It would seem that the historical model of the pastor as a local theologian has gone the way of the doctor as the general practitioner. The phenomenon of specialization has been keenly felt in the areas of theology and the local church. In reading The Pastor as Public Theologian and The Pastor Theologian it is clear that these two books must and should be read together. In The Pastor Theologian cites the division of labor between the pastor and the theologian as a great problem for the Church in the 21st century. Many pastors operate with an atheological understanding of ministry and that can be seen in what passes for popular preaching and in the proliferation of how-to books. The authors of The Pastor Theologian are seeking the renewal of a particular type of pastor-theologian the ecclesial theologian who seeks to give leadership to other theologians and scholars and directing their efforts to those relevant to the church as opposed to the academy. What they desire is not a novel approach but rather a return to a better understanding of the role of the pastor.
In The Pastor as Public Theologian the authors are calling for a return of what would could be classified as a local theologian. The Pastor as shepherd has a biblical responsibility to shepherd the congregation in the area of their doctrinal understanding. That many pastors could get by with the apparent indifference to doctrine seen in much of evangelicalism should be appalling considering Paul’s command to Timothy that he guard his doctrine and life and the promise tied to that watch(1 Tim 4:16). Strachan in the second chapter provides a look at the role of the pastor in light of the Old Testament offices of prophet, priest, and king. Grace, truth, and wisdom which the pastor is to minister to his people are by their very nature theological.
John Piper has said before in a sermon that we breathe a nonGod air in our culture. When we divorce theology, the truth of God, from the work of God in pastoral ministry we are exacerbating a problem that is already in critical condition. To be faithful to the call to teach and preach what God has done, is doing, and will do through Jesus requires every true pastor to be a theologian in some sense. Our gifts and passions may very, but they will never very enough to exclude us from this great responsibility to God and to the church. Next week we look at the historic pedigree of the pastor-theologian.