Archive for the Miscellaneous Category

Aug 9

Interview with Dr. Greg Schneeberger, Ph.D.

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Miscellaneous

Greg Schneeberger needs no introduction on this blog. Maybe in a few years, but not yet. Just one month ago, Greg finished up six faithful years as our Minister to Youth and Families and moved his dear family to Encinitas, California, where he is serving as a church planting intern.

As some of you know, within the past year, Greg wrapped up a Ph.D.. Greg was kind to take some time out to answer some questions for us about his main writing project for his doctorate.

Greg, thanks for doing this interview for DSC. Of course, we were sad to say goodbye to you about a month ago now. You served faithfully here and we rejoice in your new station in ministry in California. This past year you wrapped up a Ph.D. and we haven’t officially congratulated you here on the blog. So, congratulations! We’d like to hear a bit about what your doctoral dissertation entailed. But first, since you are somewhat famous for unpacking new words and unpacking familiar words in a new way, tell us, what is a dissertation?

Ha. Good question, Trent. According to that most highly regarded academic source, Wikipedia, a dissertation (or thesis) “is a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree or professional qualification presenting the author’s research and findings.”

That’s a solid start. A dissertation is an extended academic work on a very specific topic within a person’s field of study. It’s argument normally presumes to add to the existing body of research in a field. That is, the goal of a dissertation is to make an original contribution to scholarship in some way and persuade the reader (as objectively as possible) concerning the merits of the argument.

What was the topic of your dissertation and how did you arrive at that topic? 

The subject of my dissertation pertains to the overlap of Philosophy, Theology, and the socio-cultural context of 21st century religiosity among American youth and young adults. Basically, I’m exploring various contemporary religious trajectories among generation Y, exposing their philosophical assumptions, and trying to respond from a biblical worldview. It was easy to arrive at this subject, since it was an extension of my work with youth, young adults, and young married folks at Desert Springs. I was very eager to do doctoral work that was not only academic but practical for my ministry as well.

What was your specific thesis, and how did your argument unfold? 

Specifically, that 21st century American youth are deeply entrenched in unbiblical philosophical worldviews. The church must enumerate, analyze, and respond apologetically to these. It does so with a biblical (dare I say reformed) philosophical theology in theory and practice. The practical aspect consists of the church defending the faith, and creating structures which engage and confront the idols of the age. Desert Springs is doing just this, as the church does in every age, through worship, community, and mission.

What was your favorite section to write, and why?

I enjoyed each section in it’s own way, but the more philosophical/apologetical sections were most fun. I suppose this was the case because they were the most challenging and stimulating to me as a writer and thinker.

What was your least favorite section to write, and why?

The literature review . . . for obvious reasons! A dissertation is a like a marathon. It is not a sprint. Certain parts are “fun,” but many parts are just necessary evils. However, it is the totality of running and finishing the race that helps mold the thinker. For example, when I first began writing I asked forbearers for advice. One friend told me, quite bluntly, that I should expect to re-write nearly every word of the 1st draft. He was correct. I spent far more time on re-writing than I did on the original manuscript. That was humbling, as my advisor, although he was encouraging, continually pointed me to sections that needed work.

A writing project like this is a tremendous feat. How has God used this challenge to shape you as a Christian and as a minister? 

Indeed, this project has done just that. I wanted to pursue a degree that would challenge me spiritually and not just academically. Focusing on this area of study allowed that. I got to read as much Bible as I did postmodern philosophers or reformed apologists. I think God used the project to help me understand perseverance, hard work, goal setting, and the value of thinking critically about the culture and it’s deep philosophical structures for local church ministry. Certainly I wouldn’t go into any of the technical aspects with youth or young adults, but the issues I was uncovering fit perfectly with their needs. Thus, through this project, I was better prepared to preach God’s Word, and live out the body life of the church.

Now, let’s talk stats. How long have you been working on this degree, how many pages was your doctoral dissertation, and on a scale of 1-10 how happy are you that it is finished?

Nine chapters including the intro and conclusion, around 450 pages, and an eleven that’s it’s done! Of course, now that it’s done, there are already things I would go back and change, update, and nuance. But we’re human, research progresses, and you have to pull the trigger. All in all, I do think I accomplished my personal and academic goals. I’m glad I had the opportunity to think and write in this way and only pray that it serves to strengthen my future ministry in the church.

Thanks, Greg – and, again, congratulations!

You can learn more about Greg and Caite’s new adventure at their family blog.

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.


May 30

Audio for June: 90 Days Through the New Testament Begins Wednesday

2011 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Miscellaneous

Wednesday is June 1 and June 1 begins our 90 days of listening through the New Testament together. For an overview of the plan, visit the landing page or download the brochure.

In Sunday’s message, “Partners in Crime,” Ryan pointed out how normal it was in the first century for believers to hear the word read out loud, evident when Paul wrote in Colossians 4:16, “when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans.” Hearing was the main way that Christians received the Word of God for many centuries. God, in His wisdom, chose to reveal Himself in words at a time before the printing press was invented. We can assume, then, that hearing is not only a legitimate but an important means of receiving God’s Word. It also happens to be particularly neglected in our time.

Some will read the Scriptures out loud, perhaps with their spouse or children. Others will listen in the car or at the gym with an iPod. If you’d prefer to read instead of hear the Scriptures, that’s just fine, but listen if you can.

Last week we introduced the plan on the blog and outlined a number of ways to obtain audio. Visit our 90 Days Through the New Testament landing page for more details, including instructions for how to obtain audio, a listening schedule, and help for how to pray as you read.

In the days ahead our schedule page will be updated with audio links all the way through August. For now, here are links for audio in the ESV narrated by Max McLean through the month of June using Bible Gateway’s helpful audio player.

May 30

Using Maps to Help in Bible Study

2010 | by Ron Giese | Category: Books,Miscellaneous,Sermon Follow-Up

Last Sunday we looked at the “playing board” of Israel. More specifically, we looked at how a map can help in understanding more of what God wants us to see, learn, and apply in the narrative portions of the Bible.

We learned that it helps to visualize what certain areas of Israel look like. Just like if someone says, in our world, “I’m headed to Taos for the weekend,” we immediately call up certain associations with Taos. It’s a small town, great mountains just outside the city with a well-known ski area, some history with a well-known Pueblo just outside the city and Kit Carson’s roots in the city, has a few classy art galleries, etc.

Yet if we read of Jesus visiting Capernaum, most Christians cannot visualize anything about that place at all. Big city or small? On the coast or inland? In the desert or a fortress on top of a hill?

Second, we looked at routes in Israel. Again, to use a parallel, we know how long it takes to drive to Santa Fe. And we know the feel of the switchbacks going up the east side of the mountains to get to the gift shop at the Sandia Crest.

But do we know how far away Bethany is from Jerusalem, and on what side of Jerusalem Bethany lies? Do we know the three possible ways that the Israelites could have entered Canaan when coming from Egypt?

Many Christians think they already have good tools to do map work, since they have maps at the back of their Bibles. I usually don’t find these maps to be very helpful. The reason is that often one map has to serve a fairly large portion of the Old Testament, hence, a map titled “Israel in the divided monarchy.” The result of this it that these maps tend to be very “busy”: they have a lot of cities, names of regional areas, rivers, etc.

It can actually be discouraging trying to use such maps.

You’ll recall that Sunday I tried to simplify things by showing just a few cities and a few arrows to mark where someone traveled.

Books called Bible Atlases are really the kinds of tools you need to do map work in the Bible. In part because they simplify things and isolate just one journey of one person in the Bible. For instance, instead of “Israel in the divided monarchy” you might see “Jacob’s journey when he returned to Canaan” (which only covers a few chapters in Genesis and would have arrows similar to what I showed on the screen on Sunday).

If you’re interested in atlases, I have three to recommend to you. Perhaps check out all three on Amazon, and pick one to get. There are about two dozen atlases on the market right now. But some are too expensive, and some are too scholarly, and with some I don’t think the maps are very well done.

So again here are my top three picks, with a brief description of each:

Holman QuickSource Bible Atlas: With Charts and Biblical Reconstructions, by Paul W. Wright. (retail $14.99, Amazon $10.19).

This would be my top pick, since it’s a good value for almost 400 pages. Over 100 pages are full-color maps. And the subtitle is accurate, there are charts and reconstructions in addition to the maps. Every page has at least one map or photo/illustration. As an example of a reconstruction, there is a drawing of what Jericho would have looked like in the days of Jesus. Another example is a cut-away drawing of an average first-century Jewish house.

Bible Atlas & Companion, by David Barrett, Christopher D. Hudon, and Todd Bolen (Amazon $9.99).

This is my second pick, with 75 full-color maps and 50 additional photographs or illustrations (175 pages total).

The Kregel Bible Atlas, by Tim Dowley (Amazon $21.99).

This is my third pick, 96 pages total with at least one map or illustration per page. This is a hardback (the other two are paperback), which probably accounts for the higher price.

Jan 19

Piper on Earthquakes

2010 | by Parker Landis | Category: Miscellaneous,Quote,Sermon Follow-Up

Here is a great little article from John Piper explaining from the Bible what some of God’s purposes are in natural disasters.  Although the article was written in response to an earthquake back in 1999, God’s Word holds true now just as it did then.

“…when the earth shakes under your feet there is a dramatic sense that there is no place to flee. In most disasters the earth is the one thing that stands firm when wind and flood are raging. But where do you turn when the earth itself is unsafe? Answer: God.”

Read the rest.