A Matter of Degree
I graduated from Bible College in 1976. Some of my fellow graduates returned home to help serve in sponsoring churches. Others, feeling a definite call to ministry, stayed behind for scheduled meetings with that denomination’s credentialing committee. Some left to pursue service in para-church organizations or mission fields. One graduate went on to pursue a Master of Divinity and further studies in Greek. He already had a B.A. and now a Degree in Theology.
Well my life moved on but every now and then I’d hear about him… years later while other alumni had moved on to second or third pastorates, grown a family, or become established missionaries, he was still pursuing higher studies. I don’t recall what assemblage of letters he was working on last time I heard, but recently I decided to investigate the possibilities. I found a list of some 52 potential degrees in divinity! (For the far too curious I’ve listed them below!)
While there may be nothing wrong with any of these areas of study, it is tragic, and possibly sinful, to allow the pursuit of what one may deem as “excellence” to rob the Kingdom of God of one’s availability.
Paul reminds the Corinthians (and us) of the sorts of things — i.e. people — God chooses…
“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are…” (1 Cor. 1:26-28).
And why does He choose these sorts of people? The very next verse tells us: “so that no one may boast before Him.” (v. 29). God chooses the things that would seem to be beneath His dignity, things unworthy, things that know their own unworthiness.
This is why a holding on to one’s own sense of “dignity” — i.e. one’s sense that they are of some worth — gets in the way of recognizing their true unworth. It becomes possible to begin to believe one is needed by God to effect His purposes… that further degrees and distinction will add to one’s worthiness. But God needs vessels who know they are weak, broken vessels, vessels who have come to their end… who cry with Isaiah…
“Woe to me!… I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isa. 6:5).
It is to these the Lord calls, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” To the one’s who reply “Here am I.” He says, “Go…” (v. 6-9).
One’s best service / worship / ministry / fulfillment / fruitfulness comes not so much with “excellence,” not so much when one reaches the end of one’s studies, as when one reaches the end of one’s self.