Like usual Scot McKnight has raised an interesting issue by responding to a Letter from an Inquirer.

The issue is how students should use their time? I know my own experiences are mixed. I completed my MDiv on a part time basis. I studied my PhD on a full time basis with a little work on the side and completed it while in full-time work.

Some of the replies understand that the issue does not stop when people stop being students. This is where I want to start the discussion.

Ultimately the issue is to me one of the Lordship of Christ. Is all our time used for Him? What are the things He would have you do? Scripture makes it quite clear that we have responsibilities to love God and our neighbour, to meet together with Christians (in Church), to witness, to work for food and for those where it is relevant to look after our spouses and family. This does not change when someone is or is not a student nor is the question one of having only 24 hours a day but one of ethics – what choices must I make between the good?

Missionally the important stuff is family, church, worship, devotional life and then study/work for the sake of being in contact with those who need Jesus. If we drop the important to focus on the study/work so we can witness then what happens is we have nothing to witness from or to. If we drop work then we have no-one to witness to.  If we drop study then those we are called to minister to will not be calling us.

We need a balance to work out that is not about either work/study or family but how to do both. If we do not do both, and after all I had my only child conceived, born and growing up during a PhD, then at the end we have nothing. We have gained the world but lost out soul.

Life does not consist of university degrees but our relationships. If the relationships get severed then our lives are diminished and so is our witness to the Kingdom. At the same time if our university degrees prepare us to be better witnesses then they should be applauded. My work is in Pentecostal Ecclesiology and part of it looks at how some church practices actually are bad witnesses to the Kingdom neither helping us bear witness or discipling believers. At the end I feel my research has made me love God more and His church more even if that means I am in conflict with expressions of it in my own tradition.

My students then say but we need to eat and be involved in leading a small group and study and … and … and … The issue is again to me where are you using your time? If you are spending so much effort on these things and still not having enough time what is the essentials that define you? Maybe study is not one of them and you need to drop to part time. This semester some of them have decided to do that for next semester so they can be a witness where they work. As a theology class we prayed for them yesterday.

Other students do not have that luxury to drop subjects because of legal conditions on visas, what do they do? I recommend they budget their time well but do not do more than the essentials. Most people I find overcommit to everything in the guise of faithfulness rather than facing their own issues of insecurity and concern of not being wanted or feeling loved. Being busy fills up holes of insecurity rather than facing the darkness within.

The third extreme is realising that if God is not providing financially while studying that it may be time to go home. Full time work done for God is as honourable as the pastorate. Both at one level are jobs. The calling for us all is to minister and what our job titles, descriptions and places of employment are all that should really make us different.

So what are the essentials? God, Church, worship, relationships, food, shelter,

Do you think there are other conflicts I should consider about the use of our time?