by Lloyd Kim, WSC alum
Westminster Seminary has helped me in my role as the Coordinator for Mission to the World in giving me a strong foundation by which I am able to think theologically about missions, the church, church planting, evangelism, discipleship, leadership and many other aspects related to my current role.
However, my number one responsibility as coordinator is guarding the spiritual vitality of our missions community. Deep personal reflection and meditation upon God’s word and prayer are the tools I need to maintain my own spiritual vitality, which is essential in leading our mission. The real blessing was not simply the Christ-centered, gospel focused, redemptive historical hermeneutical and homiletical approach characteristic of Westminster seminary, but the fruit that was born in my own soul from the personal application of these methods. Westminster has given me the tools to continue to grow in my own walk of faith so that I might help others in the same manner.
Because of the rigorous academic training at Westminster Seminary, I was also well prepared for doctoral studies. Critical thinking skills, theological engagement with current trends in the church, and honest, insightful feedback from my professors enabled me to transition into doctoral studies without much difficulty. I am also grateful for the encouragement and advice I received from my New Testament professors, before and during my Ph.D studies.
"Critical thinking skills, theological engagement with current trends in the church, and honest, insightful feedback from my professors enabled me to transition into doctoral studies without much difficulty."
Having a Ph.D was helpful early on in my ministry as a missionary. It opened doors for teaching opportunities in Asia Pacific and helped give credibility to my ministry. This was especially true in Asia, where age and experience are highly valued. But almost equally valued is educational achievement. This would probably still hold true for my current position as I have opportunity to interact with church leaders from around the world.
The greatest skill gained from my doctoral studies was learning how to do research. We were taught how to answer a question from every conceivable angle. This has been helpful when preparing lectures, teaching module courses, or writing articles. Ph.D studies have also given me some confidence, knowing I can write on a topic for hundreds of pages.
I would like to say that though there are benefits to having a Ph.D, there are also some disadvantages. First, it is expensive and it requires a great deal of time. Second, much of what is discussed in academia today is not very relevant to the person in the pew. Third, it can lead to alienation and a sense of distance from the people you are trying to reach. Fourth, you often feel like you need to sound smarter than you are. Fifth, it can often lead to pride. Therefore, I would say, pursing a Ph.D is not for everyone, but can be a blessing for those who have a strong sense of call to it.
I look fondly on my time at Westminster Seminary in California and am grateful for the training I received. I am also excited for the future of Westminster and new leadership God has put in place.
Rev. Lloyd Kim is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and the coordinator of Mission to the World