What do you do anyway? Being an unemployed theologian

What do you do anyway? You can usually see the question forming behind the blank stare you receive when you talk about being a theologian. Often, these days, I say I’m an author, because that gives them something concrete to think about. Being an unemployed theologian leaves people with a picture of you in your pajamas watching daytime tv. Being an author at least gives a picture of work. So here are some musings on being an unemployed theologian.

As most of you will know, there is a huge difference between being a theologian who doesn’t work and being a theologian without a job. I am of the latter variety. I work a lot. I am currently writing three books (two of which are contracted), editing three books (all of which are contracted) and in the proposal phases of two more (one written and one edited), not to mention articles and papers. But I’m not just an author. I am a theologian. My vocation is not tied to a paying gig. Therefore, when I’m not writing, I find myself presented with fascinating oppotunities to actually be a theologian. I lead a disability theology study group for my church. There are several of us that get together to talk about disability and theology so that we can focus our attention as a church on God’s calling for us. This is particularly important for our church since we are helping to plant a church aimed at people with disability with a pastor who has a disability. I co-lead our adult Bible study at my church. Last semester we studied Gospel stories alongside a painting of the same story. We asked: How was this painter interpreting this passage? as we meditated on the passage itself. If you scroll through this blog you will see several of the paintings we used. Currently, we are working through Hebrews chapter by chapter.

Along with preaching on occasion, I find myself in situations to try and speak meaningfully about theology to pastors. I have led a denomination’s pastors retreat and plan on leading another one for them in October. I meet with pastors to talk about ministry and the nature of the church and her call. I lecture from time to time at seminaries in either theology or spiritual formation. In fact, now that I think about it, I can’t imagine having a job! As I’ve tried to see this time of life as a blessing, rather than a frustrating situation, it becomes clear to me how unique it is to have a calling that is not tied to a job. This is true for everyone, of course, but I have found that the opportunities for a theologian are endless. Anyone else having similar experiences?


6 thoughts on “What do you do anyway? Being an unemployed theologian

  1. Kyle,

    Of course, I am still in the process of getting my PhD; but I consider myself, at this point, an up and coming, theologian (whatever that means). Right now, the way my life has been going, being an unemployed theologian means taking whatever work I can get to support the family. I too, as you know, have a book coming out with Myk Habets this April (Lord willing), and hopefully we have some more in the wings (we’ll see). I am writing another essay which will be a chapter in a forthcoming book down the road sometime, and then I just got a job as a theological research consultant, of sorts; which is encouraging to me. Anyway, you’re further down the academic line than I am as of right now (with your PhD in hand); but I figure we just minister through whatever venues the LORD opens up for us, in the way that he sees fit. I have had the opportunity to be involved in all kinds of evangelistic activity because of the jobs I’ve had in the “world” (I will be meeting with my New Age boss, outside of work this Friday to talk about spiritual things … so please keep that in prayer); and then within the church, I am involved (and have been for quite some time) in discipleship of younger brothers in Christ (and this has been a joy and very fruitful). So while not what I would envision relative to what I think my gifting and vocation is; maybe this is exactly what it looks like to be a theologian in God’s economy of things.

    When you say unemployed theologian, Kyle; what do you mean? To be an employed theologian, to you, would mean being a professor of theology; no? That’s usually how I think of it too, but it seems as if the LORD has reorientated my take on that (even though my desire would still be to have the opportunity to be a professor or vocational pastor of evangelism/education/discipleship in a church somewhere).

    Anyway, thank you for your transparency in this, Kyle; this is a refreshing post to read, and interact with! Blessings, my brother.

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