In reflection on how he knew it was time to get his Associate of Divinity degree, recent graduate Timothy Richards says, “God spoke to me” both through the people in his life as well as a feeling in his heart. Read his story to hear the ways in which God continued to speak to him and affirm him in his calling.
God Spoke to Me
It took me a long time, many years in fact, to actually understand that I should pursue a degree. I had resisted it for all those years, because I didn’t see any reason for me to get a degree. But God spoke to me through my mother and my wife, as well as through a feeling in my heart. He made it known to me through them that it was time. I prayed to Him to give me the time to be able to dedicate myself to university level studies. In February of 2020, God gave me the opportunity to get started on this journey.
Preaching and Teaching
He also indicated to me that I needed to be more involved in my local church. The Lord impressed upon me that my area of ministry in my local church is to preach and teach. I preach once a month, but felt that I needed more instruction so I could give more effective sermons. I started looking for online seminaries, and found Christian Leaders Institute as well as other institutions. After careful consideration, I decided that Christian Leaders Institute was the perfect school for my needs. A degree in divinity seemed like the right one for me. In my opinion, Associate of Divinity Degree has all the core classes for most ministries.
Learning New Things
My favorite classes were Church History and World History. History is one of my favorite subjects, and when you talk about history you can not leave out Christianity. There are two time periods in history: before Christ and after Christ. So Church History was a mix of two subjects I like. And World History, which talked about different world civilizations, was by far my most favorite. It was interesting to see what the different cultures and civilizations built. Also, to learn why they did the things they did, and why they believed what they believed.
There were also classes from which I learned some things I did not previously know. One was Sociology. I had no idea that all of the founders of sociology were atheists. It was surprising because in other areas of science and study there were many Christians. Another class that I learned a lot from was Economics 101. I always thought I knew about economics, but it turns out I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. I learned capitalism is motivated by self-interest and is squarely based in private property rights. Self-interest is actually a good thing, because in looking out for our own self-interest, we help others in the process. Also, private property is a biblical principle. The Lord made us stewards of creation, and gave us dominion over it as we see in Genesis 1:28-29. And in Exodus 20, verse 15 says, “You shall not steal” and verse 17 says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s,” which reinforces the principle.
Helping People Along the Way
Some other useful classes for working in ministry were Pastoral Care and Marriage, People Smart For Ministry and Church and Ministry. Although my ministry is preaching God’s Word, these classes helped me to understand that we must also deal with and help people even if we consider it out of the scope of our primary ministry. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”. Of these classes, the one that helped me the most was People Smart For Ministry. This class had great tips on how to handle people in different situations, particularly difficult people.
The biggest challenge for me in the process of getting my Associate of Divinity Degree were the different types of classes. It’s the old debate of why do I need to study math if my major is in literature, or, in this case, biology if my degree is in divinity. The answer is to be a well-rounded individual. Before you study the courses outside of your main area of focus, it seems like a waste of time, and even daunting. But in this journey of acquiring a college degree, we pick up valuable pieces of knowledge in those courses. And those little tidbits can help us in different ways and moments in life.
Impact on Ministry
Finally, getting the Associate Degree will have a huge impact not only on my life, but in the lives of my wife, my family, and my ministry. It’s the first part of accomplishing my goal of getting the Bachelor of Divinity Degree. It’s a stepping stone to that goal, but this stepping stone is made up of many little steps. And I am learning more and more with each one. My wife and mother are the main ones supporting me and helping me, with the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Their belief in me and the guidance of the Lord have motivated me to get this far.
This degree will also impact my ministry by helping me develop better sermons. Also, in being more effective in how I deal with people, and having a better overall knowledge of the different aspects of life. God places us in different circumstances and situations so we can testify to others who might be in a similar one to ours some day. Then, we can help them through those moments. Getting this degree will be a great blessing in my life, and one that I hope to use to be a blessing in the lives of others.