PhD Program Opens Doors for Ministry Training
For over 50 years, BJU Seminary’s PhD program has been preparing students for the highest level of seminary and college teaching, theological research and writing, and preaching/teaching ministry in the local church. Today, graduates all across the United States and around the world are serving the church as pastors, professors, missionaries, administrators, authors, translation consultants, and more. Several recent PhD graduates have pursued ministries in Christian higher education: Kristopher Endean, a 2020 graduate, serves at International Baptist College & Seminary in Arizona. Atan Taclob, a 2020 graduate, and Joel Arnold, a 2011 graduate, both serve at Bob Jones Memorial Bible College in the Philippines.
In October 2019, Atan joined the faculty of Bob Jones Memorial Bible College as a Gospel Fellowship Association missionary. Located in Quezon City, Philippines, BJMBC trains leaders for church ministry all throughout Asia. Commenting on God’s leading to his current position, Atan noted, “Even before I finished my studies at BJU, I was convinced that God had called my wife and me to serve Him in the Philippines. Originally, my plan was to serve in more remote areas, but a meeting with a BJMBC faculty missionary was used by God to re-direct my call to BJMBC.” Atan and his wife Rachel also serve in a variety of ways outside their college ministry. “My family and I serve in a local church in various ministries and do mission work in remote areas, especially during breaks,” Atan said. “It has been humbling to be a part of training ministry leaders, not only in the Philippines, but in Asia and beyond.”
Atan felt led to pursue PhD studies to grow in his understanding of the Bible and to be a more effective teacher. He commented, “My training in languages, hermeneutics, systematic and biblical theologies, church history, and much more, enabled me to have a full-orbed understanding of theology in general…Moreover, it strengthened my belief in the inerrancy and the reliability of the Word of God.”
For Atan, however, receiving a PhD was just one more stepping stone along the path of serving God. “The more I study, the more I realize that there is still a lot to learn,” Atan said. “Indeed, learning will never stop as long as one lives here on earth. Getting a PhD degree is not an end in itself, but a means to a greater end—the encouragement of the saints and the evangelization of the lost—all for the glory of God.”
Kristopher recently accepted the position of Dean of Students and Division Chair of the Bachelor of Arts in Bible and Christian Service at International Baptist College & Seminary in Chandler, Arizona. In addition to mentoring students, Kristopher will also be teaching courses on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. “Although I had expected the Lord to direct us to a foreign mission field immediately after graduation, He made it abundantly clear through prayer and spiritual counselors that this state-side opportunity was His will for us, especially since it is a strategic platform to leverage our gifts and training to serve the cause of missions,” Kristopher said. He and his wife Kimberly have also applied to join International Baptist Mission as special assignment missionaries; in this role, they will be able to promote theological education worldwide during IBCS academic breaks.
Ever since he was young, Kristopher has had a passion for missions, particularly missions in Africa. A 2010 trip to Africa with a BJU mission team served to strengthen that passion. Regarding that trip Kristopher remarked, “I caught a vision for how a ministry in higher education can equip ministers of the gospel to reach their own people in their own cultures effectively with God’s eternal truth.”
Kristopher sought out PhD studies in an effort to ground himself in the Scriptures and make his teaching as accurate and effective as possible. For him, out-of-classroom training was key in his ministry preparation. “It was especially significant to attend church with several of my professors, where I observed them employing their teaching gifts to serve the body of Christ,” he said. On his time in seminary, Kristopher noted, “The PhD program at BJU prepared me for my current role by modeling an approach to Scripture that is at once rigorous and devotional—an approach that lets the Scriptures speak for themselves and exalts both the Word of God and the God of the Word.”
Joel and his wife Sarah serve in the Philippines in a number of capacities as Gospel Fellowship Association missionaries. Since 2013, Joel has been teaching on the undergraduate and graduate level at Bob Jones Memorial Bible College; he also organizes an online program that offers PhD level education to men across the developing world and provides one-week block classes to pastors across the Philippines. Joel felt led to pursue a ministry in higher education because of God’s work in his own life. He noted, “I believe in the power of understanding God’s Word richly. I believe that it changes lives and transforms churches when pastors understand God’s Word on a deep level. I also know how my own seminary education transformed my life, and I yearn for others to benefit from the same.”
Commenting on why he initially decided to pursue his own PhD studies, Joel said, “I loved the training I had already received, but I was conscious that I needed more. I also anticipated that I would be doing the kind of cross-cultural teaching ministry I am doing now, and I wanted to be very well equipped for it.”
But for Joel, the seminary training he received—and the training he now gives—are about more than academic preparation. He observed, “I loved that the degree I received was an ideal combination of academic rigor with practical, pastoral intent. We explored the hard questions, grappled with the academic challenges, put in our all-nighters, accumulated vast numbers of pages written, and read the requisite books and journal articles to be well-conversant in the field. Our teachers made us work hard.
“And yet they never lost sight of the larger reality that we were studying theology in order to serve the church. The robust academic challenges were there, but they did not become an end in themselves. That perfectly equipped me for what I am doing today…theology is about changing live through God’s word.”
Find out more about BJU Seminary’s PhD program.