I have a doctoral degree. I couldn’t wait until I received that degree and became “Dr. Imel.” Well, I’m now “Dr. Imel,” and I learned one of the most valuable lessons in my life from obtaining that degree: I don’t know everything. Seriously, that is one of the most beneficial lessons from obtaining a terminal degree. My dissertation dealt with the attitudes of elders toward inactive Christians, but I only interviewed nine elders in two counties of West Virginia. The attitudes of elders in Birmingham, Alabama, or Roanoke, Virginia, might be radically different. Just because I have a doctoral degree doesn’t mean that you want me performing brain surgery or flying a jet or building your house – there are many things I do not know.
Yet, I’m thankful for my education. Every level of my education has provided opportunities to better myself, and I’m thankful.
I remember two teachers with special fondness. Patsy Sponcil allowed me to stand in front of the class and tell everyone about the latest space shuttle flight – surely her patience helped hone my public speaking skills. John Miller pushed me to excel like no other teacher I’ve ever have. He wouldn’t accept mediocre work, and I have no doubt but that my doctoral degree is largely due to the confidence instilled in me by Mr. Miller.
There aren’t any teachers will stand out in my mind. I can only remember the name of my 6th grade teacher – Mrs. Gibson; my main memory of Mrs. Gibson is calling her to tell her that the Challenger explored shortly after liftoff (she was watching a movie on the VCR and was unaware). Yet, I remember the cruelty of my classmates. I was teased and called names unmercifully; I absolutely hated middle school. But, eventually I learned invaluable lessons from that experience: it’s okay to be different from everyone else and it’s okay to be called names (someone’s opinion of you doesn’t change who you really are).
High school were some of the most carefree years of my life. I made dear friends, I traveled to Denver for a DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) convention, and I discovered who I am – a Christian who had a talent for speaking and leading others.
Besides becoming a Christian, attending International Bible College (IBC) is absolutely the best decision I have ever made (nothing in my life would be the same without IBC – I wouldn’t even have met my wife or have my kids without IBC). I learned a great deal academically: I learned from excellent scholars (Drs. Kippy Myers, Joel Stephen Williams, Coy Roper, and James Smeal) who prepared me for graduate work. I learned a great deal about the Christian life and evangelism by watching David Underwood and Jerry Davidson. I learned compassion from Willard Pyles. I developed a lifelong love of Greek from George Goldman. I made friends who will be friends in eternity as well as this life: Joey Dixon, Dennis Hudgins, Brian Reagan, Curtis Gilbert, Steve McCall, James Farris, and others.
I had some professors who taught me a great deal academically: Drs. Randall C. Bailey and Floyd Parker taught me a great deal about how to think for myself. Dr. Leon Eastep graciously guided me through my dissertation and taught me how little I know. At SCU (which changed to Regions University before I graduated and changed to Amridge University not long thereafter), I learned how to think for myself and developed a lifelong love for investigation and learning.
Education is a marvelous gift. I am who I am today because of my education. But, formal education does not compare to a knowledge of Scripture. In much of my education, I didn’t actually study Scripture, but I studied theories and tools for exegesis and languages and methods for church growth. Those disciplines provided me the ability to study, to investigate, and to share God’s Word. But, there is no substitute for a knowledge of the Book itself. In Scripture we learn how to walk with God and allow Him to walk with us.