Rowntree asks us the question, more frankly asks me the question, “Why are you studying?” Perhaps more contextually, the question should be, “Why are you pursuing a doctoral degree (the glamorous DMin LGP)?” Upon starting my seminary education in January 2017, my original purpose was to acquire a doctoral degree, a terminal degree so my peers would (finally) respect me (and perhaps I also finally respect myself.) Possibly to frame this in a less self-serving light (from my friend who is an admissions advisor for Fuller Houston), “ to provide a tangible culmination of my forty years of pastoral ministry service.”
That statement still appears to be pretty selfish when one considers the considerable cost in time (some five years (for both my MAT and DMin) taken away from one’s family) and finances (some $65K taken away from the family’s financial holdings). Rowntree would describe this initial desire as intrinsic because the reward for completing the prescribed course of study is inherent. That is, I work for what I can get out of my studies rather than what the accomplishment of my studies can do for me. To be honest, this may be because at this point I see (know of) no particular advantage to acquiring my DMin for the denominational and local church work I currently serve. This unusual (for me) not beginning-with-the-end-in-sight approach, has caused me to wrestle with this default intrinsic purpose (for some two years now) as every other educational, or certification effort has served a precise extrinsic purpose, to become more valuable and open up more vocational ministry options. Remarkably to me, my typical former ROI (Return on Investment) approach to investing in one’s education is viewed by Rowntree as problematic. Of all the shortcomings that he describes, I can most relate to “having difficulty getting down to work” (I currently feel I am always struggling to find my rhythm) and, more importantly, “miss out on aspects of the course that might have been intrinsically satisfying.”
As Rowntree admonishes me to continue asking myself the iterative questions of “why am I doing this?”, each iteration brings up both more answers and more questions. He then reminds me that learning involves both a process and a product. In my view, the product includes the content of the courses as well as the network of relationships developed among classmates and professors. I have always found I learn as much (or more) from the in-the-flesh persons in my classes as the persons and perspectives revealed in course content. There is an undeniable bond that has been formed among those personalities God has brought into my life through the seminary process. The last two years have been primarily in master’s level classes at Fuller Seminary in Houston. I rejoice every time I get to connect with any of these students, these professors, these friends. While I will complete my MAT this quarter and walk in graduation next June, these relationships (this product) will continue to produce dividends for the rest of my life.
This last Monday in our asynchronous call, I mentioned how I was pleasantly surprised to experience and expect the continuation of this relational learning content. In my doctoral “family” praying for me (funny how God puts you in positions of vulnerability that you most definitely did not intend), God spoke to me of my desperate need of every person and what God teaches me through each life, each experience. Unbeknownst to any of us, a photo was taken that now serves as the background on my computer screens. This photo will continue to remind me that my doctoral family is the greatest gift God has given me, has given us for this three-year doctoral pilgrimage.
Dropping back a bit, Rowntree reminds us that learning how to study is learning how to learn. I am discovering the emphasis on the process of learning as the principal distinction between master’s level studies and doctoral studies. Dr. Jason Clarke is consistent in his promise (threat?) to continue to push (shove?) us to think critically. I imagine we would all agree that Adler and Bayard most definitely are much more about the process of learning to learn rather than simply about content. Rowntree continues to challenge me as I consider learning as understanding. That is not only new ideas and new approaches but patterns and relationships that help me to make sense of disconnected concepts. I see this critical understanding in learning the art of sifting through various vaults of sources to select the most germane items to fit into one’s research structure.
Rowntree also challenges me to consider learning for application. I am a pastor, and I love pastors, and I love local churches. While I value and appreciate those sections of the Church that extend beyond local churches, my life, my research is devoted to helping local churches, local pastors fulfill their call to build his kingdom where they are. Therefore, my theology and my scholarship have and will continue to be forged on the anvil of local church applications. For me, this is assisting pastors in developing their adaptive leadership skills through vibrant coaching networks.
Finally, Rowntree challenges me to consider learning for personal development. I am already experiencing how this learning process is changing me into hopefully a wiser and more capable person. Because of this unexpected epiphany, I have discovered I have a new answer to the question of, “Why am I doing this?” That is, I am doing this to share what I am learning to all within my circle of influence, primarily my global Vineyard coaching network(s). With humility and grace, I am dreaming about how he will bless his pastors, his churches through this learning process.
 Rowntree, Derek, Learn How to Study: A Realistic Approach, rev. ed. (London, UK: Warner Books, 1998) 13.
 Rowntree, Learn How to Study, 16.
 Rowntree, Learn How to Study, 17.
 Rowntree, Learn How to Study, 19.
Rowntree, Learn How to Study, 19.
 Rowntree, Learn How to Study, 20.
 Rowntree, Learn How to Study, 22.