Friday, November 01, 2013

What is Success for the Christian Academic? Obedience

What is Success for the Christian Academic? Obedience
Matthew 28:19-20; James 3:1
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20 ESV)

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1 ESV).

A great many people today attend college and earn undergraduate degrees.  In fact, nearly 31% of Americans have earned a bachelor’s degree as of 2012 yet we do not consider these people academics.  Only 8% of Americans earn a master’s degree and rarely are these learned people referred to as academics.  Those with earned doctorates, about 3% of Americans, are generally considered academics.  These scholars spend years in study en route to obtaining this high level of education. 

For the Christian academic, career routes include local church ministry and serving in higher education in a college, university, or seminary.  Regardless of where the Christian academic finds himself, the topic of success must be considered.  After all, if he does not know what success is how is he to know if he has attained it?  It is my opinion that the overarching theme of success for the Christian academic is obedience.

Obedience in personal life: the Christian academic would do well to first remember James 3:1.  Christian academics will be held to a higher account.  This should lead the Christian academic to be obedient to the Scriptures in all aspects of life.  As such, the Christian academic should model the Christian life to students, friends, neighbors, and even strangers.  To virtually anyone looking into the life of the Christian academic, the fact that he is a Christian should be self-evident and above reproach.

Obedience in ministerial life: the obedience in the personal life of the Christian academic easily overlaps his ministry.  Here we see the Great Commission clearly as he seeks to make disciples regardless of the ministry setting (e.g. minister of education, college/seminary professor, etc.) in which he finds himself.  As he is obedient to Jesus’ command to go and make disciples, the Christian academic must also remember Matt. 28:20 where he is commanded to teach these new disciples all that Jesus has commanded.  That does not mean he may teach the parts of Scripture that he likes or finds enjoyable or is without much difficulty or controversy.  The Christian academic must be obedient and teach the entire counsel of God from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21.

Obedience in others: ultimately, the Christian academic who has been obedient in his personal life and in his ministerial life will know if he has achieved success if he has taught others to be obedient and keep the commands of Jesus Christ.  If he has made disciples, taught them to observe all that Christ commanded, and those disciples are now going themselves and making more disciples, the Christian Academic can say, albeit humbly, that his education filled life has been a success.


Dan Smith said...

Well written post! I've struggled with this idea ever since attaining my master's degree. It seems like I either have to attempt a doctorate degree or settle for barely enough for local church ministry. You've helped clear some things up though, and I'm grateful for that.

Christopher Sanchez said...

Hi Dan,

I would hardly call a master's degree barely enough for service in a local church. There may be some who believe otherwise but I am by no means among them! What I had in mind was simply to consider, after working so hard towards an educational goal, what does success look like? What does it mean to be successful. I truly feel that the three points in the blog ought to define success for the Christian academic. After spending years in seminary, the point is (in my opinion) to serve the body of Christ and tell others about the risen Savior.

These points really apply to all Christians though. Should it not be obvious to someone outside the faith that there is something different about the manner in which we live and conduct ourselves? Should not all Christians be carrying out the Great Commission? Should mature Christians not be teaching those newer in the faith to observe all the Christ commanded? I think we are in complete agreement on those questions.

Please don't think you are settling with a master's degree! Remember only about 8% of American earn one of those little pieces of paper! However, if you are called to continue your education, it is a high pursuit indeed. I encourage you to pray about that step and follow the leading of the Lord. If you're interested, I am happy to tell you more about the program I am currently enrolled in.