What got you into teaching theology? How does it affect your church relationship?
One day in my last year of college, after some particularly invigorating theological discussion with an atheist who lived next door to me, and as a fairly new and clueless evangelical, I allowed myself the question: "Should I be doing this all the time, God? Should I become a minister?" The interior rush of confirmation was powerful enough that I remember it still, as one of the most vivid memories of that year of my life. In retrospect, I believe God said "yes, do this all the time."
Of course I didn't right away. What I had received was just a feeling, and I didn't really know what to do with it. I was unchurched, scared of seminary, and could not dig out from under all my preconceptions of what a pastoral life looked like. So I got a "regular job," found a good local church, and got involved as a layperson. But ever since that day in college, I knew that the only truly satisfying life for me would be one vocationally dedicated to the Kingdom. Without quitting my job, I started a desktop Christian magazine (soon defunct) and helped plant a church (also, defunct about two years later). These two experiences convinced me first, that a life of Christian vocation was satisfying; second, that I had gifts to offer; and third, that I should have formal theological education before I went any further. Seminary soon followed, then a doctoral program in theology. All of these experiences have been internal and external calls to the ministry, as God has reinforced my earliest knowledge of his will that I serve him within his Church, and as others have affirmed the gifts God has graciously provided for that service.
The most satisfying confirmations have come since finishing school, as I teach in college and church and (occasionally) at seminary, and do theological research. My church has been an ideal context for these things seemingly too good to be true, except that in the Kingdom nothing is too good to be true. At present, everything works together to point in this direction: The responses of readers, students, fellow workers, family, the physical circumstances of our life, our spiritual growth, and what I know is theologically and ecclesially responsible.
I do not just teach theology at a Christian college; I also teach Bible and doctrine at a Foursquare Pentecostal church. I am publishing theology not only as a member of an academic faculty, but also first of all as the member of a particular Christian community in a particular Christian tradition, and I want to represent it well. Like many at my church, I did not grow up Foursquare, and I want to respect and nourish the tradition that produced such a wonderful local church as mine. I want to join it not only in name, but in spirit and in discipline. As I have told my fellows on staff: If you can't fire me or excommunicate me, I shouldn't be teaching here. Christ calls all his deputies to discernment and accountability. It is better to be judged with greater strictness now than later!