February 21, 2019

Starting on Groundhog Day …

associate pastor

associate pastor

Ken Rathburn


Saturday, February 2, 2019 was the most recent Groundhog Day, a day when we look to the seasonal predictive abilities of a rodent (which is weird, by the way). It is also the name of an hilarious 1993 film, which stars Bill Murray as a man trapped into living the same literal day over and over, resulting in a series of ridiculous re-lived events. Cultural vernacular has adopted this such that “I feel like it’s Groundhog Day” has become a way to express a feeling of experiencing deja vu or being stuck in a rut. For me, after this year, Groundhog Day will forever carry a new special meaning that is anything but a rut or a repeat. It is now a new marker of a fast-changing endeavor: on February 2, 2019, I began my Master of Divinity program at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

For those of you that don’t know much about theological seminaries or the education traditions of Presbyterian denominations, the degree of Master of Divinity (M.Div.) is typically a prerequisite to ordination as a Teaching Elder. Teaching Elders (like Pastor David) are the lead pastors of the churches in which they serve as they preach and also administer the sacraments. The M.Div. is a degree that requires years of rigorous study. I will surely be reading and studying God’s Word a lot—many, many times and through many different methods. But, the degree program also includes courses on discipleship and church planting, preaching, pastoral counseling and even learning to read, write and interpret Scripture in its original languages of Hebrew and Greek.

All of this may cause you to ask: Aren’t you already the Associate Pastor of Discipleship at NAPC? Is returning to school really necessary? The answers (I believe) are yes and yes. I love my role at NAPC. Ministering to our congregation every day, I know I am exactly where God has called me.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to use the gifts the Lord has blessed me with as a means to bless others through teaching and discipleship.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to use the gifts the Lord has blessed me with as a means to bless others through teaching and discipleship. At the same time, not many are called to be teachers because those who do will have to one day give an account (See James 3:1). This means teachers must be well-trained and must guard themselves. Paul gives this advice to his pastoral protege, Timothy, when he says this:

Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1 Timothy 4:14-16. The purpose of the training and commitment of seminary is to serve God and his people well. And so, my time in seminary is not ultimately for me, but is instead for all of you.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, God will use seminary to deepen the ministries of NAPC. I have already seen ways to share what I am learning. For example, right now I am writing a paper on the Gospel according to Luke. I have read Luke many times, but I am learning so much. Did you know that Luke contains 12 parables of Jesus that are not found in Matthew, Mark or John? These are precious teachings of Jesus that show us what it means to be a Christ-follower. I intend to teach an EQUIP class on these parables, which will give us practical, life application for following Jesus. Also, my final project for this course is to develop a discipleship and church-planting plan for ministry in a difficult urban context. Talk about the providence of God! Can anyone say Linden?!

If you want to help and support me in this—and I’d love it if you did—here are a few things you can do:

  • Pray—My soul care advisor has encouraged me to have a set team of people regularly praying for my studies. I would be honored and humbled to have you support me in this way.
  • Ask—Periodically, ask me how it’s going and what I’m learning. I would love to discuss it with you.
  • Challenge—For those who know me well, don’t be afraid to challenge me to continue to look for ways to bless NAPC with what I am doing and learning at seminary. I appreciate the push.

In Christ,

Pastor Ken

P.S. — If you would like to a small window into a seminary class, you can watch a brief video on the Gospel of Mark from my New Testament professor here. This video promotes the digital live seminary class formats offered at Gordon-Conwell.