Use Your Voice!

It was twenty years ago, May 19, 2003, that I was awarded a Doctor of Ministry degree from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. This degree was seven years in the making! The first four years went by at a very satisfying pace. I worked through seven seminars that covered a range of topics in theology and practical ministry. I loved every minute of those weeklong campus experiences in January and May each year!

Draft, Dissertation, Diploma!

The collegiality of a D.Min. cohort puts you in close contact with ministers from various denominational backgrounds. I found the camaraderie both academically challenging and spiritually stimulating. Many of us ate our evening meals together in local restaurants. We stayed up late in the dorm rooms we shared discussing matters of ministry. We also partnered with each other in various presentations during class time. I grew professionally and spiritually during those years with new study friends.

After seminars, the program shifted from group study to a deep dive into a topic that everyone chooses under the advisement and counsel of a major professor. It was now up to each student to work independently. With my professor’s permission, I was allowed to substitute my literature review for the eighth and final seminar. I worked through scores of sources on the topic of evaluation processes in business, education, and not-for-profit settings.

My goal in this research was to develop better practices in the ministry for receiving helpful feedback for ministers. After years of ministry experiences, I could see how many of my peers in leadership were frustrated by dealing with the various expectations, often unrealistic, of leaders and members in their local churches. This became so stressful at times that some of my friends were being terminated or they left their discouraging ministries before being forced out.

During those two years of research, I read around the subject of feedback processes and conducted numerous interviews by phone and in person. The volume of data was growing and accumulating on stacks of paper notes and then converted into digital files. The books, notes, and recording tapes were overwhelming and taking up every inch of space on a special study table. I had been using the front living room of our house as a research office. This was encroaching on that space where the piano had provided entertainment in a setting with comfortable seating.

That final and seventh year was agonizing. Every time I passed that 6 foot-table with my computer in the middle of it, I was becoming increasingly depressed that I needed to start writing the remaining chapters and get this whole thing wrapped up! With the blessing of some key encouragers and church leaders, I finally decided to take a couple weeks off  in November (before the following May that I declared would be my graduation target) to get chapters three through five completed. Part of my motivation came from Monique who had threatened to write me out of the December Christmas newsletter because she had said her last word about “Mike getting his doctorate in the spring!”😞

The Lord gave me the grace and discipline to write those chapters. I scheduled a meeting after the new year with Dr. Donald Guthrie, my major professor. He confirmed that I was on target and that the draft of the dissertation was “quite good” by his appraisal. After working through several weeks of editing and re-writes, the project was ready for an oral defense before several of my professors. I will never forget how relieved I was to hear Dr. Philip Douglass say at that time, “Mike, I think you have found your voice in this dissertation!”

I had always admired Dr. Douglass, but at that moment, I wanted to hug him for those kind words of affirmation! At long last, I was now ready for graduation on May 19, 2003! I was also gratified that now I was ready to use this “new voice,” that had been developed in the seven years of researching and writing the dissertation, in other ways to honor my Lord.

Has the Lord laid a new expression of service on your heart these days? Would you like to see that talent, spiritual gift or voice develop and mature? Enjoy your study and preparation with others but be ready for some serious times of disciplined solitude! Growth takes patient waiting, diligent exercise, and sufficient time to bear fruit!

Be encouraged by what God knows about your special voice or talent, “Lord, you know everything there is to know about me. You perceive every movement of my heart and soul, and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind. You are so intimately aware of me, Lord. You read my heart like an open book, and you know all the words I’m about to speak before I start a sentence.” (Psalm 139:1-4,TPT).

Let God continue to develop you and grow you into the person He can use for His praise and glory!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,

active churchman and
doting grandparent.


  1. I appreciate they way that you have used your voice over the years since obtaining this achievement. Well done Dr. Keppler!

    1. Thank you, friend! I appreciate those kind words!!

  2. Thank you Mike for your words of wisdomprsy for for everyone and all things, our world is in such a mess also things within our familyplease pray for our. new greatgrandsondaily reading tells me constantly how well knows everything about m.don’t really know what my gift is but do pray you

    1. God bless you. You are in my prayers, friend!


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