Josh Philpot

Theology, the Church, and Music

Archive for June 11th, 2009

Reflections on Seminary part 4

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For anyone who is interested in my reflections please bear with me because this one is rather long. I need to learn to be succinct.

My final year in seminary was clearly the most significant and strenuous for me as a student and pastor. The summer of 2008 began with the departure of the other associate pastor at Kenwood, Jon Pirtle. Whereas Jon originally expressed interest in becoming the preaching pastor at Kenwood, he decided to leave for his home state of Georgia and begin teaching high school instead. This left me as the only elder and pastor, a difficult task even for a small congregation. It was at this point that our Pastor Search Committee decided to bring me before the congregation to be called as the senior pastor. Although the PSC was not unanimous in their decision it went forward nonetheless. Without going into great detail let me just say that the church did not vote to call me as their senior pastor (that reflection will be for another day), which brought us once again back to the drawing board. Since the PSC was somewhat divided on how to move forward, they all decided that it would be best to absolve that committee and have the church elect a new one, which we did with little resistance. Since I was the only elder and pastor in the church I continued to serve on this new committee as well. In the meantime, knowing that I needed to graduate within the year and therefore take close to 36 credits hours (12 classes), rather than continue to preach on Sunday mornings I asked two friends to fill the responsibilities: Jarvis Williams and Dave Schrock, both of whom Kenwood owes a great deal of gratitude and appreciation. They both served us greatly during this time of transition.

The decision to apply for a PhD came that summer with much prayer and conversation with my wife. Although I never intended on being a perennial student when I entered college in August of 2000, I loved the work and felt that the Lord had blessed me with the desire and abilities to continue to pursue education. Furthermore, as I mentioned in a previous post, as a pastor I’m deeply convicted by the fact that the American church is largely ignorant of the Old Testament. With that in mind I felt that pursuing a PhD would help me become a better pastor and teacher of the Bible. Before applying, however, I felt that I should seek the advice of professors who had me in class and knew my work ethic and ability. So I went to Drs. Gentry and Garrett for counsel. They both encouraged me to pursue doctoral studies and even offered to write letters of recommendation, which I obviously took them up on.

The fall semester proved fruitful but hectic. I took four courses, all while leading worship on Sunday mornings and teaching Sunday and Wednesday evenings at Kenwood. I had little free time, but as I’ve said before, I love the work. In the winter term I took three more classes, even though I only needed two – a course in December right before Christmas and then two courses back-to-back in January. At this point let me offer another recommendation: NEVER take three winter or summer term classes unless you have the time and know what you’re in for. I basically had the time but did not anticipate the amount of work involved, something like 10 books, 10 papers, 5 tests, 6 quizzes, and 120 hours of class time – all within 1 month. More than anything the experience was just exhausting. Avoid this at all costs.

Following my final exam in my final winter-term course (Exegesis of Mark with Dr. Mark Stein) I had about one month to prepare for my PhD exam and interview, which was all part of the application process. This was equally strenuous since the spring semester had also begun. In order to get both of these things done I decided to divide up my day into segments. I would work on studying for the PhD essays from 5:30 – 8:30 AM, go to class for the day from 9:00-3:00, and work on Kenwood Bible studies and worship in the evenings. Since some people might not know, or maybe want to know, what the PhD application process is like I will recall it here. For my part, the testing and interview took place sometime at the end of February. I woke up that morning with a 101° temperature and struggled throughout the day with coughing, snot, and nausea. However the Lord was gracious and I made it through. The test itself was interesting. Since I was applying for Old Testament studies I was required to translate a passage in Hebrew and also answer a number of questions regarding morphology (how words are put together) and syntax (sentence structure and form). Although some of the questions were ambiguous I felt that this part was relatively easy (I just mean that most 2nd year Hebrew students could complete it without any real difficulties). I then had to write an essay on any one of three topics given in Old Testament scholarship. I won’t list them here because I’m unsure of whether they will be used again in the future. This part was somewhat difficult since it was timed, but I was still able to shell out a decent amount of pages in the time allotted. The last part of the test consisted of a general essay in argumentation that was not related to my field of study. I actually found this section quite fun but a little redundant since an identical type of essay was required on the GRE, which everyone had to take anyway. Once the testing was completed I was given an appointment time to meet with the faculty in my department for an interview. This was clearly the most relaxing of the whole process since I’m generally comfortable in conversational settings, and especially with those who were in the interview. Both interviewers knew me personally and set me at ease right away. The only problem was that after the interview was over I was told that I wouldn’t know if I was accepted until April, a full month-and-a-half away! I was notified by letter in early April and promptly accepted my admittance.

Things at Kenwood progressed nicely. At the beginning of this year we were told by one of our chosen candidates that they were declining our offer. This was particularly depressing for me, even though I and everyone else knew that God’s purposes and will is so much greater than our own. I was left with two options: either merge with a large church in Louisville or get in contact with another potential pastoral candidate. I spoke with the PSC about this and they all agreed on the latter. After I heard that Jim Hamilton was seeking a pastorate I contacted him immediately. We met, drove to the church building so he could see the place, spoke about the area and our current members, and decided to pray. I also brought this option before our PSC, who were all intrigued by Jim. We decided to bring him to Kenwood to preach a couple of times, and even though he preached from the tempestuous book of Revelation everyone agreed that he would be an awesome choice. After a PSC interview and congregational interview, Pastor Jim was voted in unanimously on March 29th. It has been a great blessing to serve with him these few months together. By God’s grace I’m growing as a pastor under his leadership.

Graduation took place on May 15th, and after 94 credit hours (and about 27 hours of audits) I finally completed my M.Div. In the next post I will offer some final reflections and recommendations on seminary at Southern.

Some pictures from my final year – my in-laws, the Schrock’s, my adorable nieces and nephew, dancing class with our friends, Asa and I making delicious pizza cupcakes (right?), murder mystery night at the Breland’s, and graduation with my family:



Written by Josh Philpot

June 11, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Seminary

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