Six Steps to Being a Pastor-Theologian – Part 3

Here are the final two points from Gerald Hiestand essay “Six Practical Steps toward Being a Pastor Theologian” from the book The Pastor as Public Theologian (Baker Academic) by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan. This is part three of a three-post series.

“Don’t forget that theology exists for the church—your own church first and foremost! If the people in your congregation don’t feel valued as your first priority, then you are being a poor pastor-theologian, regardless of how smart you become. Your congregants should feel like your study time is about them, not simply your next writing project or sermon. If they start to begrudge you your study time (e.g., ‘He spends all his time holed up in his office’), you will need to take a hard look at yourself and your priorities. It is very likely that your study time isn’t really as much about God and his kingdom as you think it is. Theology serves the church, not the other way around. Love for God and his people should drive us to our books. If love for God and our congregations isn’t the fuel that powers our study, then what are we really studying for?

Stop calling the place where you work an ‘office’ and start calling it your ‘study.’ Never, under pain of excommunication from the pastor-theologian club, refer to your study as an ‘office.’ If this is the first time you’re heard this rule, you get three free passes to break the habit. After that, your pastor-theologian license will be suspended. Semantics matter. If you call your study an office, the people in your church will have a certain set of expectations regarding what you do during the day. If you refer to it as your study, they will come to have a different set of expectations. The room with all your books, where you read the Scriptures and pray—that room is your study. Start referring to it as such, and your people will come to expect that studying is part of your calling.”


Six Steps to Being a Pastor-Theologian – Part 2

Here are the next two points from Gerald Hiestand’s essay “Six Practical Steps toward Being a Pastor Theologian” from the book The Pastor as Public Theologian (Baker Academic) by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan. This is part two of a three-post series.

“Make your study time a priority in your weekly schedule. The expectations and demands of your congregation will almost certainly push you away from theological study and writing. If you’re going to do it, you need to make it a priority in your schedule. I’ve found that setting aside my mornings work best. I spend the first hour or more in prayer and Scripture reading. The next hour is given to my Latin primer (I’m working on a PhD in classics), and the next three hours or so are spent engaging with theology. This year I’m reading Augustine on Mondays, Barth on Wednesdays, and contemporary theology/scholarship on Thursdays. Tuesday mornings I spend on church-vision matters. Staff meetings, counseling appointments, and administrative duties are reserved for the afternoon. Of course, sometimes I have to pull up from studying: funerals, emergencies, and so forth press in occasionally. Don’t just study for your next sermon or teaching assignment. Too many pastors are merely one step ahead of the theological train. The lifeblood of the pastor—whether your congregation realizes it or not—is a steady intake of rich theology, prayer, and Bible reading. Stop feeling guilty about prayerfully reading Calvin’s Institutes, or Athanasius’s On the Incarnation, or Augustine’s The Trinity. Theological study isn’t something a pastor fits into his schedule after fulfilling other pastoral duties; rather, theological study is the pastor’s duty. For the good of your congregation—for the good of you preaching, teaching, counseling, and capacity to offer pastoral care—it is vital that you not neglect to feed yourself.

Get buy-in from the leadership of your church. If you’re doing your job right, the leadership of your church should eventually come to value the time you spend in your study. After all, they should reap the benefits of your theological labor more than anyone else. But depending on the history of your church, robust theological study might be seen as a distraction from your pastoral duties. Go slow here. Since theology has been separated from the church for so long, it is no longer self-evident to many congregations that sustained theological engagement by their pastors is a good thing. This will need to be demonstrated, not simply argued. In any case, it’s important that you help your church leadership see that your pursuit of theological scholarship is not ancillary to your calling as a pastor but rather a vital part of it. And this leads to my next point.”



Six Steps to Being a Pastor-Theologian – Part 1

I’ve talked to a lot of pastors over the years. Sometimes the conversation will turn to something of a theological or philosophical nature. I’ve been struck at the number of times these pastors have said something along the lines of “I really need someone like you in my life.” What they were intimating at was that the conversation alerted them how out of touch they were with current theological trends. I could see in their eyes a mix of guilt and pleasure. The conversation stirred old passions from seminary days when they engaged in daily conversations like this one with professors and fellow students. And though I never asked I suspect the guilt came from thinking that if they fostered this kind of friendship, with further dialogues, it might distract from their pastoral work. In their new book The Pastor as Public Theologian (Baker Academic) Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan make a case for the importance of the pastor as a theologian. The book offers a number of additional essays from pastors. Gerald Hiestand writes a compelling piece on “Six Practical Steps toward Being a Pastor-Theologian.” My next three posts will offer two of these points. Gerald Hiestand is the senior associate pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois and the executive director of the Center for Pastor Theologians. He is a PhD candidate in classics at the University of Kent (Canterbury) and the coauthor (with Todd Wilson) of The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision (Zondervan). Here are his first two points.

“Hire staff with vision. Building a staff that values theology will go a long way toward creating a robust theological culture at your church. I don’t recommend making staffing changes solely with a view to the vision of pastor-theologian. But if you oversee hiring at your church and are in need of new ministry staff, let me strongly encourage you to look for ministry partners who share your send of calling to theological leadership. If you can find a like-minded ministry partner who is serious about theological leadership, you will have overcome perhaps the most significant hurdle of the pastor-theologian: isolation. This is a significant disability to the pastor-theologian. In previous church contexts, I didn’t have a working environment where I could pop my head into the room next door and talk about how Aquinas’s prioritization of the intellect in conversion causes him to arrive at a different ordo salutis than Calvin, and the implications this has for the doctrine of total depravity (for example). Now I do, and the difference it has made is significant.

Get networked. Not all of us are in a position to hire a fellow pastor-theologian. Perhaps your church is too small. Regardless, the next most important thing you can do is to become involved in a network of like-minded pastors. Whether a denominational gathering, or an informal meeting of outside colleagues, having a network of pastoral peers who desire to engage theologically is crucial to sustaining your theological calling. Use Skype, connect at ETS, or start a blog. I meet monthly with two other pastors via Skype to discuss what we’ve been reading and writing. The regular exchanges help to provide a sense of camaraderie and motivate me to keep sharp theologically. However you do it, find a group of pastors who are committed to engaging theologically.”

The Pastor as Public Theologian is a hardcover with 240 pages and sells for $19.99.

Kevin J. Vanhoozer (PhD, University of Cambridge), one of the leading evangelical theologians in the world, is research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He previously taught at Wheaton College and the University of Edinburgh. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Everyday Theology, The Drama of Doctrine, Is There a Meaning in This Text?, and the award-winning Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible.

Owen Strachan (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he also directs the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement and serves as a Fellow with the Center for Pastor Theologians. He is the coauthor of The Essential Edwards Collection and the author of Risky Gospel.



Book Give Away

This week’s offer is Victor H. Matthews’ The Cultural World of the Bible (fourth edition). Here’s the catalog description:

“In this new edition of a successful book (over 120,000 copies sold), now updated throughout, a leading expert on the social world of the Bible offers students a reliable guide to the manners and customs of the ancient world. From what people wore, ate, and built to how they exercised justice, mourned, and viewed family and legal customs, this illustrated introduction helps readers gain valuable cultural background on the biblical world. The attractive, full-color, user-friendly design will appeal to students, while numerous pedagogical features–including fifty photos, sidebars, callouts, maps, charts, a glossary of key terms, chapter outlines, and discussion questions–increase classroom utility. Previously published as Manners and Customs in the Bible.”

Leave your name in the comments section by NLT Friday, July 3rd 6:00 am EST. I’ll announce the winner that Friday. If I don’t hear back from the winner within seven days the book will go to another entry.

Cultural World

The Theological Influences on Chuck Colson

In a previous post I told you about a forthcoming book by Chuck Colson, My Final Word (Zondervan). Coming later this summer is another book about Colson. It is called The Colson Way (Nelson Books) and it is by Owen Strachan. I’ve been browsing through an advance reader’s copy and found it interesting to read about the formative theological influences Colson had. While there were many Strachan notes five in particular.

Abraham Kuyper – “Kuyper offered Colson the ultimate incentive to action, for here was a man who didn’t simply publish a grand strategy but lived it. He was—like Colson—as good in the backrooms where decisions were made as he was out front, promoting the strategy to thousands of startled onlookers. In Kuyper’s vision of unimpeded cultural influence and his tireless work to invest in his country, Colson found inspiration for his own work. A believer could not only preach the gospel but also reform a society. This was the fuel Colson was looking for.” (p. 70)

William Wilberforce – “Wilberforce was for Colson an example of public courage, of faith unleashed in the public square. The cosmopolitan evangelical took on the single most noxious element of British society, the slave trade, and during the course of his five-decade career vanquished it. Wilberforce was an activist driven by principle.” (p. 70)

R.C. Sproul – After viewing Sproul’s video lectures of The Holiness of God, he “emerged from his encounter with Sproul’s God-centered teaching with a desire to love God. He found himself deeply grateful to the Lord for ‘God’s love for humanity and how He showed that love by the sacrifice of His Son on the cross.’” (pp. 77-78)

Carl F.H. Henry – Of Henry Colson said, “I personally am forever in Carl’s debt because he mentored me so lovingly. Not once in out close relationship over twenty years did he ever tell me anything; he was always very patient to explain that what I had said was very good, but then he asked if I had thought about another perspective.’ Colson, no intellectual slouch himself, concluded the point: ‘He was one of the great minds teaching a fledgling, and he did it with understanding, patience, love, humility.’” (pp. 80-81)

Francis Schaeffer – “It was Schaeffer’s model—blended with Wilberforce’s—that Colson most emulated in his later career. He became a movement leader, an apologist, and a specialist in Christian worldview thinking.” (p. 83)

Strachan concludes: “Colson showed a remarkable willingness to learn and grow from his evangelical peers. Though he was much better known than any of them, he sat at their feet—or, in Schaeffer’s case, ascended to their chalet.” (p. 83)

Watch for The Colson Way this July. It will be a hardcover with 224 pages and sell for $22.99.

Owen Strachan is assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College. He is the president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement at SBTS.

Colson Way