Ministry of the Mind

By the Book | Pursuing Academia while in Ministry

by D. Andrew Kille (Ph.D. ’97)

After graduating with my M.Div. from American Baptist Seminary of the West in 1975, I ministered at Grace Baptist Church of San Jose for thirteen years, ten of them as the Senior Pastor.

While reading the work of Morton Kelsey, John Sanford, and Walter Wink, and attending seminars sponsored by the Guild for Psychological Studies, I became increasingly interested in the intersections of psychology and biblical studies. I asked Wink where I might undertake such a study and his reply was the GTU. I began working in what was then known as “Inter-Area” studies after being accepted to the doctoral program.

When I graduated in 1997, I was the first person to earn a Ph.D. focusing on psychological biblical criticism. I did not plan to return to pastoral ministry following my doctorate, but I challenged the mindset that considered pastoral work as the only “real” ministry and other forms–musical, campus, educational, chaplaincy, community, etc. –as “alternate.” The core question for me was “How does an interpretation of the Bible become transformative?” I believed that an understanding of the psychological dynamics of engaging the Bible would be useful for preaching, for teaching, and for community life as a whole.

I taught for a few years as an adjunct faculty member at Santa Clara University and Holy Names College, teaching psychological perspectives to ministry students and religious perspectives to psychology students. But after those positions were cut, I felt like I was living a divided life–serving as a liturgical musician, occasional preacher, and adult religious education teacher while writing articles on psychological biblical criticism for journals, chapters for books, and editing collections of writing with colleagues. I served for many years heading the Psychology and Biblical Studies Section of the Society for Biblical Literature and regularly presented at SBL meetings.

About five years ago, my two vocations fused when I became the Editor of BibleWorkbench, a Bible study resource using a process of open-ended questioning to enable individuals and groups to encounter the stories of the Bible and to make connections between those stories and what is going on in the world around them and in their inner, psychic worlds. The target audience is not academic, but our approach is informed deeply by both biblical critical methods and psychological understanding. My studies provide the framework for my writing and editing.

When I interact with people, I need to understand the frameworks, assumptions, and dynamics that shape that work both consciously and unconsciously. When I am studying, I can get lost in esoteric arguments and elegant debates; at the end I find myself asking, “So what?”

My motto has been Jung’s quote from the Oracle at Delphi, “Vocatus atque non Vocatus, Deus Aderit” (Summoned or not, God will be present). It reminds me that whatever I undertake can be a form of ministry, if I approach it with awareness and intention.