Should a Pastor Pursue a PhD?

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Pursuing a PhD stretches more than the life of the mind.

A few weeks into my first semester of seminary, I should have been listening to the class lecture and discussion. But my mind wandered as a I sketched down notes for possible dissertation topics. I could hardly stop myself, because my first classes, with all of the reading, lectures, and discussions were sparking an immediate and unabating desire to dive into the deep things of God. A decade later, after receiving my Master of Divinity degree, saying wedding vows to the girl of my dreams, taking the pastorate of an urban local church, starting and stopping a Doctor of Ministry degree, and welcoming two kids into the world (with another soon on the way), I finally started my first seminar in a PhD program.

I chose a modular program, which allowed me to continue in my primary calling as a husband, father, and pastor in South Florida, while traveling 3-5 weeks a year for intensive seminars. Now, another half-decade later, I have two more diplomas to hang on my study wall and an additional honorific in front of my name. I am now, technically, “Rev. Dr.” The order matters, because the “Reverend” of a pastor is more prestigious than the “Doctor” of an academic or professional degree. Herein we learn a lesson—a pastor should not be more respected because of a doctorate.

A pastor’s credibility sits upon the shoulders of their ordination, as the people of God affirm that the pastor has been called by the Spirit of God to the ministry of the Word of God. While I value education (I now have two Master’s degrees and a PhD), I don’t believe a pastor necessarily needs a PhD, or an MDiv, or even a BA to minister effectively. A pastor needs to love God and his Word, with a longing …

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