I’m In, It’s On, Here We Go!

Awhile back, I mentioned that I had applied for a doctorate program.

Well, I got in.

Here’s what they told me:

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I know what you’re asking…”what the heck is a Doctor of Missiology program anyway?”

I’ll try to explain.

To me, missiology is the study of how the good news about Jesus goes out to the world through the church. That’s my laypeople’s definition. Want a more, er, robust definition? Try this one, from this post:

“Missiology is an interdisciplinary discipline which, through research, writing, and teaching, furthers the acquisition, development, and transmission of theologically-informed, contextually-grounded, and ministry-oriented knowledge and understanding, with the goal of helping and correcting Christians, and Christian institutions, involved in the doing of Christian mission.”

On second thought, go with mine.

Simply put, I’m going to spend the next four years journeying alongside a cohort of ministry leaders from around the world learning about how the church can do a better job fulfilling its God-given mandate. I’m anticipating a lot of fun, some serious hard work, and near constant reading and writing. At the end of the program, I’ll be writing a dissertation and defending it before a committee.

And on the front end, DMiss students are tasked with presenting their “problem,” the particular missiological issue that they will be exploring. I’m told that everyone’s problem gets tinkered with early in year one, but for now, see below for what I’m thinking I’ll be tackling. I’m looking forward to bringing y’all along with me!

It is safe to say that I would not be the person, disciple or minister that I am today were it not for the influence of godly women. Indeed, in 2 Timothy, when Paul exhorts Timothy to recall the faith of his grandmother and mother, I can identify with Paul’s young protege. Likewise, in my life, God has used female family members, peers, partners, mentors and followers to form me spiritually more fully into the likeness of Jesus.

And for more than 16 years of ministry with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, it has been my privilege to share in the formation of women as well as men. Many of my enduring ministry partnerships cross gender lines, and today I lead a ministry where women are empowered to use their gifts to their fullest in pursuit of our campus mission.

Still, along the way I have experienced challenges, both internal and external. I’ve had to face my own gender brokenness. I’ve come up against the systemic patriarchy both in American culture and in my organization. And, from time to time, I have had to engage with theological opponents in conversations that have been both taxing and painful. After all, it is never easy to be called a “false teacher” because you are allowing women to preach in your ministry.

Because of this, I am interested in expositing models for healthy gender equal ministry partnerships where both men and women can flourish. I want to construct a set of cross-gender competencies by which we could measure whether such a ministry partnership is successful. And I am eager to discern ways to help both men and women become more competent and ready to establish mutually empowering partnerships. In the end, I want to push against what I believe to be the church’s frequent conclusion that men and women cannot simultaneously flourish in ministry with one another.

Accordingly, I propose a DMiss study entitled “Women and Men Flourishing in Mission: Models of Healthy Gender Equal Ministry Partnerships.” This study will take place within the context of my organization, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, where I serve as a Divisional Director in central California. My intention is to do my field research both locally, in the portion of InterVarsity that I am responsible for, and nationally. For this latter portion, I intend to rely on the access provided by my supervisors as well as by InterVarsity’s National Women’s Council.

No leader can choose their legacy. But if I could, it would be to articulate and then field test a paradigm of cross-gender ministry partnership where both men and women are fully flourishing. My hope is to leave such a thing as a gift, to InterVarsity, to the church, and to the advancement of God’s mission in the world.

6 responses to “I’m In, It’s On, Here We Go!”

  1. jeremiahgibbs says :

    Congrats on admission to the program. Having just finished my PhD, I’m both excited and fearful of the future for you! The project sounds like a good one. I would encourage you to think about writing as near to publishable as you can from the beginning. Your committee will want to push you into obscurity. As much as you can, try to write this in a manner that it will be considered by folks like IVP (where you would probably favored as a long term minister). This is a publishable dissertation if doesn’t sound like a dissertation. Of course, if they push you into obscurity there will be opportunities to revise.

    • rdixon1365 says :

      Thanks for the advice Jeremiah, and for the sympathy/encouragement! My understanding is that DMiss is somewhere between the more conceptual PhD and the more contextual DMin. It’s sort of a combo of both. So when I think about the writing, I want to be in that middle place; not pushed into conceptual obscurity and yet not overly specific to my ministry context. We’ll see how it goes. Again, thanks for the advice!

      • jeremiahgibbs says :

        Interesting. Each program is a bit different. SMU-Perkins DMin (as an example) has research rigor that is not far from a PhD program. But traditionally DMiss is to missionary work what DMin is to pastoral work…that is they are both professional doctorates with practical matters at the fore. Maybe it was intentional that you didn’t say. If not, where are you going?

  2. rdixon1365 says :

    In some ways, I’m figuring this out as I go, but at Fuller the DMin is 2 years vs. the 4 year DMiss, and I think those extra two years allow more space for literature review, research, etc. So I am anticipating this program being both academically rigorous (though perhaps less so than a PhD) and contextually relevant to my current and future ministry. One of the wooing factors for me was this blend of the conceptual and the contextual.

  3. gailwallace55 says :

    Congratulations on taking this plunge! I would echo what Jeremiah said about keeping publishing in mind, something I didn’t do in my Ph.D (higher education) program. Maybe The Junia Project team can buy you lunch when you’re in Pasadena for an intensive or something. We are about 20 minutes away.

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