Thursday, August 24, 2006

Response to Scot McKnight's Advice

Over at, my colleague at North Park Scot McKnight has done what every young scholar/teacher would wish for--he, as a veteran, has given me advice as I begin my teaching career. I would encourage any of you who identify with me as an emerging teacher (and perhaps Christian!) to check out Scot's 19 points of advice. They are golden.

Admittedly, I don't know that I will follow all of his advice -- how can I he wants me not to watch the Yankees! But I can promise that I will take each of these points to heart and seek to live into them.

For me, I think the biggest challenge of the list is number 16 ("avoid publication commitments when you are young. Get a feel for what you can do, when you can get it done, and what you'd like to dedicate you time to. Then work on a writing career"). I have already agreed to do a couple of things that will take a good deal of my time. The problem is that as a young scholar you feel so excited to be invited to write something--anything--so you say yes. You have spent years of your life writing things that no one cares about and then all of a sudden opportunities come your way as people invite you to write things. It is a bit intoxicating because it is self-esteem lifting. So I will take this to heart and be much more cautious. Besides I have a couple of things I am really passionate about that I need to make room to pursue. I need to set my own research agenda and I am finding that it is easy to allow outside things to take you away from what you want to be about.

It is important for me to be a part of the life of my university. I am very student centered and I want to be involved in the life of the college. For example, I talked to the Baseball coach and asked if he would allow a prof./ball player wanna-be to throw batting practice and shag fly balls in the outfield during practice. This would be such a fun activity for me and a way to support our university. He said yes!!


graham old said...

It's so cool that he did that for you.

Michael F. Bird said...

That's sheer gold and gravy! On the publishing side, it would be nice to able to just to ease into it and not feel pressured to publish early on. But the fact is that to be able to even get a job these days it certainly helps if you have a little bag of publications under your belt. In fact, in the UK with the RAE (research assessment exercise where Uni's get funding based on research output) the first question often asked of potential lecturers is: "What can you contribute to the RAE?".

Joel Willitts said...


Your point is well taken. I am glad that in my context I don't have such pressures. I will not begrudge anyone what they need for surivial. And, perhaps God has prepared certain Christian scholars (like yourself!!) to meet the challenge.

I am thankful to be in partnership with you in writing and research. I just need to remember I don't have to be like you to be significant. That is my problem.

Michael F. Bird said...

I've learnt that writing alot doesn't make you significant, either in the kingdom or the academy!

tony siew said...

Dear Mike and Joel,

I understand your predicament. That's why I am pastoring a church. Not much pressure to publish or write papers for Conferences or journals. Though I envy Mike for attending 4 or 5 Conferences already this year! Keep it up.

I think that each of us is called to a special calling. One may be a better researcher and writer, the other a great teacher or pastor and rarely you have someone who combines all the above. All do so for the glory of God and the extension of his kingdom. As Paul says, "I planted and Apollos watered. But God gave the growth." To do something to just survive or under compulsion may not be what God wants. I think we need to envision our careers as ministry or vocation, our doing of God's will for the betterment of the world.

Joel Willitts said...

Tony: Amen to that!

Denny Burk said...


I thought what Scot said was great. I'm taking it to heart too.

Much love to you, bro.


Andy Rowell said...

Good to read.

Scot's original piece is at:

for anyone who needs help finding it.

I say good for you to be writing already.