Navigating Beginnings: Glory-Seeking Ministry in the Academic Life (Scholar’s Compass)

Image courtesy of markuso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of markuso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord’s glory, as the waters cover the sea. — Habakkuk 2:14 (HCSB)

Reflection

I didn’t want a career in the university world. That’s not how you were expecting this devotional to start, is it?

My original intention when I began studying physics as a university freshman was to become a high school physics teacher. Then, I became involved in campus ministry (with my weeknights full of meetings and my backpack full of gospel tracts) and fell in awe over Bible passages like the one above. God’s glory, I came to learn, is the purpose for which we are created, and his people need servants to help them live out that purpose. This, I learned was the foundation of Christian ministry.

But while I had learned a good foundation of Christian ministry, I had not embraced a wide enough scope: I thought that the only meaningful way I could live out this ministry was to be a pastor, missionary, or campus ministry staff member. By my junior year, I was fairly certain that meant I needed to head to seminary after graduating. One question haunted me in the midst of this certainty: What am I supposed to do with my love for physics, and for seeing others enjoy it?

It was a fateful trip to the Christian Study Center of Gainesville that taught me that meaningful ministry—helping others learn to live for God’s glory—can take place in any vocation, and that the university world particularly needs scholars and educators with this view of ministry.

But how? How is teaching classes in a technical field like physics a form of ministry? What about conducting research that the majority of the population will never read about? What about—shudder—serving on all those committees?

As I navigate these questions each semester, I find myself returning to three ways my career in the university is a venue for ministry:

  1. Passionately seeking God’s glory as revealed in his created world. All academics study some aspect of the world, which means all academics get to see God’s glory as revealed in the world. A life of Christian ministry in academia, then, is a life of glory-hunting, and when we find that glory and enjoy it, we are transformed and can pass along the experience to others.
  2. Helping our students develop as God’s image-bearers. As educators, we are charged not just to transmit information to our students, but to develop them as professionals, leaders, innovators, and ultimately as people. As Christians, we believe that people (in all of these roles and more) are God’s image-bearers. Regardless of whether our students share our Christian faith, when we help them develop and mature, we are helping to spread God’s glory in a world filled with his image-bearers.
  3. Supporting Christian students. Each year, one or two Christian students in my classes learn that we share the same faith, and it’s amazing to see how that commonality with one of their professors makes them seem more comfortable at the university and more inspired to discuss their faith with classmates. I have been able to encourage these students as they struggle with faith and science and seek to discern their callings. It’s exciting to see God’s glory magnified in their lives by these conversations.

As we begin another year of teaching, research, and service, let’s keep in mind that God’s glory is everywhere in the academic world, and that viewing our vocations with eyes that look for God’s glory will infuse our activities with a common theme of value. To help us maintain this mindset, below are two questions and a prayer to consider. . .

Questions

  • How have you seen God use you for his glory in your vocation?
  • What opportunities for glory-seeking ministry do you expect to see this academic year?

Prayer

A Scholar’s Prayer by Adam Omelianchuk (2.7.2011). A university faculty prayer inspired by the Chorister’s Prayer of the Royal College of Church Music. Adapted by the CS Lewis Foundation:

Bless, O Lord, us your servants,

Who are called to scholarly vocations.

Grant that what we apprehend with our minds

and profess through our words

May be grounded in truth

and offered confidently

with humility

to the greater good and well being

of our students, our colleagues,

our academic communities

and the world at large,

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Amen

— http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/02/a-scholars-prayer

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W. Brian Lane

W. Brian Lane received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Florida in 2008 and is now an Associate Professor of Physics at Jacksonville University. His favorite classes to teach include Electromagnetic Theory and Technical Communication; he also occasionally teaches adult Sunday School classes. Whether at church or the university, Brian enjoys teaching with interactive engagement practices with an eye toward mentoring learners. He and his wife Amy have been married for almost ten years and are members of Eastside Community Church in Jacksonville, FL. @WBrianLane

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2 Comments

  • kle.seaton@gmail.com'
    keseaton commented on September 17, 2014 Reply

    I really like #3 above! It is so true – finding connections with other believers in the academy is so refreshing, and a good reminder to encourage one another in our respective callings.

  • rintaluoma@twitter.example.com'
    keijo jorma leppioja (@rintaluoma) commented on February 13, 2015 Reply

    Yes and amen to living that pleasing the Father in heavien in good deeds and helping our neighbor to be saved and encourgae in life with many obstacles and worry and darkness but the lord is naswer to troubles in joy today,thanks and bless and pray,keijo sweden

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