I’ve spent too much of my ministry caught in a tension that shouldn’t exist.
I’ve seen many examples of theologically robust thinking. I know a lot of people who are great teachers and who have good theological minds. I’ve attended the churches and benefited from the teaching.
I’ve also seen many examples of good practical insight. When I began pastoring I remember reading lots of practical books on how to do ministry.
The problem – at least for me – is that it seemed you had to choose between the two. I knew people who were theologically robust, and people who knew how to do effective ministry, but they usually weren’t the same people.
For a long time now I’ve been drawn to the idea of a scholarly practitioner – someone who’s theologically robust, and who knows how to apply good theology to ministry. I’m starting to notice more examples of this. It encourages me, but it also saddens me that I didn’t have many models of this when I started twenty years ago. I probably should have looked harder.
If you’re a pastor, don’t give up and settle for one or the other. It’s a lot easier to find examples of people who are doing both today. Keep looking, because they’re out there. I’ve been at a meeting this week and it’s crawling with people who fit the bill. There are some who are well-known, but there are some whose names you wouldn’t recognize. Both are worth learning from.
We probably need to pray that we’ll see even more of this kind of ministry. I’ve always been struck by this prayer, found in John Stott’s Your Mind Matters:
I pray earnestly that God will raise up today a new generation of Christian apologists or Christian communicators, who will combine an absolute loyalty to the biblical gospel and an unwavering confidence in the power of the Spirit with a deep and sensitive understanding of the contemporary alternatives to the gospel; who will relate the one to the other with freshness, authority, and relevance; and who will use their minds to reach other minds for Christ.
It’s a prayer that’s being answered – and a prayer that’s still worth praying.