Jun 1

My “Writing Intensive”

2011 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Miscellaneous

As many of you heard Pastor Ron announce a couple of weeks ago, the elders have very graciously given me this summer to be away from the office and off from preaching in order to focus on writing and, Lord willing, finish my PhD dissertation. But I thought it might be helpful for me to give a little more detail and explanation here—especially for those new enough at DSC to not know that I’m still a student, and also for those who have been at DSC long enough to assume that this project probably got finished a long time ago!

In 2003 (so almost eight years ago now!) I came to DSC with an unfinished PhD project. Since then I have slowly chipped away at a dissertation, but basically only made progress when I got a month or so away from the office to completely focus on it (usually in July). It was slow-going, but 80% of my dissertation got written this way.

That brings the timeline up to about two years ago when I started getting frequent, debilitating migraines (5-6 per week). Since then, the PhD work has been on the back-burner…or maybe it’s better to say that it hasn’t even been on the stove since I don’t think I’ve written a sentence or read a whole book related to the PhD since the summer of 2009. Throughout that time it seemed that God was making increasingly clear that this degree would eventually have to be abandoned. And I was fine with that.

But as of January of this year the migraines have been significantly better. (So many of you faithfully prayed for me and my family during that time, and I can’t thank you enough!) Once we realized that this was more than just a temporary improvement, the old question resurfaced about whether I would take another stab at finishing this degree. After some discussion and prayer with the elders and Sarah, we all agreed that it was worth one more shot. And we all agree that, after all these years, we really are talking one more shot. Either this summer will end with something very close to my final draft complete or I’ll drop it altogether. My wife and kids, the elders, the staff, and really the whole church have all been amazingly patient, gracious, and supportive over the years. I think we all agree that on the one hand, it’d be a shame to not finish a degree that has literally thousands of hours already invested; on the other hand, this really has been a bit of a distraction for so long—far longer than any of us originally imagined—so it’s time to “fish or cut bait,” as they say.

Speaking of fishing, let me make clear that I won’t be doing any of that this summer. As Ron said, this won’t be an easy summer for me. I won’t be preaching or available for meetings (besides a weekly elders meeting), but I’ll be at home feverishly reading, writing, and reworking my dissertation. I figure that I have something close to 1000 hours of work ahead of me between now and August 31. If you do the math you’ll see that I have my work cut out for me.

So, if you think of it, I would very much appreciate prayer: for clarity, energy, health, efficiency, etc. But also pray for me more spiritually than that: for trust and joy in Christ, an increased love for his Word and prayer; to not be motivated by fear of man, but working unto the Lord. Pray also for my sweet wife and kids. This won’t be an easy summer for them as you can imagine. We’ll work in some “fun” here or there, but on the whole I’ll be far busier than usual. And, they would want me to say they are completely behind the plan for this summer.

I probably should also clarify that getting this degree is in no way to be able to leave DSC and go to teach in a college or seminary. I did begin postgraduate study years ago wondering whether the Lord would have me serve in a church or in a classroom. But that question has long been answered. I love pastoring; I love the church; I love our church. I believe in long-term ministry in a single church, and I plan to be at DSC for as long as the Lord will allow me. I can also say that after years of almost having a PhD, and that pathway being such a rollercoaster, the prospect of sometimes being called “doctor” or anyone being impressed with “credentials” is no motivation at all.

So, then, why bother finishing? First, I would like to finish a project that has been given so much time and energy. Second, I think that the research and writing have been good for my overall thinking, preaching, and theological refinement. Third, I think that I have a topic that is worth the time and effort, not just for myself but also perhaps for others (should anyone besides my examiners ever read it!).

Some other time I can explain a little more about the degree and the topic of the dissertation. This is too long as it is.

In short, thank you for your patience, support, and prayer. I am blessed beyond measure to be at DSC, and humbled to be able to serve such wonderful, fruitful, growing people. I’m looking forward to seeing you on Sundays this summer and seeing how God works in us through the 90 days of listening to the New Testament.