Awash in Academia
It’s been awhile since I’ve challenged Tertullian here on the blog, but, rest assured, he and I are daily duking it out in the land of academia.
Specifically, I’m in the thick of dissertation-writing, the final step in the process of my four-year doctoral program through Fuller Theological Seminary. All 200 or so pages are due in a month to my mentor, and, following two rounds of revisions, I’ll defend this thing in the middle of November.
Folks have asked me how it feels to be writing this dissertation, and it sort of runs the gamut. On one hand, it’s a ton of work, and I have had my moments of “I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m pretty sure that what I’ve written thusfar is rubbish.” It can be pretty overwhelming at times.
On the other hand, more often than not (thankfully), I’m really excited to be doing this work. Why? Because it’s the pay-off after three years of reading, researching, and thinking. In addition, there’s this:
I am convinced that if our communities of faith can improve the caliber of their male/female ministry partnerships, God’s mission will advance in greater measure.
And, because the focus of my writing is the articulation of a model for making that happen, I feel honored to be able to work on this. It’s academic, but it’s also spiritual. In other words, writing this dissertation, for me, is an act of obedience.
I thought I would share an outline of what this thing is looking like:
Chapter 1 is an introduction, with a basic outline of what my research process has been like and where the dissertation is heading.
Chapter 2 is a literature review of my organization’s (that’s InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) experience with male/female ministry partnerships. I’ve traced the theme throughout our organizational history and drawn some conclusions based on my reading.
Chapter 3 is a second literature review chapter, but this one focuses on what the egalitarian community has had to say about male/female ministry partnerships. The question with this chapter is what NOT to include!
Chapter 4 is a methods chapter, with a window into my actual research process. It’s a pretty technical piece of writing. Reviewing it last week almost put me to sleep!
Chapter 5 is my findings chapter, and it’s really the meat of the dissertation. It’s where I summarize interviews with 63 different InterVarsity staff workers into something cogent and useful. Spoiler alert…I have wrangled the raw data into 10 different attributes that make up flourishing male/female ministry partnerships.
Chapter 6 is a discussion chapter, and my focus is on model-building. So, I’ve taken these 10 attributes and created a visual training model that individuals and communities can use to form flourishing partnerships. This is the chapter I’m working on right now, and it’s a fun one for me.
Chapter 7 is a recommendations chapter, and I’ll be getting super concrete about how this model could be useful in InterVaristy and for InterVarsity staff.
Chapter 8 is the conclusion, and it’s where I’ll be attempting to wrap this all up with a bow, along with offering some ideas for further study.
Two years ago, in the middle of my program, one of our mentor professors expressed this to me over email:
“The main reward for scholarly endeavor is the feedback that it has been useful to someone.”
Oh how I hope that this will be true for my dissertation!