The Pastor Theologian


We live in an age where the pastor as CEO or the pastor as “leader” dominates the conference scene. I remember attending a Catalyst One Day Conference in Chicago several years ago. One day packed full of vision casting, leadership tips, and inspirational quotes from two of the Church’s finest leaders – Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel. I was mesmerized. They were god-like on stage and every ear was attune to their words of wisdom. I took copious notes and made it a priority to implement as much as I could into the college ministry I was leading at the time. It goes without saying that much of what leadership literature and media have to offer is valuable and necessary.

I’m just wondering if we’ve pushed the focus on leadership too far to the neglect of the study of theology. Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson in their book, The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision, think this may be the case.

Hiestand and Wilson advocate resurrecting an ancient vision of the pastor as theologian. Today when we think of the study of theology, we may think of a stiff, lifeless academic exercise, far removed from the Church and the life of the congregants. Why is that? Why the great chasm between the study of theology and the Church?

In their detailed research, Heistand and Wilson explain that the office of pastor and theologian were not always separate. The birth of the university brought about a divide where the best and brightest minds pursued work in the academy while those gifted with people skills became pastors in the local Church. Before this, the Church’s earliest theologians were pastors not professors. In their words, “theology has become ecclesially anemic, and the Church theologically anemic”[1] because of this. To say it simply, the Church could use some more theology while the academy could use some more pastoral wisdom.

If at its core, theology is the study of God, then it certainly is something all ministry leaders should prioritize. Paul’s pastoral advice to Timothy is to keep a close watch over his own life and his doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16). What’s the big deal about doctrine (teaching)? Paul says that the salvation of both himself and his hearers are at stake. How can Timothy guard against false doctrine if he himself is unable to identify it? Paul seems to be saying that the health of the Church and the making of disciples are both reliant on sound teaching.

Not only that but theology shows up in pastoral counseling. Theology helps us understand the character of God and what God expects from us in all types of situations. And in pastoral counseling, it is often required that the pastor know what God has said about any number of situations. Pastors present God to often hurting people. We certainly should know the God who holds and sustains the universe together by his powerful Word (Hebrews 1:3) as well as the God who is our very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

The bottom line is that theology matters a whole lot. Heistand and Wilson suggest pursuing a Ph.D. as one of the main staples in becoming a theologian. While doing this may not be practical for many pastors, theology should not be dismissed altogether. After all, theology was never meant to be restricted to the classroom but released into the streets of our cities and into the hearts of men and women, transforming people and cultures everywhere.

At the end of the day theology is not about having more head knowledge or even about pursuing more academic degrees. It’s about getting to know the God of the Scriptures who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine. And when he is made much of – that is, when he is encountered and known, the real work of ministry is done in our hearts, our communities, and the world!

[1] The Pastor Theologian P. 13


4 thoughts on “The Pastor Theologian

  1. This is a great post, Marco. You have a way of explaining things. I like your words, “Theology helps us understand the character of God and what God expects from us in all types of situations.” Studying God’s word isn’t just important for the Pastor but for all believers so that we all can “understand the character of God and what God expects from us in all types of situations.”

  2. Reblogged this on Catie Cordero and commented:
    My dear friend, Marco Salazar, always writes great posts that will resonate with anyone on their walk with Christ or in their search for truth. I greatly admire Marco’s heart for people and his love for Jesus. I want to recommend his blog to all of my followers.

  3. Pingback: Luther on Being a Theologian: Oratio, Meditatio and Tentatio | Stepping Toes

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