Is a Pastor a Theologian?

Todays pastors are often pulled in many directions simultaneously. The theological role of the pastor is often lost amidst the pressing concerns of ministry life that has been turned into something other than what God originally intended as revealed in the New Testament.

Todays pastor, it seems, is very focused on management more than theology and this emphasis across the church leaves the pastor feeling more like an administrator dealing with matters of “organizational theory” than someone who understands the truths of God’s Word and helps people apply them in everyday life.

The rising influence of “Therapy” in our culture has caused many people to believe that the pastoral office is a helping profession and theology is often seen as being more of a problem than a solution to the practical issues people face in their lives.

The fact is anytime a pastor counsels someone, visits the sick and prays for them, builds a leadership team or preaches a sermon, they are engaging in the theological process because everything a pastor does has its source in theology.

Biblically, every pastor is called to be a theologian. Sadly, many pastors perceive theologians to be only those who lecture in bible colleges and seminaries but some of the greatest theologians the world has ever seen were pastors of local churches – Augustine, Calvin and Luther amongst others.

I meet with many pastors who see theology as an obstacle to the real business of their pragmatic church growth focus. The idea that the pastoral office is non-theological is inconceivable in light of the New Testament.

There are 3 distinct orders of doctrine fundamental to the Christian faith that need to be concentrated upon by the pastor:

  1. 1st-order doctrines: The absolutes that define the core beliefs of the Christian faith – Such as the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ; the doctrine of the Trinity; substitutionary atonement and justification by faith, to name a few.
  2. 2nd-order doctrines: These are convictions that are essential to church life and necessary for the ordering of the local church, but in themselves, do not define the gospel. That is, you may detect error in a doctrine at this level and still acknowledge that the person in error remains a believing Christian. Examples include mode of baptism, gender roles in ministry, etc.
  3. 3rd-order doctrines: These are opinions that may be ground for good theological discussion and debate, but do not threaten the fellowship of a local congregation or denomination. Examples include the timing of the return of Christ, modes of worship, etc.

A pastor must be known for what he teaches, as well as what he knows, affirms and believes. A pastor must not only preach the great doctrines of the Bible but out of his own confession of faith. People are listening to God speak through an individual and their personal revelation of God through Scripture.

Ultimately, the pastor who is no theologian, in my opinion is no pastor. Our theology (way of thinking and talking about God) permeates everything about our pastoral call.

Lead the Change!

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4 Responses to “Is a Pastor a Theologian?”

  1. Rachel Wallace Says:

    I like your spin on this; removing the term ‘theology’ from the dusty bookshelves of seminary and bringing it into the daily realm. It is by the Word that we grow, and what is theology but learning and contextualising God and His word? I think maybe the word ‘Theology’ has been distorted and has become intimidating or intellectualised. Theology as the basis for debate is so damaging and arguing tangents for the sake of showing of one’s knowledge disgraces the true message of Christianity; but in itself, Theology, the study of God and His ways is something we are all seeking.

    But maybe this is why it has been seen as more of a problem than a solution? We have seen too many angles and opinion labelled as theology; one person uses this scripture as the basis for his point of view, someone else argues his point with a different verse and thus true, sound theology and accurate division of the word feels too difficult, confusing and way above our heads. Maybe we need therapy because there are so many different versions of the truth we don’t know which version to take on! Spelling out the 3 orders of doctrine as you have simplifies and clears up a lot of things, showing us not to take some things too seriously,

    I agree that a Pastor needs to be a theologian and I really like the way you simplify and plainly state the Bible to us in the pulpit. Also how u spell out and separate the major issues from the minor ones.

  2. Todays pastor, it seems, is very focused on management more than theology and this emphasis across the church leaves the pastor feeling more like an administrator dealing with matters of “organizational theory” than someone who understands the truths of God’s Word and helps people apply them in everyday life.

    I agree.

  3. sandyvanasch Says:

    Thank you so much for speaking out on this issue of Pastors and Theology. We are in a day when there is “no” theology or sound biblical doctrine being preached. We are flooded with false teachers and they are in many cases in the pulpit.
    Its the threat from inside the church that worries me more than the threat from outside the church.
    Thanks for speaking out,
    Take care,
    Sandy

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