Some readers of my page on “Thinking about a Ph.D.” have asked me to expand on my brief mention of “other spheres” in which one can engage in research, teaching, and writing.
The first sphere that comes to mind is the pastorate.
Now, don’t laugh! I fully recognize that many pastors are overworked and many readers will find it implausible to think that any teaching or research can get done in pastoral ministry. Still, Karl Barth did some useful research and writing as a pastor. So did Jonathan Edwards. So did John Calvin, and Augustine, and a few (!) others.
Some pastors have teaching as one of their lead gifts and they should be working with their churches to let them teach, not only in sermons (the power of which, to be sure, can be compromised if they are too didactic) but in adult Christian education classes, weekend seminars, retreats, and writing. (Regent graduate Mark Buchanan is a contemporary example of a guy in a small church in a small town, Duncan, BC, who makes this work really well.)
Two of my colleagues here at Regent came on the faculty from large-church pastorates and their joint testimony is that they read more when they were pastors than they have time to do now! So if professors can get research and writing done (and we’d better), so can at least some pastors.
Again, please be clear that I’m not saying all pastors can or should do this. I am saying instead that some churches in particular need pastors who are unusually well educated and articulate. Many, many Christians would love to sit under better teaching and preaching than they’re getting now, let alone be trained in a substantial Christian education program.
In short, some students bent on a career in the academy should instead consider the pastorate. Indeed, they should aim to become the pastors they wish they had.
Other jobs that offer opportunities to read, think, and teach are in student work, particularly at the university level, and in Christian education at local churches. Sometime I’ll blog some more about the desperate need we have for substantial and sustained Christian education of adults in North America and elsewhere. It’s pretty bad when Alpha courses function as education for Christians, rather than for the unchurched for whom they were developed. It’s time to roll out the Beta, Gamma, and Delta programs, too!
But that’s for another time. For now: think about being an unabashedly intellectual pastor. I can’t think of a city in North America that is oversupplied with those.