The Pastor as Scholar & The Scholar as Pastor
Of the last five years, I spent four in theological college and latest one in pastoral ministry. Whilst at college I enjoyed the engagement with scholarly material. Translating and grappling over textual issues and interpretations, reading commentary upon commentary, and using my findings to shed light on doctrine, pastoral conversations, and perhaps most prominently in preaching. Since beginning pastoral ministry, I have done less in depth study, partly because there are no essay deadlines looming, and partly because church management has a canny habit of taking over time used for study and reading. However I still feel that there is to be a balance between scholar and pastor in each Christian ministry. Why? Because we’re helping people to grow in faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the pastor and scholar extra-ordinaire. At the moment of Peter’s great revelation of that fact in John 6, “You have the words of eternal life.”, he quickly follows by “We have come to BELIEVE and KNOW that you are the Holy One of God.” Believing is to some extent encouraged by the role of a pastor sharing their heart, and knowing, encouraged by the role of scholar sharing wisdom.
To actually reflect the thesis of the book, while Piper writes from the heart, Carson, the Scholar and Pastor, writes a rigorous introduction that covers questioning the terms of the title, and, amongst other things, sharing a little of his journey to scholarship. The second part of his section, deals with frank observations and pitfalls for those in pastoral ministry whose heart, perhaps like mine, is driven by scholarly working. He talks of the warnings of becoming a mere knowledge supplier to the troops on the front line, the dangers of working for plaudits, and the danger of forgetting the people. He talks of how scholars need to recognise different gifts and above all remaining focussed on the gospel in the world.
Strangely I found both sections of the book insightful, challenging, and something of a reflection of what I hope and pray this ministry I’m called to may offer for God’s Kingdom. Perhaps that response reflects the conclusion of the book, that ministry involves both a pastor’s heart and a scholar’s mind – it’s just important to recognise which way round your ministry ticks. The book concludes with this paragraph:
So in charging pastors to be more serious about the life of the mind, and in challenging scholars to be more engaged with the life of the church, we conclude with this prayer, that all our thoughtful shepherding and all our pastoral scholarship may be to the great end of having the gospel message about Jesus dwell richly (Col. 3.16) both in us and in our people; that knowing Jesus would be the great end of all our pastoring and our scholarship; that we ourselves, in all our preaching, writing, and counselling, would continue to see ourselves as the great beneficiaries of his great grace; that into eternity we would be followers of Jesus more and more shaped, saturated, and transformed by his person and work. To Jesus, the great pastor-scholar, be the glory. Amen