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December 2016 -January 2017


Beyond the Walls


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FIRST GLIMPSE: The Graduate...Student


“Is everything okay?”

My wife’s concerned voice drifted from the kitchen, where she was whipping up a batch of her famous brownies.

“I’m fine,” I replied sheepishly, realizing my mental groan had become audible.

But I wasn’t fine. After an 18-year hiatus, I had decided to finish the graduate program abandoned shortly before the birth of our daughter. The first, agonizing week of deciphering the historical development of Arminian doctrine left me questioning that decision. More than once, my wife’s matter-of-fact questions echoed through my mind: “Are you sure you want to do this? You do realize you have a full-time job, don’t you?”

My reasons for returning to school were simple. First, I wanted to finish what I had started. (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for drilling that into my head.) Second, I wanted to challenge myself (I guess a magazine, three boards, and a music ministry program weren’t enough). Most important, however, I am driven to learn, and I knew the structure of an academic program would push my learning beyond what I would pursue on my own. With these things in mind, the new Master of Arts in Theology and Ministry program at Welch College seemed a perfect fit.

It didn’t take long to realize education had changed dramatically in my absence, becoming technology-driven, research and report-centered, and more difficult than I remembered. As I read the first-week posts (online reports) from others students, I couldn’t help but think maybe my wife had been right. Their posts were excellent. Mine sounded like I felt…lost and confused. Thus the groan!

Fast-forward a year and six courses. Grad school is still not easy. Sometimes, the tightrope-walk of balancing family, ministry, career, and school is nearly impossible. Occasionally, my posts still sound dazed and confused. And I even took two textbooks on our most recent family vacation. Ugh!

But the rewards of my studies far outweigh the difficulties. This year has taught me many things, and I would like to share three:

  • First, I can do this. In spite of doubts, my 44-year-old brain is still capable of acquiring and applying information, although maybe not as quickly.

  • Second, the knowledge I gained this year has changed forever my perspective on God, His Church, and my role in building His kingdom. I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for doctrine and theology, and I am more committed to gospel-centered church ministry than ever before.

  • Finally, through this experience, I have developed a deep respect for my classmates, from passionate young theologians who give me great optimism for the future of the denomination to godly older men who remain committed to learning. They have become more than classmates; they are friends, and I wouldn’t trade anything for the fellowship we enjoy. Iron truly sharpens iron, especially in the crucible of academic deadlines.

Does grad school still make me groan? Absolutely. But in the midst of the groans, I have also grown, and I am grateful.

Interested in the graduate program at Welch College? I recommend it without hesitation. Visit for more information.


About the Columnist: Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine. Contact him at




©2017 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists