Ten months after completing my courses at Nazarene Theological Seminary, I find myself missing the constant learning that's inherent in graduate theological education. This, of course, is a very different statement than "I miss being a student." I rarely ever miss writing book reviews, posting to online forums, or having to drive to class a couple of times a week. What I do miss is the focus that theological education provided for my life. From August 2005 to December 2011, I was invested in concentrated studies in theology, Bible, and Christian leadership.
I am a very different person today than I was when I first started my education at Olivet Nazarene University in 2005. I'm even a different person now than when I started the Master of Divinity program at NTS four years ago. God changed me through those hours of listening to lectures from seasoned scholars, reading books that often blew my mind (and some that put it to sleep), and writing papers that were an attempt to synthesize the intellectual and spiritual transformation that was happening inside of me. For me, theology truly became my faith seeking better understanding - it was spiritual formation.
Life is different now. I'm no longer a student in the formal sense (although I learn something new about pastoring just about every week). I suppose we can't really be classroom students forever. I guess I'm really an adult now - all grown up. I'm pastoring a church with a ton of potential, working in higher education, and waiting in eager expectation for the arrival of my second child. These days it's my wife who is in school and it's her turn to grow and develop.
In the past few months I have been realizing a growing need for something more or different in my life. This is likely connected to my journey with[out] video games. It's not time for another degree program (yet). I've been looking for teaching opportunities, but I haven't had much luck with that. God has blessed me with some opportunities to do some writing for WordAction. More may come out of this, but nothing at this point.
If you've known me for very long, you've probably heard me talk about how much I love books. I do. If you walk into the study at my house, you'll find what some folks call "The Library of Keith." Ironically, I don't really read too many of them, not start to finish. Instead, I pick up a book, read a chapter or two, and then go on to the next one. There are so many books to read, I guess I haven't felt like I should spend too much time with any one of them (this drives my wife crazy!). I also do a lot of mini-research for sermons, classes, and blogs - so I read a lot of chapters or portions of different books without ever finishing them. Some of my "frequent fliers" besides the typical commentaries recently have been Missio Dei, The Mission of God's People, and Wholeness in Christ. Some other recent faves have been Freedom for Ministry, Grace-Full Leadership, and Created to Worship. I've also looked at some books by Dan Boone, Leo Tolstoy, Henri Nouwen, and others.
Last week I actually finished a book. I read every page of H. Ray Dunning's Abraham: The Tests of Faith. It's my fourth book that I've actually completed since finishing my coursework last December. (I've also read Love Wins, Square Peg, and Velvet Elvis with varying degrees of like/dislike). I loved the feeling of accomplishment I got from finishing the book! I also loved the opportunity to learn and be formed in this way again.
Now I am starting something new - the next chapter in my growth and formation. I'm going to start reading books in their entirety. I have a goal. My goal is to read 20 books from start to finish between now and the end of September 2013. Considering my current pace has accomplished 4 books in about 10 months, this goal will be a challenge for me. Some of my friends made resolutions this year to read 50+ books in a year. Others put page goals of 10,000 or more. Perhaps one day I'll catch up to those folks, but for now I'm recognizing that I am going to have to work hard to finish 20! I'm even going to give myself a head start. Since I read Dunning's book in October, I'm counting that one as my first one. Only 19 more to go.
Over the next year, my blogs will likely be reflections from the books I'm reading. So look later this week for a blog on Dunning's new book. I'll be numbering them, too, so you'll know how I'm doing. If you have some good recommendations on reading, feel free to send them my way. Perhaps you'd like to join me on my 20 book venture - either reading the same books or others. I'll let you know what my next book is on the post later this week.