Academic Church

At one of our recent student conferences, a student came to the microphone and publicly described one of our graduate student support and development programs as “ACADEMIC CHURCH.” He said that sometimes you fall away, and you know what you’re supposed to do, then you come back and you know that you’re in the right place. I found this description and his heartfelt words both exciting and humbling.

Throughout the rest of that conference segment that allowed students to reflect, there were other sentiments of “academic church” along with a series of “Amens” in the background as people were talking. Again, I found it interesting, but extremely humbling. Actually more than humbling … I was speechless and nervous … I remember later praying to ask what that meant … and if there was anything that I was supposed to be doing. As you know, in the Christian faith, we always desire to be in God’s will, so we always want to be doing the right thing. (This reminds me of Philipians 2:13 which says: “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (NIV) … in the King James it says “both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”)

So for a while I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing. I just kept thinking, “WOW, what an awesome thing for so many to feel that strongly about a program that is supposed to be academic.” But then I was up early this morning (and wondering why, because I NEED my sleep!) and felt prompted to write. So here is what has been put on my heart: if people see “academic church” or are even looking for it, let’s provide something for them to hold onto.

So here’s what we’re going to do. This space on the internet will be used for people to put encouraging Bible verses — especially those verses or passages that can be applied to those negative feelings that one has in school. Not just *any* literary inspiring words or general motivational quotes, but actual scriptural verses and passages (with the reference and the version that you are using). Add those verses that kept you going when times were tough. Add those verses that provide joy, peace, patience and faith. You can add just a verse, or add both the verse and the personal story that goes with the reason that you chose it (some call this a “testimony.”)

I’ll start: when I was doing my dissertation and preparing my defense, I was SO nervous. Here’s one of the passages that I held onto … even when I wasn’t sure that things were going right:

———— JOSHUA CHAPTER 1, verses 5-9, King James Version: ——

5There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

6Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

7Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.

8This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

9Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.


So my “testimony” is that God was and IS faithful to his Word. This one example of my nervousness about the dissertation and defense, both successfully completed years ago, shows that these two milestones of the Ph.D. process have long ceased to be symbols of fear and doubt, but now stand strong as testimonies of faith.

OK … now it’s your turn!

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3 replies »

  1. Here are comments that have been posted on the Facebook mirror of this post since August.


    Maher Salloum wrote
    at 10:39pm on September 5th, 2007

    First, thanks a lot for this important note!!

    I usually get encouragement and comfort from the following verses of the Letter of the Apostle Paul to the Romans (8:28-39):

    Rom 8:28 And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose.

    ….. (Not enough space for the rest of the verses!!!)

    Rom 8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,

    Rom 8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    May God help and bless all of you!!!

    Johonna McCants (Maryland) wrote
    at 8:29am on September 6th, 2007

    Thank you so much, Dean Tull!! This is awesome. Right now, I am very much struggling to finish my diss proposal and also have a conference paper to complete within the next week and a half as well. So I am holding on to this verse.

    Phillipians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!!

    (I guess this is probably an NIV translation)

    Thanks for your prayers and verses of encouragement from the Word.


  2. More comments from Facebook:

    Asha-Lateef Dobbs (Washington, DC) wrote
    at 12:05pm on September 6th, 2007

    This is wonderful encouragement. Thanks, Dean Tull.

    Colossians 3:17
    And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

    I used to have this taped to my computer as a reminder that the work I am doing here is for Him and for His purpose and that I need to do my work with that in mind. At first glance, yes, it can certainly lead to a paralyzing perfectionism that is all too common in graduate students (e.g., I can’t submit it yet because it isn’t perfect), but after staring at it for months while writing my final papers for my Master’s, I have come to see it as a reminder that my process needs to be Godly, and He will handle the rest. Thank you, Jesus! I need to put this back on my computer now that it is dissertation time…

    Gleneesha Johnson (Maryland) wrote
    at 5:08pm on September 6th, 2007

    Thanks for putting this up here Dean Tull. I don’t have a favorite verse or testimony to add, but it will be nice to read these when I need inspiration

    Sophoria N Westmoreland (Maryland) wrote
    at 9:37pm on September 6th, 2007
    LOVE IT!

    Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version)

    11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

    Patrice Natalie Delevante (UVA) wrote
    at 12:50am on September 7th, 2007

    Thank you Dr. Tull, for such amazing and inspirational passages! Before and after studying and attending classes, I pray for the Holy Spirit’s presence, help, and discernment. God has chosen this path for me, for you: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Proverbs 37:23) so it’s important for us to claim our place within our disciplines God’s way and allow Him to direct our assignments.

    Because of Daniel and Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah’s obedience to God, He granted “them knowledge and made them expert in all book-learning and wisdom: and Daniel was wise in all visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17). With obedience and covering ourselves with the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6), we too can be blessed with knowledge, visions, and dreams for successful dissertations and Christian life as a grad student. And “No weapons formed that is formed against [us] shall prosper” (Isaiah 54: 17).

    God’s blessings,

    *Verses mentioned found in New American Standard Bible*

    Wy Bryan wrote
    at 8:38am on September 7th, 2007

    Dean Tull has done it again! You continue to amaze me with your selflessness. Thanks again for feeding my spirit.
    I have a few Bible verses and a few inspirational words but the one I have been using lately is from Emily Matthews:
    Listen for God’s Voice
    When you face a special challenge
    or you need to make a choice,
    Just say a prayer to God above
    and listen for his voice.

    Shelly C Watts wrote
    at 12:25pm on September 7th, 2007

    Thanks Dr. Tull, this is really a wonderful place where I can get spiritual strengthening…..

    Theses few verses from Matthew 6 have gotten me through some rough times last year and this year. It simply tells you that God has everything under control. All you have to do is have faith in HIM, knowing that you are HIS child and continue to seek HIM first…

    NIV Version: Matthew 6: 25- end

    Do Not Worry
    25″Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]?

    Shelly C Watts wrote
    at 12:26pm on September 7th, 2007

    This is the remainder

    28″And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

    Shanna Smith (Maryland) wrote
    at 12:51pm on September 7th, 2007

    Most know I’m not shy about sharing scriptures. Proverbs 29:11 brought me here to Maryland, but I also love …

    Psalms 68:11 “The Lord Gives the word (of power); the women who bear and publish (the news) are a great host” – Amplified

    Psalms 46:5 “God is within her; she will not fall; God will help her at break of day” – NIV

    Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” – KJV

    And, of course Ephesians 6:10-end, which is wonderful when you need courage to fight!

    Love, Shanna

    Wy Bryan wrote
    at 8:57am on September 12th, 2007

    This morning Psalms 103 is encouraging my spirit and reminding me of Joshua’s call to mediate in the Lord.

    Wy Bryan wrote
    at 9:06am on September 12th, 2007
    This morning Psalms 103 is encouraging my spirit and reminding me of Joshua’s call to mediate in the Lord.

    Wy Bryan wrote
    at 11:43am on September 12th, 2007

    This morning Psalms 103 is encouraging my spirit and reminding me of Joshua’s call to mediate in —————————–

    Renetta Garrison Tull wrote
    at 11:32pm on September 13th, 2007

    Well Ms. Bryan, since you posted it 3 times, here it is:

    Psalm 103
    Of David.
    (New International Version)

    1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

    2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits-

    3 who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,

    4 who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,

    5 who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

    6 The LORD works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

    7 He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:

    8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.

    9 He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;

    10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.

    Renetta Garrison Tull wrote
    at 11:33pm on September 13th, 2007


    11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;

    12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

    13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

    14 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.

    15 As for man, his days are like grass,
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;

    16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.

    17 But from everlasting to everlasting
    the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children-

    18 with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.

    19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

    Renetta Garrison Tull wrote
    at 11:33pm on September 13th, 2007

    PART III, (I guess it did take 3 posts!!)

    20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.

    21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.

    22 Praise the LORD, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.
    Praise the LORD, O my soul.

    Wy Bryan wrote
    at 12:44am on September 16th, 2007

    Thanks Dean Tull…. as you can see I was having a very “trying” morning 🙂


  3. More …

    Frances Carter wrote
    at 9:38pm on September 18th, 2007

    Thanks Dean Tull for creating a place for us to testify online about our ACADEMIC CHURCH experiences. I thought and thought about whichexperience to write about and finally decided to include a scripture that has been with me since undergrad at Spelman.

    Phillipians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything but by prayer and petition with thanksgiving , present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding shall guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” At Spelman it started out being those two verses but as time has gone along, I have incorporated the entire passage from verses 4-9 that discuss rejoicing in the LORD ALWAYS, being gentle and focuses on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy!

    Whats amazing to me about the WORD of GOD is that it can have one meaning in 1997 and a similar yet more indepth meaning 10 years later. It makes you realize that HE is the supreme PhD!

    Oliver J. Myers wrote
    at 7:59am on September 20th, 2007

    Good Morning Family,

    These are just a few of the more poiniant scriptures that got me through the doctorate and still get me through day to day. I have always been amazed at how God spoke/speaks directly to my situation. I love and bless Him always.

    Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

    2 Thessalonians 3:13/Galations 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

    Philippians 4:4-7, 13 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

    Renetta Garrison Tull wrote
    at 3:20pm

    I heard Psalm 121 in church on Sunday. During a tough time, my Dad was concerned so he sent this to me in a song version (“My Help” By Bam Crawford’s PURPOSE/Track 4/”The King is Coming Any Day” 1997.) I played it over and over again. Listen to the song–Jackie Gouche-Farris is the lead:

    Psalm 121 (KJV)

    1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

    2 My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.

    3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.

    4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

    5 The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.

    6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.

    7 The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.

    8 The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.


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