For the past five years I have been working on a Master’s degree in theological studies at Tyndale University. As an undergrad from Master’s College (formerly Eastern Pentecostal Bible College), I was able to enrol with Tyndale as a Master’s Pentecostal Seminary student. Five years ago, the journey began. This past week, the quest concluded.
As I reflect upon my personal growth journey and transformation in gaining a better understanding of God, the Bible, His Kingdom, Mission and the Spirit, I am reminded of my lawn. Yes, that is correct, I said my lawn.
For the past few days we have been actively pulling out a plethora of dandelions from our backyard. When I say plethora, I absolutely mean a excessively large and extravagant amount! The sheer number of weeds that have overtaken our back lawn is unreal. But it was not always this way. The landscape of our back lawn used to look very different. A number of years ago we had a decent amount of healthy grass and only a few weeds. However, over the years weeds have invaded our space unchecked and unchallenged. Over the years they have been allowed to take root and are now taking over. Over the years these little invaders have become dominant.
I admit with honesty that during my seminary years there were times when I had to think through and challenge some of my preconceived ideas and thoughts about God. As a typical church kid, there was a basic foundation that my Bible College years built on. However, as a ‘Pentecostal’ now attending a multi-denominational Seminary, my worldview was going to challenged in ways not previously done. This of course does not always go well in Pentecostal circles.
I have mentioned in previous blogs the Pentecostal heritage and tradition that runs deep in my family tree. Generations of ‘Faughts’ have been associated with Pentecost for decades. Most notably would be ‘Uncle Harry’. Dr. J Harry Faught was a cherished man and mind within Pentecostal circles and the larger Christian community as whole. His scholarly impact was felt at numerous academic institutions, churches and in congregations around the globe. He was a Canadian Pentecostal scholar. Even though he was a brother to my grandfather Elmer, we simply called him ‘Uncle Harry’. He was loved and adored by the entire Faught clan. My cousin Todd Faught, lead pastor at Evangel Temple in Napanee ON, continues to carry on this tradition of Faught’s in Pentecostal pulpits. We are all proud of Todd and know that Uncle Harry would be smiling.
But back to my lawn analogy.
One of the comments I made to Dr. Van Johnson (Academic Dean of Master’s Pentecostal Seminary) in jest during my exit interview as a graduate, was that when I began my seminary journey, I envisioned that there would ‘only be Pentecostals in heaven.’ The fact that I self-published a little book entitled, ‘hello Jesus, goodbye church’ after my last seminary course, ought to serve as an illustration to some of the ways my thinking has changed! Dr. Van kindly reminded me of that via the online graduation ceremony this past week. Yes, some of those older ways of thinking no longer remain attached at the root. Thankfully, some necessary weeding has taken place in the landscape of my mind.
Here’s the thing. Engaging in theological thought, asking questions and listening to others has allowed me to gain new perspectives on certain issues and deepened my appreciation for the mysteriously deep things of God. My way of ‘seeing things’ underwent an overhaul in certain areas and some of my personal biases even began to change. But none of that could have happened if I was not open to it.
It is somewhat of a running joke that being a Pentecostal and a seminary student is a bit of an oxymoron. Our tradition has been known to over value experience and under value academics. At times the mood in Pentecostal church culture seemed to give off the impression that as long as we had the Spirit, we don’t need degrees, and seminary was sometimes looked upon as being a cemetery. But not for me.
Yes, I admit that not every follower of Jesus is happy to engage in theological thought nor have their lens (way of seeing things) challenged. Like other pastors, I have a wall of fame and a large file where all of the various accusations and other proclamations made by all-knowing people find their place. I guess it is par for the course when attempting to bring about change.
But that is perhaps the greatest thing for me upon graduating from seminary: ongoing transformation.
I am thankful to not be the same person I was five years ago. My thinking has led to ongoing changes to my conduct, behaviour and outlook on life. I am thankful for the way God brought ongoing change to my life through the renewing of my mind. Through various teachers, authors, and students, God, by His Spirit, has helped me take back some of the territory of my mind that had been left to the ever growing ‘weed-like’ place of ignorance and un-Biblical truth.
Now, with some added tools in my toolshed, I can go about my lawn of ‘thinking’ and continue uprooting things that ought not to be fed or allowed to grow. You may not be able to embark on a seminary journey, or bite into the deep matters of theology, but everyone one of us can stop and think about what we believe and why.
Who knows, maybe you too will expose some things that ought to be removed and even learn some new things in the weeding process.
We all know that a healthy lawn is a desirable space. I also know that a healthier mind is a welcomed oasis.