Pastors & Theologians: One Office for the Church

Earlier today, Justin Taylor posted a quote from a forthcoming book by Douglas Sweeney entitled, Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word: A Model of Faith and Thought. It highlights one of the points Sweeney makes from the life of Edwards; namely, that theology should be done in the context of the church, namely pastors.   Here’s the quote:

In the early twenty-first century, when many pastors have abdicated their responsibilities as theologians, and many theologians do their work in a way that is lost on the people of God, we need to recover Edwards’ model of Christian ministry. Most best theologians in the history of the church were parish pastors. Obviously, however, this is not the case today. Is it any wonder, then, that many struggle to think about their daily lives theologically, and often fail to understand the basics of the faith? I want to be realistic here. A certain amount of specialization is inevitable in complex, market-driven economies. And the specialization of roles within God’s kingdom can enhance our Christian ministries. But when our pastors spend the bulk of their time on organizational matters, and professors spend the bulk of their time on intramural academics, no one is left to do the crucial work of shaping God’s people with the Word. Perhaps our pastors and professors, Christian activists and thinkers, need to collaborate more regularly in ministry. Perhaps the laity need to give their pastors time to think and write–for their local congregations and the larger kingdom of God.

I thought it was important to re-post this quote, rather than simply point to it because this is the very thing that caused the creation of this blog in the first place. My desire is to be like the apostle Paul and so many other pastors and churchmen throughout history – a man who is fully devoted to the service of Christ’s Church, who ministers with the mind of a theologian and the heart of a pastor.

This kind of pastor-theologian is, unfortunately, rare these days. But I regularly pray that God will not only mold me into that pattern, but that he would raise up other pastor-theologians as well.  Too often pastors renounce study and learning and the pursuit of precision in their understanding of the Bible’s theology in the name  of ministering to people – as if you could somehow separate the two!   The truth is, a minister is only able to care for his people as God intends if he has grasped intensely and embraced deeply the great truths of the Bible.  It’s the lovingly and passionately proclaimed doctrines of the Scriptures – in the pulpit, in counseling sessions, and in homes – that brings hope to despairing hearts and joy to grieving souls.   This is not only what the Bible itself says but has been my own experience, seeing doctrines like justification by grace alone, in Christ alone bring healing to marriages.

Therefore, as pastors let us be men of the book!  Let us drink deeply of the great theological truths God has given us.  Let us be found in hospital rooms, counseling sessions, and in the study.  Let us be pastor-theologians for the good of God’s Church and the glory of his name.

2 thoughts on “Pastors & Theologians: One Office for the Church

  1. Jeremy Lee says:

    So many of the people I counsel during struggles are struggling precisely because they are confused theologically. It is sad that some of the people who are confused are people who have attended church most of their lives. One would think they would no at least basic theological truth.

    Sadder than lay persons not knowing, some pastors avoid theology because they don’t care, it’s too divisive, or it’s impractical. Avoiding theology was tacitly if not outright recommended from my Bible College because it was viewed as impractical. In fact they changed their seal from “Theological Education for Adults” to “Education for Christian Service.” In fairness, the new seal more accurately reflects what they do; however, pastors, missionaries, and other minister need to have theological training because the people they minister to need theological teaching for their lives.

    John, may God raise up more pastors like you. Good job, friend.

    Jeremy Lee

  2. John says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Jeremy.

    I can’t say I’ve always felt the way I do, but the more intentionally I began to study the Bible (especially the Psalms!) in college, the more it became clear to me that this was the Scripture’s vision for pastoral ministry. All of this was confirmed to me in college, when a friends of mine (studying for youth ministry) had never been baptized because he didn’t see it as important and talked about the Father dying on the cross, evidencing his confusion about the Trinity. Whether it was because of the program he was in or his own deficiency of understanding, it was clear that he did not believe that theological precision of any kind was not important his ministry. I still cringe thining about that . . . .

    When I hit seminary I was introduced to the phrase “pastor-theologian” to describe pastors like Calvin, Edwards, and the Puritans. That crystallized the thoughts I had been having about ministry.

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