It may be news to some that I am about to move to Canada to answer a call to ministry. I will be “Lead and Teaching Pastor” at Grassroots Church, in Thunder Bay, Ontario. God appears to be calling me–after having earning a PhD in New Testament from an Ancient Scottish University–into the local church.
Unfortunately, in the world that we live in, this is not the most intuitive of steps forward. But I believe that it is the right one for my family. As far as I can tell, this was not a step made out of desperation. I am confident that after some steadfastness, I could have eventually landed a teaching post. This is also not me forsaking of a privilege, I do not think. While my new station will likely complicate my future research and writing ambitions, I plan to continue engaging in the scholarly discussion of the New Testament, from my pastoral context.
There are many aspects of life made uncertain by this path. And there is risk involved with that. But I believe that the future of a robust Christian faith in the West will depend on pastors who have undergone intensive (decades-long) training, having learned to read the scriptures faithfully and touch workaday hearts (in local congregations) with the story of God. This may be exactly the type of thing that God has in mind for me.
This is not to say that pastors, who have not been trained for ten years, have no role in the future of Christianity. And this is not to say that trained Christian men and women, who are working in academic institutions, have no role either. Each has their important place in the economy of God’s kingdom. But it seems to me that, in the situation in which we find ourselves in the West, we will need men and women who can both chart the way forward for Christianity, through the many secular worldviews vying powerfully for Christian devotion as well as minister to the hearts of the best and brightest Christian scholars of our day. Workaday Christians are exposed to powerful alternative worldviews in our day. And Christians in the academy are exposed to powerful demands (on their souls) to produce and specialize. Each needs care and shepherding, which (incidentally) one particular station of ministry can offer: the pastor theologian.
Most of what I read about pastor theologians have to do with these ministers having a world-wide task of safeguarding doctrine. This is probably my own ignorant half-reading of the conversation. But if so, I hope that there is a more expansive vision for the pastor theologian. From my vantage point, the pastor New Testament Scholar has six important tasks:
- Learn biblical languages, content, and history to the best of one’s ability,
- Become as much of an expert on the human condition as possible,
- Learn to be a good spiritual director and community developer,
- Become as effective of a communicator and write as much as possible,
- Develop a deeply human biblical theology of formation, and finally
- Surround oneself with the best executive pastors and competent ministry directors as possible.
Friends. Other pastor theologians? What am I missing? What do you see as the need and task of pastor-Biblical scholars?
Check out some of these other online articles about the role and the task of a pastor theologian: