The Doctoral Graduation

Alan@Dmin3This past weekend I was blessed to finish my doctoral work at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. In 1992, the first book I purchased so I could study preaching was the classic, Biblical Preaching, by Dr. Haddon Robinson. I had no idea who he was. I got the book because my pastor recommended it. I started to read it, but it was beyond my ability to read at that point. I was the typical man who rarely read a 200 page book. I learned to preach from “preachers’ training” in my church. I was called to ministry in an African-American church where in that time ministerial development was serious business. After that call to ministry, I ended up in a Southern Baptist Church in Germany where my pastor encouraged me to go to seminary. I went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. I went to seminary mainly because I didn’t grow up in church and needed equipping. While at Southwestern I had a professor who quoted Haddon Robinson a lot. I ran across a picture of Haddon in Leadership Journal. The picture was one of Haddon in downtown Boston. He was promoting a new Doctor of Ministry track at Gordon-Conwell called, The Preacher and the Message. I thought to myself, “If I can ever study with Haddon Robinson, I was going to do it. After graduating with the MDIV, I waited one year and applied to Gordon-Conwell. I was excepted early (usually you have to have 3 years post MDIV experience) to Haddon’s track. I was excited. Well, 5 years later, including 1 year off from the program in the middle, I finished. 

Last weekend I walked the stage and was hooded with a doctoral degree by Dr. Haddon Robinson. I was able to take my family with me. They were able to experience the graduation and enjoy Boston and the North Shore for a few days. DSC01264It was a culmination of something special. Really, I didn’t go to get a degree, although I wanted to finish. I hate not finishing something I know I’m able to do. My family getting to watch it finish was special beyond expression. I think it’s because this degree process was so much more than a degree. 

My doctoral thesis is entitled, Teaching Pastors to Reinforce Expository Preaching with Sermon Based Small Groups. This project culminated into a seminar on small groups. I plan to convert the project into a book. I’ve actually started. The degree program I was in was a doctoral level preaching degree. The difference in this and other degree programs is at least 2-fold: first, Haddon Robinson, and second, the final year deals with “teaching preaching.” Robinson stated in the third residency, “this third year focus on teaching preaching is a focus no other degree program has in it.” There are Phd’s out there who have never taught preaching before they go on faculty at a Bible College or seminary. At first glance, the program seems like the same thing you get at the Master’s level. But the difference is Haddon has obviously thought through the preaching tasks and what would need to be focused on to take Master’s level education to it’s intended level. The DMIN process was a culmination of all my previous education. 

There’s no task more important than communicating the gospel We should all do all we can to better our communication of  the gospel. The gospel is the only hope of the world without Christ. 

My thesis ironically was not specifically on the homiletical task. It was on the tasks that happen after the preaching: discipleship, ministry, and reproducing small groups for disciple-making. I’m so glad I did a thesis on something no one else has done (to my knowledge). The process had not only made me a better preacher. I’m better because Haddon teaches you how to ask the right questions and think where you normally would not. The process most of all made me a better disciple and disciple-maker. And this is what this is all about. We are supposed to make disciples, not just draw a crowd (important, can’t make disciples without a crowd). But there can be a focus on the front door at times while the back door in wide open (see Dr. Larry Osborne’s Sticky Church. a must read). 

Thanks for your prayers for me in this process. I’m thankful. 

My prayer: “Lord, I dedicate my life, skills, education, family, church position, all I have and am, I dedicate to your kingdom desire: “Make disciples” (Matt. 28:19-20).

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Explore posts in the same categories: Preaching, Small Groups

One Comment on “The Doctoral Graduation”

  1. Patti Says:

    I am so proud of you!! I can hardly wait for the book to come out. That’s awesome.


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