High School (2000)
Despite being homeschooled, I actually received my High School diploma from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This allowed the flexibility of homeschooling to be combined with a high school degree from an accredited school. During high school we lived for two years in Indonesia, which afforded many different kinds of educational experiences–including visiting a dozen or so countries. It was during these years that I first felt called to ministry. For my final high school years we moved to Michigan, and there I got heavily involved in our church and youth group, with a view towards pursuing pastoral ministry. Our youth pastor took me under his wing, and I was able to serve as a youth group leader and stretch my wings in terms of preaching and teaching. During the school year of 2000-2001, I also completed an informal internship with our senior pastor.
Bachelor of Arts (2005)
I looked at a number of Bible colleges to attend, but I finally choose Moody Bible Institute because of their exclusive focus on ministry training. I knew I wanted to be a pastor, and I liked the idea of the entire student body being focused on full-time ministry in some sense. I graduated in 2005 with high honor, earning a BA in Pastoral Studies.
My years at Moody were wonderful. Not only did I meet my wife, Kailoni, there, but I grew a lot in areas such as evangelism, preaching, and Bible study. Plus, we lived within walking distance of the beach and thousands of restaurants!
I was involved in a variety of ministries during my time at Moody. Primary was Student Outreach, Moody’s open-air evangelism team. Kailoni and I were involved as leaders of this group for all four years. Every week we had three teams that would go out either street-preaching downtown with large paintboards, or using the same paintboard method to minister to children in the nearby ghetto, Cabrini Green. I served as a preacher, preacher trainer, team leader, vice-president, and president. I learned perhaps as much from this ministry as from all the rest of my Moody experiences together. As part of my preparations, I went in 2003 for ten days of training with Open Air Campaigners, a mission organization that focuses on open-air evangelism. I use the creative methods of evangelism they taught me to this day.
Beyond Student Outreach, I was also involved for two years with Ad Vivum, a traveling evangelistic drama team, and [Informal], an improv comedy performing team. I was also a dorm floor spiritual representative, and served for a couple of years on a chapel advisory team with the Dean of Students, helping to plan chapels. Particularly helpful in 2003 was a study trip to Israel and a Summer semester spent with the (now defunct) Focus on the Family Institute. In 2004 I completed a formal internship with my home church, Lake Superior Christian Church, which led to a job as an associate minister there immediately after my graduation.
Master of Theology (2012)
As I worked for almost four years as an associate minister in Michigan, I gradually realized that I needed more education in preparation for serving as a senior pastor. In January of 2009, we left with our church’s blessing and moved to Dallas to attend Dallas Theological Seminary. While I considered two other seminaries, DTS seemed like the natural choice since many of my professors had gone there, and it felt like “Moody Part Two.” I graduated with highest honor in 2005, focusing on Pastoral Leadership and New Testament, and I was surprised and humbled to receive the Henry C. Theissen award in New Testament.
My time in the DTS master’s program was as much of a “step up” educationally as had been my time at Moody. I sharpened (read: relearned) my Greek, and took Hebrew for the first time. I completed an internship in the outreach department at our church, as well as an academic internship with one of our professors, Daniel B. Wallace. This latter internship ended up being a very influential experience, since it was in part due to Dr. Wallace’s influence that I decided to stick around and pursue a PhD. Because of my longtime interest in writing, I took two creative writing classes, and ended up being invited to be the editor of the DTS student newspaper, a position I held for three years.
Doctor of Philosophy, 2016 (anticipated)
When we moved from Michigan, if someone told me we would end up spending seven years in Dallas and pursuing a PhD, I would have laughed out loud–but God had other plans. As I neared graduation from my master’s program, I realized that I felt like I still had more to learn. My passion was for a preaching ministry that “bridged the gap,” as it were, between the pew and a more hard-hitting, academic approach to scripture–and by “academic,” I don’t mean boring, but an approach that seriously wrestles with interpretation and background material in order to make the Bible come alive and to address critical challenges to the faith. I asked around for advice, consulted with my wife, and ended up entering the PhD program in the New Testament department. I plan to graduate in 2016.
My time in the PhD program has been as much of a step forward as was Moody, and then DTS in turn. In the PhD program we focus on backgrounds and NT theology a lot, and my horizons were both broadened and sharpened. One of the most unique experiences during these years was the opportunity in 2015 to travel with The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts on an expedition to Athens, Greece. CSNTM obtained a contract to digitize all the Greek New Testament manucripts in the National Library of Athens, and I was part of this team for a memorable three week trip.
Because of my interest in writing a book on Paul’s undisputed letters as a key witness to early Christianity, I decided to write my dissertation within the long-running debate over continuity and discontinuity between Jesus and Paul. Many skeptics will argue that Paul was not a faithful disciple of Jesus, but rather that he corrupted the message of Jesus and stood at odds in many respects with Jesus and his earliest Jewish followers. I do not agree with this assessment, of course, and my dissertation looks at the place of miracles in the ministries of Jesus and Paul as one overlooked point of similarity. The official title of my dissertation is: “Signs of Continuity: The Sign Function of Miracles in the Ministries of Jesus and Paul as Evidence of Shared Convictions.” I have completed my first draft, and am awaiting feedback in preparation for oral defense.
As I look back over my twelve full years of post high school education, I am both surprised and gratified–surprised because God took me down a path I never expected, and gratified because His help and provision have been apparent at every step of the way.