Today I will enter a classroom as a student for the first time in 11 years.  It was the fall of 2000 when I completed the coursework for an M.A. in Biblical Studies at Lipscomb University.  That was the year in which current college freshmen were entering the second grade!  Yes, it’s been a while!  It has been even longer, 26 years to be exact, since I completed my bachelor’s degree.  No one can accuse me of rushing my higher education.

Whether or not my new studies in the Graduate School of Theology at Oklahoma Christian University will ultimately result in an additional degree is immaterial to me at this point.  I just feel a strong need to be back in the classroom.  There is so much that I need to learn and so much that I want to learn.  I want to keep my study skills freshly honed.  I want to keep my critical thinking abilities challenged and refined.  I am confident that the faculty and the curriculum in the Masters of Divinity program at OC will provide just that. 

If the Lord doesn’t return first, and if I continue to be blessed with health and strength, I feel like I can continue serving in ministry for another 30 years.  But, I don’t believe that I can do this effectively without additional study and training.  I don’t want to coast.  I don’t want to rust.  I want to finish strong.  Going back to school is a means by which I can “retool” for the second half of my life in ministry. 

I will only be taking 6 credit hours per semester.  That is about the maximum load that I can manage with all of my local ministry responsibilities and the time that I need to devote to my family.  I am very grateful to Kim for her encouragement in this endeavor.  I also greatly appreciate the support of my shepherds at the Broken Arrow church in encouraging me to continue my education.

Leon Burton, a dear brother in Christ and an elder at the Honolulu church where we served in the late 1980s, challenged me to complete a Ph.D. by the time I was 33 years old.  I’m sorry, Leon, but I appear to running a little behind schedule.  But, who knows?  It may still happen.  However, at my current rate of completion, the degree may have to be conferred in a special ceremony at my assisted living facility. 

Jack Wilhelm, a preacher I knew back in Alabama, completed a Ph.D. at Auburn University when he was well into the second half of his life in ministry.  When questioned by some skeptics as to why he would put so much time and effort into earning such a degree at his age, Jack replied, “I just thought it would look good on my obituary.”  I’m with you, Jack!  It certainly adds new meaning to the phrase “terminal degree.” 

The first day of school.  It’s still pretty exciting, even when you are 48!