January 3, 2011

The Pastor and the Theological Task

First Things has posted an article at their "On The Square" page by Gerald Hiestand, Executive Director of the Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology, on "The Pastor as Wider Theologian, or What's Wrong with Theology Today."  The article addresses the present lack of theologically inclined pastors, a staple of the historic Church, and calls for a paradigm shift in which pastors become the Church's most significant theologians.  I wanted to draw attention to this article because the issue is near and dear to my own heart and sense of vocation.  Here's an excerpt:
The ecclesial renewal of Christian theology will not take place apart from a concerted effort to reestablish the pastoral community as the church’s most significant body of theologians. The pastoral community must once again become serious about the duties of the theological task—study, prayer, writing, and theological dialog. The pastoral community as a whole must once again don the mantle of theological responsibility for the wider church.
I am not simply stating that pastors must become more theologically informed, or that pastors much preach with more theological precision. True enough, but this will not solve the problem. Rather, an entire paradigm shift is needed. Pastor-theologians, not academic-theologians, must once again become the leading theological voices of the church. We ask too much of our academic theologians when we ask them to answer—from the outside, as it were—the pastoral questions facing the church.
We must stop insisting that pastorally sensitive theologians and theologically sensitive pastors choose between theological scholarship and the church. Theologians not only belong to the church, they also—in the main—belong in the church.

Amen! Be sure to read the whole thing.

3 comments:

Isaac said...

What superb timing for an article of this sort. The most recent discussions concerning 'worship' at the seminary have begun to take an interesting turn. I have more than once heard people state recently that the primary theologian of the church is the worship leader.

While I understand what these folks are trying to say about worship including more than a sermon, I find it troubling as well, since it is not the worship leader who is responsible for shepherding the flock, nor is 'worship leader' a traditional position in the church, but a much more recent invention (and a good one in many ways).

When we look back at the most significant moments in the life of the church they have largley centered around the lives and work of churchmen (and women), who considered the task of theology of paramount importance for the life of the church and its people. While I love academic work, theology considered exclusively in an academic setting or with an academic focus is wasted breath (in my opinion). We spend time in academic dialog for the very life of the church or we spend it in vain.

Matt O'Reilly said...

I heard a semon recently by Sinclair Ferguson in which he recommended those with the unfortunate title of 'worship leader' do what they could to have it changed. The reason he gave was that in Hebrews 8:2, Jesus is called our leitourgos. It is sometimes translated 'minister', but as you know, this is where we get our word for 'liturgy'. So, Christ is the leader of the liturgy or the worship leader. Ferguson's point was that there is only one worship leader, and that is Christ. Local churches may very well have a music director, but Christ is the one who leads his church in worship and presents the worship of his church to his Father.

So, without denigrating those who use their gifts to direct the singing of the church, I must say that theology involves the task of instruction and that, if such instruction is to be done well, it must be done in terms of teaching. Music certainly solidifies and aids the memory. I think this is how the Wesley's saw it. John's sermons became the theological standards for the denomination; Charles' songs were seen as an aid or supplement to the sermons. You can correct me if I'm wrong on this one.

Isaac said...

I think you are right on with your analysis of the Wesleys. And your point about Christ as the leitourgos is a good one, I hadn't heard that before.