There are two vocations that appeal to me: (1) the classroom teaching Scripture to students and (2) the local church being involved in her mission to my neighbors. There are two aspects of these vocations that do not appeal to me: (1) closing the door of an office to do research so I can write papers that will be read by a handful of other academics for an entire career or (2) being so busy in the day-to-day of a local church that I can merely sigh when I think of spending time in serious study. I don’t want to be a pure academic, but neither do I want to pastor (at least as it is pictured in contemporary culture).

If I could dream for a moment I would be part of a think tank and I would live in San Francisco, CA. Why a think tank? So I could write and do research on topics related to biblical studies, Christian thought, and the mission of the church. I would still write papers and books. I would still go to conferences like AAR, ETS, and SBL. I’d teach either local classes for pastors or adjunct elsewhere. In doing so my heart for the city would find rest in a place that is far from Christianized.

It is a nasty job market out there. I don’t think I have what it takes to enter the cut throat competition necessary for many of those jobs (let alone the qualifications). Likewise, I don’t think I can muster the confessional compromise that other schools would ask (“to teach here you must believe, A, B, C, D….”) since I don’t fit into any particular denominational bubble at this time.

So what is one to do without a tribe, without those stunning qualifications that sets them apart from the rest, with an urge to teach, and with a heart for the local church in a urban context like San Francisco?

I know people have done something like what I want to do. Christopher J.H. Wright comes to mind. He lives in London, England. He has a heart for third-world Christianity and global missions. He is involved in academics through writing and I assume teaching. But what would it take to land an opportunity like this?

Several times I’ve talked with my wife about moving back to San Francisco because our heart is there (begin playing cliched song now). We feel like we belong in the least “churched” city in North America. Likewise, I feel led to further academic work after I complete my Master of Theology (Th.M.) degree. In some sense we believe there may be opportunity for both, though we are not sure how (especially with the Bay Area being so expensive and the lack of jobs related to the vocation I am pursuing). Neither of us feel like pastoral work in a local church is our primary calling/gifting/interest. If only I knew the future.

In some sense this is a whole lot of personal baggage to share with the blogosphere, yet it has been readers of this blog and other bloggers who have been so very helpful in recent years. Whether I am in need of an article, a book, or something else it has been quite a resource to post something on this blog and hear wisdom and advice from other sources.

So let me open the door for the creative thinking of others. What could you imagine with me? What could reconcile a love for academia and a love for urban missions in the Bay Area? What kind of “third-way” (between professor and pastor) vocation could exist if it were merely created? I’d like your thoughts.