The Pastor-Scholar?

There’s been a lot of discussion on Facebook about an online article by Gerald Hiestand over at the First Things website.  Pastor Dan just put up a post and I am simply going to pass along his thoughts and add a few of my own.  Here is it cut an pasted from his blog:


A great article from First Things provokes some thoughts for me. I want to be faithful as a leader, a pastor, and expositor of the Word.

These thoughts are good:

The drain of our wider theologians from the pastorate to the academy has resulted in a two-fold problem. First, the theological water-level of our local parishes has dropped considerably. Inasmuch as the pastoral vocation is no longer seen as a theological vocation, pastors no longer bring a strong theological presence to their local parishes. The net effect (particularly in the evangelical tradition in which I reside) is a truncated understanding of theology and its import among the laity. Theology has largely left the local church.

The second part of this problem is perhaps more even troubling. Not only has theology left the church, but the church has left theology. To be sure, many academic theologians view themselves as self-consciously serving the theological needs of the church. But on the whole, academic discourse has lost its way, becoming preoccupied with questions—especially questions regarding its right to exist—that minimize its ecclesial relevance.

While I deeply appreciate theologians who pursue theological studies, gain a PhD and then teach, my heart is for those who would strengthen their theological studies and then gift that to the church. The earliest centuries found some of the Church’s greatest theologians… and they were all pastors. The dichotomy has hurt the Church and we need to regain our strengths as ministers and churches.


I am in complete agreement with Dan on this one – not every one can or should teach in a college setting but they can teach in a local church setting and they should!

The main disagreement that I have is the voice of the church shouldn’t have to be limited to pastors or practitioners.  The academician can also speak to the church and the church should be willing to listen – but the academician will have to speak in a way that the church can understand and receive (not going off “waxing elephant” (like Dave black likes to say)).  Pastors and Scholars need each other and the church needs them as well – so definitely they should always seek to be in conversation with each other.

The problem is, however, with the current church leadership trends focusing primarily on pragmatics – and a focus on the pastor as leader or influencer – many have lost interest in theology as being too impractical (which is tragic because there are always practical application/implications of theological truths and realities) – or too divisive, uninteresting, etc.

To me this just proves all the more the need for more pastors to pursue PhD work in the midst of their vocations (not all, just more) – but also the need for more pastors to be intentionally involved in such groups as ETS (SBL might be too academic of a setting and many aren’t even Christian let alone interested in speaking to or with the church – so ETS might be the better venue for this kind of conversation) – or for Pentecostal pastors to be part of SPS and so on – as I understand it, many in academia want to engage the church but the church in many ways hasn’t been interested in engaging academia – but being intentionally involved in ETS and such societies sure would help.