aaron,

    Such an amazing love for your sheep! I trust you continue loving and ministering to them corporately and individually.

    Congratutions on your acceptance to do Ph.D.work at Southern. Remember, the Lord knows what is best for you. Southern is a great place to pursue such calling.

    Blessings

  4. dritsema Says:

    Hey Aaron I understand your decision. I have been at my church for almost three years and everytime I think about leaving I start thinking about all the unfinished work. It takes a church a few years to get to know and trust you. To stay longer would probably be easier than trying to transition to another church/job in the middle of an advanced degree program.

  5. Dee Says:

    Congrats, Aaron. It’s good to hear that you are sticking around. And I applaud your decision to stick with your church. Too many pastors leave too quickly with the consistent desire to put their personal well-being over the well-being of the congregation. I don’t know anyone on the list you wrote up, but I happy for them that you will still be their shepherd in the days to come.

  6. Myles Says:

    to be faithful to where God has called you is the best call. what craig said.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: