Jonathan is the pastor of Musselburgh Baptist Church in Dunedin. He completed a PhD in the New Testament at the University of Otago in 2020.
I can unreservedly recommend the Theology Programme at Otago. A programme of theological study is made or broken by those teaching it. In Otago's case we are blessed by a faculty that are not only recognised as scholars on the world stage but are dedicated and enthusiastic teachers and committed Christians for whom faith is not just an idea but a fundamental principle for life. An additional benefit from my own experience has been the collegiality of other postgraduate theology students on campus. The friendship, support and interaction with other students has been a real highlight of the PhD process.
For me, academic study has been a key part of my faith journey. My call to serve God in pastoral ministry over two decades has been strengthened and equipped by periodic times of academic study. A breakthrough for me was coming to understand that studying theology is not like getting a driver's licence, where you are just aiming to pass so that you can get on with the actual fun of driving.
Instead, theological study is about growing in your own faith and understanding, the more you give to it the more you get out of it! It is not just something to tick off so you can get on with what you want to do, but an opportunity to be personally transformed.
The skills and discipline you acquire through theological study pay dividends in terms of the basic tasks of pastoral ministry – preaching, pastoral care, leadership, etc. But I think, beyond that, being pushed to think and engage at higher critical levels helps with critical thinking in all areas of life.