What Peterson Would Say To Seminary Students

A friend of mine linked to this long quote from Eugene Peterson concerning what he would say to new seminary students desiring to be a pastor:

“I’d tell them that pastoring is not a very glamorous job. It’s a very taking-out-the-laundry and changing-the-diapers kind of job. And I think I would try to disabuse them of any romantic ideas of what it is. As a pastor, you’ve got to be willing to take people as they are. And live with them where they are. And not impose your will on them. Because God has different ways of being with people, and you don’t always know what they are.

“The one thing I think is at the root of a lot of pastors’ restlessness and dissatisfaction is impatience. They think if they get the right system, the right programs, the right place, the right location, the right demographics, it’ll be a snap. And for some people it is: if you’re a good actor, if you have a big smile, if you are an extrovert. In some ways, a religious crowd is the easiest crowd to gather in the world. Our country’s full of examples of that. But for most, pastoring is a very ordinary way to live. And it is difficult in many ways because your time is not your own, for the most part, and the whole culture is against you. This consumer culture, people grow up determining what they want to do by what they can consume. And the Christian gospel is just quite the opposite of that. And people don’t know that. And pastors don’t know that when they start out. We’ve got a whole culture that is programmed to please people, telling them what they want.  And if you do that, you might end up with a big church, but you won’t be a pastor.”

Oh how I love Eugene Peterson.

ht  Geroge Mason / lucidtheology / Jonathan Merritt

Diploma Mills vs. Earned Authority

Many years ago I developed a fascination with diploma mills because I worked with pastor who had a degree from one. Diploma mills are often defined as different from degree mills in the sense that you in a degree mills you directly buy a degree, where as in a diploma mill you put in a small to insignificant amount of work in order to “earn” a degree. What does “small amount of work” mean? Well it depends upon but the place but it is usually something like watch a sermon series and write a one page paper saying you watched the video. Often you receive most or all of credit necessary for the degree through your life experience.

Every now and then I go through kicks of searching through various diploma mills on the internet. This is usually because I discover someone I know, or more often someone who knows someone I know, who has such a degree. The place I spent a lot of time yesterday looking at was Andersonville Theological Seminary, which in my opinion is a diploma mill. The “seminars” you need to take for their Doctor of Ministry degree (the degree I worked my but off to complete) usually don’t require books. Out of the 10 seminars only 2 require books. The great news is that at Andersonville you can actually pay for your undergraduate, masters, and doctor degrees all at one time and get a discount. Yep that’s a tough degree and quite a bargain right there my friends.

I see diploma mills, and the ones who get “degrees” from them, as examples of positional authority versus earned authority.

  • positional authority – I demand you respect and listen to me because I have a certain position or title
  • earned authority – you decide to respect and listen to me because you have seen evidence that I might have some idea what I am talking about

I’ve seen both of these forms of authority in practice. Both actually have their place. If I own the company you work for, and therefore sign your paycheck, you better pay attention when I say something. That’s just common sense. Still such positional authority augmented with earned authority is much more powerful. People willingly follow others with earned authority. People follow some one who just has positional authority only as long as they must.

I guess the thing that fascinates me about these diploma mills is that while they are a false source of authority, they also seem to be an oft quoted source of authority for the people who have degrees from such institutions. The people I know who have degrees from diploma mills (and thankfully they are few and far between) are also the ones who usually make a big deal of the title associated with their meaningless degree. They are the ones that demand to be called “Dr.” This is pretty odd to me because ministry is an amazingly merit based profession.

Ministry is one of the most merit based professions I have ever been around. If you are a good minister you will succeed no matter what your qualifications are. If you aren’t a good minister your qualifications and degrees will only get you so far. I have known several highly respected ministers with very little formal education. The first pastor I ministered with was when I was a Summer Missionary as a college student at the Temple of Faith Baptist Church in Detroit. Rochelle Davis was and is one of the most respected ministers that I have ever been around. The guy had limited formal education but had learned Greek so well on his own that he was invited to lecture at Michigan State University. Davis had an amazing amount of earned authority and still does in my life even though I haven’t seen him since 1987. I would have forgotten about Rochelle long ago if his only authority had been positional authority.

The following saying is often attributed to Francis of Assisi:

Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.

While Francis didn’t say those words (go ahead, try to find an original source) he did live them out. He practiced what he preached in such a manner that people followed him as he followed Jesus. His life earned respect and therefore people attributed authority to him.

I hope I live in such a manner that people want to respect and listen to me. I hope I live in such a manner that I earn people’s trust. Positional authority is a very weak authority for a pastor to function out of. Earned authority, on the other hand, is a powerful way to lead people into living out the promise of the kingdom of God.

SIDE NOTE – Diploma mills and fake degrees aren’t just a problem in the religious world. They happen in all sorts of places where people want an easy route to a claim, no matter how false, to positional authority. Here’s an interesting article from CNN talking about the glut of fake degrees now made easier by the internet. The reason I mention fake religious degrees is because it is the professional world that I have been most involved within and therefore it is easiest for me to see the signs of such fake positional authority in the religious world.

My D.Min Experience

This past weekend Pam, Noah,  and I traveled to New Orleans for my D.Min graduation from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (Adam had finals so he couldn’t go). I wrote a few years ago concerning my struggles with going after a D.Min rather than a Ph.D. Basically, I can be a prideful person and my pride was getting in the way of me using an opportunity that was before me. My problem with a D.Min was that I have known some not very intellectual bozos who have D.Min’s from various institutions and I have seen some D.Min projects/dissertations that I was sure weren’t doctorate level work. You see my pride here! I want people to look at my work and be impressed and thereby I started judging other’s work. My worst judgement is usually directed at my brothers and sisters in my own calling of being a minister. It is quite possibly my biggest sin that I can be so generous to so many that are very different from me and the least generous to those that I have the most in common with.

Anyhow when I listened to Pam and kicked my pride to the curb (it is usually best when I listen to her) I found a wonderful experience that challenged me quite a bit. I am proud of so much of the work I did within my D.Min – there is only one seminar that I regret taking. The seminars I took on Jeremiah and Marriage & Family counseling regularly impact what I do and think and the independent study I did on Jurgen Moltmann’s theology of the Trinity is continually shaping how I lead Tapestry. I think I was most proud this weekend when two people responded to my doctoral project. These people are Dr. Lemke and Pam. I’ll start with Dr. Lemke, who is the least important of the two.

Dr. Lemke with the cheese. Mhmm. Glorious cheese.
Dr. Lemke with the cheese. Mhmm. Glorious cheese.

I begged Dr. Lemke to be my faculty mentor knowing that as the Provost of the Seminary the chances weren’t that great that he would be able to do agree to the task. Still I asked because he had been one of the professors that I most respected from my M.Div from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and as he was Provost of the seminary I was pretty sure that if he was satisfied with my project then everyone else would be. After graduation I went to thank him and give him some cheese from Wisconsin State Dairy Cheese Co. (our personal favorite cheese in the area). When I thanked him he stopped me in front of Dr. Kelly (the president of the seminary) and told me that I should be very proud of the work that I had done on the project. He said it was good enough research that he actually enjoyed being a part of it. That meant a lot to me.

Pam with the corny certificate of appreciation
Pam with the corny certificate of appreciation

What meant even more to me was what Pam said about my project. I hope she realizes how important it is to me to impress her. My wife truly is one of the most amazing people I know. Not only is she an amazingly godly woman, wife, and mother but she is also one of the smartest people I have ever been around. Her work is amazing to me and she challenges me more than I can adequately describe. So when she said that she could take my project and do an educational study with it (she had a fancy name for this like SOPA or something but i don’t remember what it was for sure) that meant the world to me. The fact that Pam considered my study something good enough for her to possibly do something with is quite possibly the highest praise I could have received.

A few (very few) people have asked if my paper will be viewable anywhere. I am posting what I consider the most readable part here.  This part is the basic evaluation of the project and those the most important part. The remaining 158 pages are just setup and proofs for what was written in these 31 pages.

Crowdsourcing a Collaborative Project

For the past two months I have been struggling with a page numbering issue. I am on the very last part of the downhill slide of my D.Min. I have finished my doctoral ministry project and written the Project Report (some other seminaries call their D.min project reports dissertations – NOBTS does not). My report has been approved by my faculty mentor which leaves just three more steps:

  1. Send this to the Style Reader to check to make sure that I have done everything according to Turabian standards – Oh how I hate Kate Turabian
  2. Send the report to my doctoral board
  3. Defend this sucker.

I have been waiting to send the report to the Style Reader because I needed to work out how to do the page numbers on one appendix. The first appendix of my report is the approved proposal for the project. The page numbers in that proposal need to reflect both the original proposal’s page numbers and the Project Report’s page numbers. It should look like this.



I have asked for lots of help concerning these page numbers and I have received a lot of suggestions from people. Unfortunately none of them had worked in the past.

I became so frustrated a month ago that I asked a friend of mine who graduated last year how he did it. He told me he couldn’t figure it out and had to get a guy to do it for him. He sent me the guy’s number and I called him figuring he could walk me through the process. This is kind of a big deal for me. I usually can figure out what I need to do with computers and software. I have a bit of pride concerning this ability. Any how I humbled myself and called the guy. He told me it was too difficult to talk me through over the phone, but he would find a sample that would work with my report that I could copy and paste my stuff into. It would just take him a while because he was busy. So I thanked him, said I would look forward to his help when he could do it, and immediately emailed back my friend asking if I could get his Word file for his Project Report so I could just figure it out on my own. After a couple of weeks my friend forwarded me the file and I looked at it. It was absolutely no help because for some reason when I toggled the codes (Alt+F9) it would show the code for one page number and not the other. ARGH! I needed the codes for both page numbers.

I asked for help again from my Facebook and Twitter friends. I received more responses. Unfortunately once again none of them worked. So I waited for that one guy to send me a template to use. Today I thought I would give it another try and once again failed. When I posted my frustration on Facebook and Twitter I started receiving suggestions yet again. This time one worked. A college friend (thanks Jane) sent me a link that had a code I could manipulate to work. I SCREAMED! Seriously you can ask Pam. I screamed and danced. This was awesome. i now appreciate Jane for another reason other than introducing me to the Violent Femmes in college.

What is even more awesome is that my D.Min project is about collaborative sermon preparation and ultimately the report has been finished by collaboration. I love that.

SIDE NOTE – For anyone searching for the way to do these page numbers (basically NOBTS D.Min students) you just need this code:

{ PAGE \* MERGEFORMAT } [{= { PAGE }+68}]

You replace the “68” with the overall page at which your appendix starts. it was really that simple once I knew what to do.

Little Page Number Help – PLEASE

page number

I am through with all but two things in my dissertation/project report for finishing my Doctor of Ministry degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. 1) I am waiting on a letter and Curriculum Vitae from one of the experts who helped me with my project, and 2) I need to figure out how to do the page numbers in one section.

ARGH! Where are you when I need you Clippy

This second part is killing me. I need to have two different page numbers on the same page. One page number is the overall page number of the paper and the other is the page number for just that section. It should look something like the image above. Can anybody help? I have searched and searched the interwebs trying to find out how to do this in Word 2007 and I haven’t had any luck. I’ve even written the author of the paper that the above image came from hoping that he can help.

Once this is finish I get to send it to the style reader and then I am REALLY, REALLY close to being finished. So come on people. Help a brother out. I’ll buy an ice cream cone for whoever finds this answer for me.

Help a Brother Out?

I’m need a few test subjects concerning the survey that I will be using for my D.Min project. I’m trying to decide if I am going to use Google Docs to do the survey or if I will go with good ‘ole fashion pen and paper. Want to help me? Go here and complete the questionnaire. I don’t care how you answer it. All I need is to find out if it works.

Sermon Response Questionnaire


Please Collaborate With Me


I don’t usually write blog posts just to threads but this post is just for those of you who are a regular part of Tapestry. My proposal has been approved and therefore the research begins. I am doing a project to judge the effectiveness of collaborative sermon preparation. This means I need some subjects for the project. I am looking for 6 to 12 people to form two groups that will be a part of the project for 6 weeks.

Here is what I need from the people who volunteer.

  • A commitment to be at Tapestry October 14th through November 18th.
  • A commitment to participate in a weekly message prep meeting (most likely on Sunday mornings) either October 7th – 21st or October 28th – November 11th.
  • A commitment to participate in a Google Document discussion for whichever 3 week time period you collaborate.
  • A commitment to complete a questionnaire for each message you listen to whether you collaborate on that message or not. I will ask you to complete the questionnaire the night of the message and again later in the week. These will be online or paper depending upon your preference.
  • An interview at the end of the experiment.

Interested? You will be helping me out and, I believe, shaping the future of the message at Tapestry. You will also earn my undying gratitude and possibly some jambalaya, salsa, or a beanie baby.

Apparently I Am A Bad Pastor


The above image is a screen shot from the final proposal for my D.min project / dissertation. I am going through the corrections that the style reader (the person I pay as a part of my tuition to suggest corrections for  my proposal so that meets the Turabian style requirements) placed in my proposal. I just found the above correction where I am apparently described “religious affiliation” as “religious affliction.”

Whoops. I’m not sure if that is a Freudian slip or not.

According to Eric G. this makes me a bad pastor. He is probably right.