I have just finished reading The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry by John Piper and D. A. Carson. These two men share their stories about how they have incorporated pastoral ministry and scholarship into their lives and ministries. I found the book interesting and informative.
Too often pastoral ministry and scholarship are seen as two different paths, and in some churches scholarship is viewed as something to be avoided. When I interviewed with the church that I eventually served for twenty years I was asked about my academic preparation for ministry. At that time I had no education beyond high school. One of the individuals on the search committee commented that he felt some of their best pastors couldn't even pronounce a lot of the biblical names right. At that time, that church had only one person with a college education, and few, if any, in that church were concerned about scholarship. They were looking for someone who would love them and provide pastoral ministry.
It wasn't until I had been at the church for about eighteen months that I realized that if I was to continue in ministry I needed more education than I had. That decision led me to enroll in a Bible school and eventually to earning a DMin.
At times my blog posts may have sounded like I am anti-education, but that is far from the truth. My concern is that a lot of seminary education does not prepare one for the realities of ministry in the 21st century and especially not for bivocational ministry. At the same time, I believe that it is critical that one serving as a pastor be trained in how to think, how to read, and how to present the Gospel in ways that are both relevant to the listeners and theologically sound. Persons entering the ministry should be committed to being both pastors and scholars.
Too many Christians today have a shallow faith that cannot sustain them in difficult times. They are unable to share their faith because they do not understand what they believe well enough to explain it to anyone else. I lay much of the blame for this on pastors who preach a message week after week with little substance because they are unwilling to do the difficult work of digging into the text and uncovering the treasures that can be found.
Those who are committed to being pastor scholars must be committed to life-long learning. We must commit ourselves to reading and study while at the same time not neglecting spending valuable time with our congregation. Admittedly, it's not an easy thing to balance, and it will require focus and the setting of priorities for our time. But, this is what we've been called to do. This is what our congregations want and need from us. We must not fail to be both pastors and scholars if we want to see the people in our churches grow and become mature disciples of Jesus Christ.