God Can Lead Us in Our Research

I have found that God can lead and direct us in our academic research.

Some time ago, I was asked to speak at a conference in Winnipeg, Canada, on the relevance of Marshall McLuhan’s faith for communication studies. McLuhan, one of the great pioneers of Media Theory, gave us “The medium is the message,” among many other provocative quotes.

While familiar with McLuhan’s works, I had never considered his faith and how it relates to communications. 

So, I was initially hesitant to say yes to the conference. After some prayer, I decided to support the conference’s organizer and do some research in preparation. I needed to get in and learn about McLuhan’s faith!

At the conference, I met McLuhan’s son, Eric. One day Eric came over to me and said, “I know you are a big fan of Jacques Ellul. Did you know that my father loved Ellul?”

I didn’t know that, nor had I ever heard that before. “

Yes,” he said. “If you go to the University of Toronto at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, you will find my father’s reading of the Presence of the Kingdom. He loved that book so much he ordered copies for all his friends.”

Whoa, I thought. Was I just given a research tip? How could I not follow up on that?

So, off to the University of Toronto, I went. There I found four copies of Jacques Ellul’s Presence of the Kingdom, all underlined extensively by McLuhan. The Presence of the Kingdom is all about Jesus Christ and his role in our lives. Marshall McLuhan was reading and re-reading it.

Then, he was thinking about the way Jesus influences communication studies. Jesus gives us a new perspective on life; He positions us in a new environment; He enables us to have vision and hope for the future. He can totally change the way we see our relationships and communication.

Once I had completed my research, I returned to teaching, grading papers, and working with students. “How will I ever find the time to bring this research together in an article?” I wondered. I began to pray about it. Then, the Lord gave me a colleague to co-write the article: “Marshall McLuhan and Jacques Ellul in Dialog.”

“Dialog” was the chosen word because McLuhan and Ellul never met to dialogue in person. They only responded to each other’s work. The Lord, then, allowed us to share our article with colleagues at an academic conference.

Through this entire research process, I could see how the Lord was leading and directing my research and writing. 

It is beyond exciting to me to see God’s sovereign hand at work. He opened doors for me with my research, He brought people into my life to point me in His direction, and He brought colleagues to encourage and work with me.

I believe that God wants us to allow His Spirit to guide us in our research. Ultimately, it is the Lord who generously gives us knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Then, He opens the doors for us to share Him with our students and colleagues.

Geri Forsberg
Western Washington University