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!