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.”