more on pastors and doctoral study

My blogging buddy Sam has posted his thoughts on the value of pastors and PhD work – he himself recently completed a PhD in Historical Theology and is a staff pastor in a local United Methodist church – you should read his post because he has some really great comments and insights.   At the end of his post he wirtes:

Pastors don’t need a Ph.D. to minister effectively. Some of the most impressive ministers I know have little more than a two year Bible college degree. Some of the worst ministers I know have high levels of education.  Is a research doctorate benficial to those who have entered pastoral ministry? I think so. Would it help every minister? I don’t know – I can only speak for myself.  It helps me.  But the question is not whether a Ph.D. is an appropriate degree for ministers.  The real question is whether someone with a Ph.D. is called to pastoral ministry.

On the last question here were my thoughts: obviously not all PhD’s are called to pastoral ministry but I want to assert that more are called to the pastorate than may be willing to admit.  As one friend I have mused, “who gets a PhD only to “go back” into ministry?”  He knows this is a highly inappropriate question but one many wannabe scholars ask. 

The plain and simple fact of the matter is, vocational ministry (i.e., pastoring) is hard work, as it should be, but I have the feeling many may think teaching in a college or university is not as hard of work (perhaps wrongly?) so those not specifially called to teach in that environment may be looking at teaching as a way to keep “working for the Lord” without having to deal with all the day to day ministry issues (i.e., people).  But that is purely my own opinion, and I realize those cases are most likely far and few between.

Here is my other deal – it is obvious not everyone can teach at that level and it is also obvious there just isn’t that much room for everyone to be teaching (and it is very competitive) – so what to do?  Flip burgers until a teaching spot opens up?  Why? 

Why not consider vocational ministry?  Or even cross-cultural ministry on the mission field?  I have a friend who is at the doctoral level and ministers among the urban poor in the slums of Bangkok, Thailand (he teaches and presents too but the vast majority of his time is spent reaching the urban poor).  Maybe too think about planting a church state side (there are still thousands of communities without churches) or overseas (still thousands of people groups with insufficient or no living Christian witness to Jesus), or seeking U.S. Missions appointment so you can take a rural church and not worry too much about the low pay or no pay (sadly too many pastors are fleeing rural churches for supposed better salaries leaving the rural churches pastorless (like sheep without a shepherd)).   

So, I think while not all are called to that level of study while also preparing for ministry – many are and should be when they are not.   Not to make a big deal out of the PhD over and against other doctoral programs, as each and every one has it’s place and purpose, I still think and agree with Sam that the pastor (and the congregation he or she serves) can and should benefit from PhD level work.

Just a couple of famous examples of pastors with PhD, ThD,  or similar level study might be John Stott.  To me he is the epitome of the pastor-scholar who is involved in the academy while also pastoring a local congregation.  Well, at least he did for the significant majority of his career.  He is in many ways the pastor/scholar extrordinaire. 

Another example might be the recently late Ray S. Anderson, who Mark Stevens just informed us about regarding his passing on Father’s day.  Anderson is another example of the theologian/pastor extrordinare.    I have not read anything by Anderson, but I have seen some pretty great quotes and thought from his pen, as quoted on Mark’s blog.   And if his vocational eulogy is of any significance, it says alot about the value of pastors with PhD or equivelent level study under their belt as Pastors.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the matter.

RBL Additions

The following are some of the more pertinent additions to the Review of Biblical Literature list:

Richard Bauckham.  Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness TestimonyReviewed by Stephen J. Patterson.

John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed.  In Search of Paul: How Jesus’ Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire with God’s KingdomReviewedby Elliott Maloney. 

Mary Healy.  The Gospel of MarkReviewedby Francis J. Moloney

Judith M. Lieu.  I, II, and III John: A CommentaryReviewed by John Painter


Guest Post: Guns in Church?

The follwing is an article my wife Debbie put up on our Phoenix Examiner page.  Feel free to comment either here or on the Examier page. 


gunsAn online news article went out in the beginning of this month stating that an Assemblies of God church in Kentucky was planning a celebration service to promote “responsible gun carrying.”  This Saturday is the date for this planned event.

Carrying guns is such a controversial topic today within the church and outside of it.  It is not my intention to resolve this issue personally, but this does invite lots of questions for the church, especially because it is Pentecostal. Is it the role of a pastor or a church to help people carry guns responsibly?  What are the reasons behind this?  Does it truly make your congregation safer or does it invite people who would do harm to others intentionally?  How would a pastor or church regulate who comes through the doors with guns or not?  Also is this a thing of American culture where it is our right to bear arms or is this something that the worldwide church is to be a part of?  

In that struggle to hold onto Individual American rights has our church lost its effectiveness to be a prophetic community speaking across cultures, denominations and generations?  In a day and age when patriotism isn’t as prevalent as it use to be, it is easy to lose focus.  Focus has gone from what is the purpose of the church at large and what it means to be an American Christian.  In Mark 11:15 -17, Jesus was angered by what was going on inside the temple.  He saw money changers, people selling things and doing things to promote their own agendas.  After he turned over the tables, and drove the people out who were selling things, he taught them and said, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”  This passage comes to mind when I think about what is happening at the church in Kentucky.  No, they are not selling guns, but they are selling an agenda that is not Christ’s purpose for the church.  They are placing American rights above being a house of prayer for all nations.  

When I graduated Bible college, I traveled with a missions organization for 3 years.  We traveled extensively in other countries and were exposed to various cultures.  One thing I learned is that when I became a Christian and especially a minister, I gave up my “rights.”  I surrendered all to Jesus and that included my “right to be right.”  While I did not deny my American heritage, I denied my right to be an ugly American demanding my individual rights in the midst of cultures who functioned in a more wholistic worldview.  I became a Christian with a multi-cultural worldview who recognized that the body of Christ is bigger than the American church.  Oftentimes the church promotes a “Burger King” mentality catering things for “your way, right away.”  

Yes we are an Assemblies of God/Pentecostal church in America, but we should be working toward being a multi-cultural church that is to be a house of prayer for all nations.  Whatever ways we can facilitate this, it is our mandate as a church to see that happen.  Church is not to be a cultural hotspot demanding our American rights to be gun-toting Conservative Republican Evangelical Far Right Christians.  Yes we need to be free to exercise our religious rights as Americans in church.  Distinct from religion – guns are not and should not be a part of that. 

As a Pentecostal church, we rely on the Holy Spirit’s power and the Word of God to be our weapons.  They are mighty in power and able to break any bonds.  Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

oldest image of St Paul (updated)

paulROME (Reuters) – Vatican archaeologists using laser technology have discovered what they believe is the oldest image in existence of St Paul the Apostle, dating from the late 4th century, on the walls of catacomb beneath Rome.

Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, revealing the find on Sunday, published a picture of a frescoed image of the face of a man with a pointed black beard on a red background, inside a bright yellow halo. The high forehead is furrowed.

Experts of the Ponitifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology made the discovery on June 19 in the Catacomb of Santa Tecla in Rome and describe it as the “oldest icon in history dedicated to the cult of the Apostle,” according to the Vatican newspaper.

The discovery, which involved removing layers of clay and limestone using lasers, was announced a day before Rome observes a religious holiday for the Feasts of St Peter and St Paul.

Peter and Paul are revered by Christians as the greatest early missionaries. Converting on the road to Damascus following a blinding vision of Jesus, Paul took the Gospel to pagan Greeks and Romans and met his martyrdom in Rome in about 65 AD.

Early Christians in Rome buried their dead in catacombs dug into the soft rock under the city and decorated the underground walls with devotional images, often in the Pompeian style.

(Writing by Stephen Brown; Editing by Sophie Hares)



UPDATE: I am not one to really be commenting on archeology let alone early church history but this might be interesting.  Only problem is the picture seems to be limited and not open yet to the public – I haven’t been able to find the pubished picture.  Well, I managed to find the picture….

D.A. Carson on doing Doctoral study

Here is a somewhat dated article by Don Carson on deciding what doctoral work to pursue that I came across on Rod Decker’s blog.   He covers all the doctoral programs offered at TEDS but that can apply to any other situation.   He could have explained the DMin program a bit better but here is a quote that impacted me:

The most strenuous degree program is the Doctor of Philosophy (or Doctor of Theology, in some institutions).  I am deeply convinced we need more people with Ph.D.’s training for our pulpits.  I’ve sometimes urged students to go to Cambridge University in England for a Ph.D in New Testament because I know Cambridge has several churches with first-class expositors-great models for students who become infected with a vision.

This type of training ( the Ph.D.) exposes you to literature and forces you to think your way through it.  A work may attempt theological synthesis and evaluation or be a detailed work on a very narrow text.  Ideally, it will train you to think. And God knows we need people who think in pastoral ministry – though many of these graduates become teachers.

I have felt this way too – that more churches need pastors with PhD’s and not folks who just get their “significant ministry experience” in and then head off to a seminary or college/univeristy somewhere to teach.   Perhaps they can teach on the side or teach right there in their own congregations!  Wouldn’t that be something?   But then again in the current “me” generation that might be too much, you know, having to deal with all the “sheeple” on a daily and weekly basis instead of hiding out in a library somehwere with our noses in a book!  I know God calls many to be professors and to worship God through their research and writing and teaching, but where are the many PhD’s God has called to lead congregations? (especially in the fellowship I am apart of)

edit: see Doug’s post about someone who thinks Bible College is unscriptural

HT: Rod Decker

se here too for more thoughts on pastors and doctoral work.  e

New WordPress converts! (updated)

Matthew Burgess finally caved in!  He credits Nick Norelli.  Go over and offer him a warm welcome to the blessed realm!  He was here.  Now he is here.   He is still blogging as “Confessions of a Bible Junkie.”   I like that because I am the same way – an ardently confessed, unrepentant Bible Junkie!

Another convert in the Exodus from Blogger to WordPress:

Rod, who blogs at Political Jesus!

5 influential books (academic)

Mike Aubrey said I was to consider myself tagged for the 5 most influential books meme.   I am going to do two of these since I had been think of doing another one before the meme started.  I want to do one that is more academic and one that is more personal.  This will be the academic version.

Walter Brueggemann.  The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary.  Augsburg, 1984.

psalmsReading Brueggemann’s book on the Psalms really opened my eyes to a way of seeing the Psalms as prayers that can reflect our orientation to God as it relates to our situation.  Brueggemann sees the Psalms in three ways: Psalms of orientation (we see God’ rightly), Psalms of disorientation (we are a bit disoriented in how we see God so it is not right because either we’re too confused or in too much pain, etc), and Psalms of reorientation (where after coming out of a stormy time, we find ourselves becoming reacquainted and perhaps see him in a new light and new way we hadn’t seen him before).   These ideas also have tremendous implications for pastoral work as well in helping folks find ways to relate to God in the midst of life.

Robert Chisholm, Jr.  From Exegesis to Exposition: A Practical Guide to Using Biblical Hebrew.  Baker, 1998.

ChisholmNot that I planned it but when I switched from Fuller Seminary NW to AGTS, it afforded me the opportunity to take a Hebrew Exegesis class from each part of the Hebrew Bible, and I took advantage of it.  I did a class on the Psalms at Fuller where I met Brueggemann through his book I just noted (though my prof at AGTS wasn’t keen on Brueggemann).  Then, when I switched to AGTS  I took two more Hebrew exegesis classes with Exodus and Micah-Joel as the focus, so I had one in each the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.  In the classes for Exodus and Micah-Joel, Chisholm was one of the texts.  I know not everyone is a fan of it (e.g., Miles Van Pelt of BBH fame), but I like it.  It is practical and useful.  One chapter pretty much summarizes Waltke-O’Conner so you have snippet of the basics and if you need more go to WC.   The biggest influence I got from Chisholm is how to do exegesis and also to never ever ever attempt to use and OT story to illustrate and NT teaching, ever (unless that story explicitly illustrates the point) – this is a major no no many a Pastor or so called Bible Teacher does.  I have learned not to do that – and better why not just preach from the OT text and let the story tell itself?  This is a good, good book, in my estimation.

George Eldon Ladd.  A Theology of the New Testament, Rev Ed. (Eerdmans, 1974, 1993).

Ladd - NT TheologyWell, what is there to say?  It’s Ladd.  He was simply one of, if not, the single most influential evangelical NT scholar of his day and through his works he is still teaching many NT students today biblical theology as a discipline.  Those who read Ladd, learn how to manage with the tension in the Biblical text of the “already/not yet” aspects of the Kingdom of God and Salvation History.  That, while the kingdom has broke into our world already, especially in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ, full realization of the presence of the kingdom still lies in the future when Christ shall come again.  Through it all, he helps us learn to emphasize what the text itself emphasizes and not what we think it emphasizes.   For the time being as well,  I follow Ladd in his approach to eschatology (i.e., Historic Pre-millennialism) seeing that while much of the Olivet Discourse has been fulfilled – there is yet more to come that will finally bring this age to a close.  I also have a copy of his Revelation commentary, The Gospel of the Kingdom, and The Meaning of the Millennium.    Certainly newer theologies have come out but I think this should be one that pastors and teachers own among others (i.e., Marshall or Thielman, etc).

Arthur Glasser.  Announcing the Kindom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible.  Baker Academic, 2003.

glasserNow, I know everyone is all excited about Christopher Wright’s book, Mission of God (it made a big splash) – but I like Glasser and his work on the biblical theology of mission.   Through Glasser I am learning to think missionally about the Bible and learning that in the story of salvation hsitory God is a missional God, that Bible is a missionary book – from beginning to end, missio dei is the focus of God’s plan of redemption.  In the Old Testament we see an expectaion of the Kingdom and in the NT we begin to see its fulfillment in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ and his church, the people of God.  It really is a great overview of the whole Bible and what it teaches regarding the mission of God: to see his salvation to the ends of the earth!  Get it and read it!

Andrew Purves.  Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation.  Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.

purvesI have completed one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) (just one part of the pastor’s version of a hospital residency similar to what medical students do).  When in that progran I noticed that much of what was passing for pastoral theology was really just another form of counseling psychology – a sort of theological reflection of the human experience – but it did not center on Christ and was more functional in it’s approach.  I then got Thomas Oden’s Pastoral Theology and began to learn pastoral theology in the context actual church ministry.  This work by Purves is completing the circle for me in helping me develop a solidly Christological basis for the pastoral ministry that is decidely Christian.  For example, CPE is pastoral training in an interfaith setting, so it is not expressly Christian.  I wanted something more expressly Christian in its approach and I have found it in Purves’ Reconstructing Pastoral Theology.   It is helping me understand what pastoral work has to do with the Bible (trinity, incarnation, resurrection, Paul, eschatology and so on).   I am still learning from it but it is an influential book for me.


So these are five books that have influenced me in biblical studies and ministry.

On being a Great Commission Christian

Ajith Fernando in his NIVAC work on Acts writes in relation to being a Great Commission Christian:

ActsWhen we realize the important place that the Great Commission had in the early church, I think we can endorse the use of phrases like “Great Commission Christian” and “Great Commission Lifestyle.”  Some object to these phrases, thinking that they will detract people from other aspects of Christian mission, such as fulfilling the social mandate.  This can happen and has, alas, happened with Christians who have overemphasized the Great Commission.  But it should not happen.  The social mandate is clear in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament.  We must never be afraid to be fully biblical.  True, combining these two elements of mission is not easy, as we have found in our own ministry with the poor.  But when was biblical ministry easy?  Thank God that there is a noble history of evangelicals who put into practice this dual commitment to the social and evangelistic aspects of our mission. 

In view of the urgency of Jesus’ commission, we should all seek to be Great Commission Christians and endeavor to have all Christian organizations and churches to be Great Commission movements.  We should constantly live under the influence of our mission, so that we are willing to pay whatever price is necessary in order to reach the lost.  Mission, of course, includes involvement across the street and around the globe.  It is the responsibility of Christian leaders first to burn with passion themselves for mission and to pay the price of such commitment (see 10Cor 9); then, out of the credibility won from such passionate commitment, they must constantly keep the vision of mission before the people they lead. 

Ajith Fernando.  Acts, NIVAC.  Zondervan, 1998, 69. 


Indeed and Amen!  This is what we try to do at least once a month when I or Debbie preach a sermon on missions – we try to keep the Great Commission before our congregation.  Why?  Because a passion for missions burns in our own hearts and we are paying the price.  We live here at the canyon and don’t get paid for this pastorate.  We work like everyone else does (the pay is quite low) but we also “work” as we seek to extend the kingdom of God in the Grand Canyon Village and in the lives of those who live and work here, which includes international students from all over the world, even those from unreached nations and people groups (Thailand, China, Vietnam, and other places)! 

Come, will you be a Great Commission Christian too?

Psalm 20

TNIV  Psalm 20:1 For the director of music.

 A psalm of David.

May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;

may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

 2 May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.

 3 May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.

 4 May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

 5 May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the LORD grant all your requests.

 6 Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed.

He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.

 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

 8 They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.

 9 LORD, give victory to the king!  Answer us when we call!


Right now I am in a situation where that is all I can do – trust in the name of the Lord our God.  Every pastor or leader at one time or another, maybe even several times, will face a time of testing in his or her ministry.  How can he or she be sure to pass the test?  I think one part of it is to not “trust in chariots” or “in horses,” but…. “trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  

Trust.  It can be a hard thing to do sometimes but it is what the Lord calls us to do – and he will get us through the times of testing if we just trust in him.   And what is the promise if we trust?  He will answer “from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.”   He will give victory to his anointed ones!

So if and when you face testing in your life, trust not in chariots, or in horses, but…. “trust in the name of the LORD our God.”