Thursday, July 9, 2015

why bother writing a dissertation?

Who even cares? And what difference does it make, really?

Pacific City, Oregon (Photo: C Imes)

Sometimes when I come face to face with an awe-inspiring panorama of natural beauty, I get to feeling very, very small. And I think about the hours I spend every day fiddling with footnotes, massaging sentences until they sound exactly right, poking my theories from every angle to make sure they stand up under scrutiny . . . In those moments my work seems so pedantic. 

Does any of this actually matter?

But when I turn back from a breathtaking view and stand squarely facing the church, I remember why this work must be done. I don't mean the church historic, anchored by creed, weathering the test of time. I mean the church in its messiest and most particular forms—the local church, my local church. Individuals of various ages and backgrounds and careers who share geographic proximity and have chosen to worship together on Sunday mornings at 9:00 or 10:45, coffee in hand, trying to shake off the spiritual lethargy of their week and tune in to what really matters. This church, my church, needs steady footing in the shifting sands of cliché and trend and platitude; they need to be guided to what is real and true and rock solid, what is profoundly biblical and yet fresh and relevant. People are weary of what they've already heard and tried and found wanting. They are tired of getting nowhere.

To speak with authority into the malaise of superficiality that confronts any local church, I must do my homework. I must wrestle each word to the ground, refusing to let it go until I understand, refusing to quit until I have clearly expressed what I see.

On any given day I consult books written by patient scholars who have done exactly this. Their insights have stood the test of time, like the majestic cliffs on the Oregon coast. I am grateful for their work—glad they didn't give up when things took longer than they planned—and inspired to contribute in some small way. 

And so I press on. 

Stay tuned. The best is yet to come.

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