This coming Tuesday from 9:00-11:00am I will be defending my Doctor of Ministry dissertation. If all goes as planned, I will graduate this Spring. God has used so many people to get me to this point, people who prayed for me and noted potential in me that I didn't see in myself. Although a victory speech is premature, a thank you speech is overdue. I want to credit the following people for investing in my educational and spiritual journey which, for me, has been one in the same:
Amy, my wife, is the one who encouraged me to apply for Asbury Theological Seminary's Beeson Pastor Doctor of Ministry Program. I thought Asbury would be crazy to award me a full-ride Doctor of Ministry scolarship; Amy thought they would be crazy not to. I love you and always will..."to whom else shall I go"!
The Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church, which I have served for nearly 7 years as Lead Pastor, is my dream church in so many ways. They allowed me to leave for a one year study sabbatical and to return as their pastor after the sabbatical year. Few churches would be willing to do what you did. But, at this point, you have developed a habit of being a courageous, risk-taking church and cannot do otherwise.
My Houghton College and Asbury Seminary professors inspired in me a deep love for learning and piety which, at times I confess, were both sorely lacking. These scholars were as intellgent as any people I have ever met, but their passion for Christ and the Church was their "lead card."
There have been so many encouragers along the way whose perception of my potential was well beyond my own self-perception. Dr. Harry Wood has been more than a District Superintendent to me; he has been a mentor, cheering me on and giving me opportunities to serve in ways that often exceeded my capacity. He has modelled for me what a minister is supposed to do when ministry challenges exceed a pastor's capacity- lean on Christ!
Drs. Charles and Darlene Bressler found ways to encourage me when I was a college student, when I was one of their pastors, and when I became their friend. They are extravagantly generous people whose academic prowess leads them not to become pompous but to love God and people better.
Dr. Wes Oden hired me as an assistant pastor at the Houghton Wesleyan Church and then encouraged me to pursue higher education four years later through Asbury's Master of Divinity program. He encouraged me to leave the church to go and study not because he wanted to get rid of me (I hope!!!) but because he cared about me and my longterm ministry.
I could list so many others, but those above are certainly among the most notable. Please pray for me on Tuesday. I'll let you know how things go!