Archives For Life in the Academy

Approaching a New Semester

Kate Peterson —  January 25, 2013 — 1 Comment
Preparing for the classroom to fill.

Approaching a New Term. Preparing for the classroom to fill.

Editor’s note: A powerful piece received a few weeks ago, I encourage you to join the author and myself in prayer for the new term. . . .

I have to admit a certain fear as the new semester approaches. Not so much about the teaching itself. It’s a lot of work, but I’ve done it before. What incites fear in me is the realization that I  with all my insecurities, faults and failures — am again being given sixty-some students for four hours a week for fifteen weeks. This is more time than they will spend with their parents, their pastors, and probably most of their friends. And they will be tested to ensure they pay attention to what I say. I think of the influence some of my college professors had on me, positive and negative, and I wonder what impact I will have when these students look back some day.

This past week registration opened up for the spring semester, and I have been periodically — OK, maybe a bit obsessively — checking the online rosters to see who will be in my classes. With that on my mind, I read the scriptures and my morning devotional readings this morning and processed what was on my mind in my prayer journal:

“Learn to listen to me even while you are listening to other people. As they open their souls to your scrutiny, you are on holy ground. You need the help of My Spirit to respond appropriately. Ask Him to think through you, live through you, love through you.” — Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, Oct. 31.

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. . . . It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another. . . . Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations —these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.” — C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Continue Reading…

This is the third post in an Urbana12 series by J. Nathan Matias (@natematias), Research Assistant, MIT Media Lab Center for Civic Media. This post in original form can be found here. Thank-you Nathan! Great to have you contributing material to the ESN Blog. Your work is much appreciated. ~ Thomas B. Grosh IV, Associate Director of ESN.


This weekend, I’m at Urbana, a gathering of Christian students interested in the work of the church worldwide. Over the next few days, I will be blogging two kinds of sessions. Sessions like this morning’s gathering [12/29/2012] are intended to inspire and challenge Christian students to consider international service. This afternoon, I’ll be blogging more focused seminars, where smaller groups discuss specific issues.

Today, I also blogged seminars on the theology of immigration and this post on the place of graduate students in the global church.

S. Joshua Swamidass connects with Emerging Scholars, including J. Nathan Matias at ESN's Urbana12 Recpetion.

S. Joshua Swamidass connects with Emerging Scholars, including J. Nathan Matias, at ESN’s Urbana12 Reception.

Why would a student who cares about God’s mission even consider applying to gradschool? Speaking with us is S Joshua Swamidass, an Assistant Professor in the Medical School at Washington University in St Louis.

Joshua starts by polling the room. A third of the room is in gradschool, half are applying to gradschool, and many in the audience aren’t sure if gradschool is right for them. A handful of people are planning to go to gradschool for ministry training, but most are planning to go to gradschool at nonreligious institutions. The room has an equal split between sciences and non-sciences.

What does the calling of a Christian look like? In 1999, when Joshua was a senior in college, he attended a student missions conference like Urbana. They presented a model of life calling which caused a lot of pain in his life, even though it seemed reasonable at the time. Their model shared three steps.

  • The first was to trust in Jesus for salvation. Josh agrees that it’s an incredibly important step.
  • Next, they urged students to commit to “go wherever and do whatever God wants.” This is also important– much more important than the details. Rather than beg God what he wants us to do, we should start with a willingness to follow God wherever he leads us — whether it’s China, Africa, or California. He might lead us to be poor, be in politics, or be rich. This is a great vision. If we can trust God with our salvation, we can trust him with anything.
  • The final part of the model he heard in 1999 is terrible advice, says Joshua. He was told that students who care about the mission of Christ should quite naturally move into “full-time,” vocational ministry, at least for a year or longer.

“I didn’t sign up for part-time ministry,” says Joshua. At conferences, organisations try to “raise up people” to get them to work on specific international projects. Instead of helping people find a way of life, organisations try to funnel students into very specific, short-term projects.

Back in 1999, Joshua realised that God wasn’t leading him to get his paycheck from a church, but instead earn his own living. He argues that only a minority of people should be going into vocational ministry. After all, it takes maybe 50 people to fund one full-time religious worker.

As an undergrad, when Christians looked at Joshua, they only saw half of him. They noticed that he was speaking at local student groups, writing about spiritual topics, writing op eds in the local newspaper. His Christian friends saw that he was a “missional student” who loved universities and pushed him to work as official campus staff within a Christian organisation. They didn’t understand the other half of his life: he was drawn to medicine and did well in his classes. He loved computer programming and math. Joshua liked working in a scientific research group, loved the university world, and loved teaching.

Joshua saw himself as a missional student that would be involved in campus ministry eventually, but he was also a science student who was working to be a science professor.

Josh encourages suggests an alternative way to think about calling, a parallel model which accounts for the way our career develops over time.

Below are suggested readings from my Urbana 12 seminar Serving Christ as a Professor. These are books or essays that Emerging Scholars Network staff and members have found especially helpful to their journey toward becoming a faculty member.

In each section, foundational or introductory selections are listed first, followed by books that are either more advanced or written for a specialized audience.

Be sure to also see our list of Best Books for Undergraduates from Urbana 09, as suggested by our blog readers. We know this is only a partial list of all the books we could have recommended. Did we omit one of your favorites? Recommend it in the comments!

The Life of the Mind

Greg Jao, Your Mind’s Mission
C. S. Lewis, “Learning in War-Time,” published in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses
Charles Malik, “The Two Tasks of the Christian Scholar,” published in William Lane Craig and Paul Gould, ed. The Two Tasks of the Christian Scholar: Redeeming the Soul, Redeeming the Mind
James Sire, Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling
John Stott, Your Mind Matters

Mark Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind (Our review)
James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation
James Davidson Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World Continue Reading…