This year at the Shepherds’ Conference a book was freely given about the Pastor-Theologian. While there are a few things in the book that I may not agree with or endorse, my heart fully embraces the underlying tone of the work: we need more pastor-theologians.
The book historically argues that the man behind the pulpit and the lectern have mostly been one and the same. The division of these roles in the last ~100 years has led to an “anemic church” and an “anemic academy.” In other words, the aims and purposes of both entities seem to be at odds with one another. Both the church and academy are disinterested with the work produced by both parties. Which came first the chicken or the egg? Did the church abandon the academy or did the academy abandon the church? I’m not too sure if I can theologically or historically answer that question; but the one certainty is that a divide exists.
This is not to toot the horn of pastors who have achieved advanced degrees. Rather, it should be a wake up call to place doctrine in its proper place in the church (and that starts with the leadership—the pastors). Doctrine is never a vain pursuit when properly pursued. Christians are blessed to know and study God (Ps 1; Jer 9:23-24; Jn 17:3; 1 Pet 2:1-3) and it should be the leaders paving the way for the pursuit of sound doctrine.
Admittedly, one can pursue deep and thorough doctrine at the expense of holiness; BUT one cannot pursue holiness without a simultaneous pursuit of deep and thorough doctrine. Therefore, doctrine remains a foundational pursuit of the Christian life.
As society sprints farther from God’s truth it becomes more and more important for pastors and church members to be well-grounded in the things of God. God has commanded for Christians to be ready for the onslaught of the world (1 Pet 3:15).
To end, I’d like to offer a few encouragements to help with the desire to see more pastor-theologians in local churches:
- To My Fellow Pastor.
- Relentless deepen your knowledge. Grow in your grasp of exegesis, theology, preaching, and teaching! Challenge yourself to read works (both old and new) that will ground you in orthodoxy and prepare you to answer the objections of the world. Don’t labor because of attendance, labor because you will be held accountable to God!
- Earnestly pray. Pray that God would give you a sober mind and enlighten your studies. Pray for personal application and for the growth of the local church.
- Disciple/Teach. Seek out individuals to disciple with meaningful content. Nothing will help you grasp sound doctrine more than being in a position where God has called you to pass it on. Your people need to learn, and you have been called to teach!
- Be patient. Pastors have the privilege to chew and digest the deep things of God on a full-time basis! Others do not have the same luxury! Also, we live in a culture where Bible literacy is dropping so new believers and cultural Christians may not be as familiar with Scripture as we may assume. This makes it all the more important to be patient with yourself and with others.
- Fellowship. Consider meeting regularly with other local church pastors to discuss exegesis, theology, and ministry. This will help keep you sharp as you surround yourselves with others pursuing the same goal.
- To My Fellow Church Member.
- Encourage. Encourage your pastor as he labors to thoroughly feed you. Maybe you can even encourage him by buying him a book (ask him if he has a booklist)! Pastors love to read and there’s a lot of encouragement when members want their pastors to be equipped to the brim.
- Pray. Pray that he would be faithful and diligent in his study since it has an impact on your own spiritual growth and development! As a church member don’t forget to sharpen yourself in the Word.
- Converse. Make it an effort to talk to your pastors about matters related to doctrine and theology that you are learning and seeking to apply. If possible, ask that your pastor to disciple you or teach you a particular doctrine to help keep him sharp and better ground you in the faith. Your pastor is willing to teach you, are you willing to learn?