by Scott Nelson, Lead Pastor
You may not know, but I have been in school for the last six years, pursuing my Doctor of Ministry degree at Fuller Seminary. It was an amazing experience. I got to read great books, write practical papers, and work to become a better pastor. It was both theoretical and hands-on learning, and I loved it. And before you ask…No, you don’t need to call me “doctor.” I still answer to “Hey you.” I didn’t get my doctorate for the title. I wanted to share a few reasons I did pursue this degree:
- A love of learning. I haven’t always loved school. But I had a crisis of faith in high school, centered around hard questions. The way I got out of that crisis (in addition to godly people and lots of prayer) was to read, think, and take notes. That deeper learning helped me to understand the Bible, God, and myself much more. Since then I have loved learning, reading, and deeper conversations. Going back to school forced me not only to read but also to write papers and have my thinking critiqued. This was hard at first but pushed me to clearer thinking and communication.
- Swimming in deeper pools. The classes I took were unique. They included three months of reading ahead of time (3,000 pages), a one week class, and 30-40 pages of writing afterwards. Because the classes only lasted a week, my school was able to get the best teachers on the subjects – and I learned a LOT. I took classes on leadership, evangelism, creative communication, and C.S. Lewis (in Oxford). I was surrounded by incredibly bright fellow students from around the country and world, and I still keep in touch with many of them.
- Passion for the subjects. I began my studies focused on preaching and communication, asking how the church can better communicate God’s eternal truth to a changing world. Towards the end, I was asked to conduct a study on church planting in the Covenant denomination, doing over 70 interviews for the research. I presented the findings to the denomination, got more involved in church planting, and turned the research into my doctoral dissertation (over 200 pages). The project and dissertation were focused on supporting pastors, planters, and leaders. Support is vital for leaders to thrive; without support, leaders lose vision and burn out. I passionate about communicating God’s word and supporting our Christian leaders!
- I was stuck as a leader. Most people who go back to school feel “stuck” in some way. Fuller included a mentoring element led by an expert in helping clergy through transitions. I was not leaving Covenant Grove (we were only four years in), but I also knew that I felt stuck as a leader. Our growth had flattened out, and I thought the desire to grow had left our church. It turns out that I needed to grow as a leader. Schooling increased my leadership aptitude, I brought in several new initiatives, and we broke barrier after barrier.
Finally, this could not have been done without an amazing support system around me. First I have to thank my wife and kids for all of their support through this long journey, as well as the pastors and support staff at church. My extended family supported me in many ways as well. Finally, many people encouraged me, checked in on my school progress, and prayed for me over these years. Thank you all for your support!