Apr

26

2012

Douglas A. Sweeney|10:00 PM CT

A Call and Agenda for Pastor-Theologians

There have never been this many Christians around the world, yet few know much about God, the actual contents of the Bible, or the ways in which God's people have interpreted and applied the Bible historically. Many Americans, at least, still go to church and read the Bible--as their social lives permit. Even more in the Global South do so with fervency and zeal. Still, despite our apparent esteem for the Bible's status and authority, few believers know as much about its contents as they do about Hollywood movies, popular music, or athletics.

Indeed, as anyone who teaches in our churches can attest, few today know the Ten Commandments (I mean all ten, in proper order), the twelve apostles, the letters of Paul, or even the titles of the books included within the biblical canon. A basic grasp of Bible doctrine is also hard to find today. How many Christians do you know who can articulate what Scripture teaches about our Lord's two natures, the ministry of the Spirit, or the nature of the church? Even first-year seminarians have trouble with these things.

The church wants education and needs theological leaders. In this day when many pastors lead non-theologically, and academics work in a way that is lost on the people of God, we need pastor-theologians who can minister the Word in ways that edify the saints and offer a winsome public witness to the goodness, truth, and beauty of the Lord and his will for us.

The time is ripe for dialogue, even charitable debate, regarding the best way forward. So I offer the following theses in the hope that they will incite a large number of church leaders--in congregations and divinity schools--to think together with me about how we can serve God's people more effectively as preachers, teachers, and Christian educators.

1. Our churches and our world desperately need pastors to lead and teach theologically.

We clearly can't rely on families to raise their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (though a minority of them are doing so). We can't rely on television or radio preachers to feed us (though, again, some are trying). We shouldn't assume that people are finding theological nourishment in their local Christian bookstores. Our pastors truly need to give themselves far more fully to a ministry of the Word that is profound and systematic, as well as personally, ecclesially, and socio-culturally relevant.

2. Not all pastors are able to function as big-hitting theologians (serving the church and world at large).

Some don't have the time. Many are serving churches that won't allow this kind of stewardship. Some don't have the intellectual gifts or writing skills. Many pastors in large churches have assignments that include very little preaching and teaching. So let's be honest about this: the kind of theological leadership that the world so desperately needs is not for everyone engaged in pastoral ministry.

3. All pastors should lead and inform their people theologically.

Not everyone can be a great theological leader. Not everyone can write books or make a splash in the media. But ordained clergy are called to the sacred ministry of the gospel and the eternal Word of God---not to motivational speaking, popular psychology, folk wisdom, life coaching, or marketing the faith (though we often engage these other things in ancillary ways).

4. Some pastor-theologians should recognize that God has called, prepared, and equipped them for the serious, sustained, theological leadership of their own congregations, denominations, and the Christian church at large.

This wider ministry often requires strong encouragement from those who know us well. People who fit this description are often tempted to believe that insofar as they serve the Lord in trans-congregational ministry they are shirking their main duty to their local congregations. Sometimes this is true; but it is not always true. It is possible to serve well in a local congregation and to serve the church at large. And people called to both assignments are actually sinning against the Lord if they neglect the larger church.

5. We will always need schools for the training of ministry leaders.

There are many churches one can serve with little or no advanced training. But it would be difficult today to become a theological leader without the benefit of a solid theological education. Seminaries, especially, offer such a rich and varied menu of specialized studies in fields related to Christian ministry---ancient languages and history, church history, philosophy, psychology, hermeneutics, intercultural studies, and so on--that it is impossible to replicate what they do outside the academy. History teaches that reformation in the church is usually led by intellectuals---people who understand the past and know how to chart a different course for the people of God moving forward. One doesn't need much education to maintain the status quo. But to reform and improve the church one needs to understand its problems and have access to the tools by which we can solve them.

6. But this does not mean that we will need the very kind of schools we now have.

American Protestants have only had such schools for a couple hundred years. They are relatively new. And, in the main, the theological life of our churches has declined during the years they've been around. I suggest we move toward a seminary model in which thoughtful, seasoned pastors play a greater role on campus (not just in preaching and polity classes) and, correlatively, that seminary professors play a greater role in the educational ministries of their region's congregations.

7. Nor will we always need academic, systematic theologians to do all the heavy theological lifting for God's people.

We are not often explicit about this, but systematic theology, insofar as it is distinguished from biblical, historical, philosophical, psychological, and intercultural theology, is the work of generalists, people who synthesize the findings of those in the other scholarly disciplines and neither have nor require a methodology of their own. They put the big picture together and apply it to our lives. They don't require the resources or the structures of the academy to do this kind of work (though they do need very good libraries). In fact, the people best suited to synthesize our knowledge of God and his ways in the world today, applying this knowledge to the empirical realities we face, are pastor-theologians.

8. The knowledge of God is too important to be left to academics.

Most of the best-known academic theologians at work today have moved beyond the pale of orthodoxy (even beyond the Christian faith). Their work is driven by intramural academic concerns and priorities. They do what they think will earn them tenure, promotion, grant money, fame, and fortune in the guild. They talk to one another more than they talk to church people. But the knowledge of God is for all of us to pursue.

9. Independent churches shouldn't run their own seminaries.

Not only do they lack the resources (material and human) to do so well, but when they try to run their own schools they often wind up functioning like ministerial cookie cutters. They replicate the styles and views of their church's famous pastors. Pastor-theologians need ministerial sparring partners, people who disagree with them within the bounds of orthodoxy (especially while in training). They need real accountability, regular contact, and engagement with the rest of the Christian church---even if they are serving only a local congregation that is part of a small network of independent churches. The church needs pastors who are trained in the texts, doctrines, practices, and cultural sensitivities of the church--the whole church, past and present.

10. Theologians are accountable to God and all his people, whether they recognize it or not.

Academics need to do theology prayerfully, with the people of God in mind, not as an academic game. And pastor-theologians need to avoid the common temptation to chase fame and recognition, to replicate themselves, to force their own parochial vision and priorities on others. Insofar as they are to lead beyond their own, local churches they will need to listen to all God's people, pouring themselves out for the bride of Christ.

11. The task of the pastor-theologian has been problematized by modern, Western, intellectual history, especially by the dissolution of Christendom and the rise of the modern research university.

The dissolution of Christendom and rise of the modern research university are good things. They present us with difficult challenges, though---challenges not faced by Jonathan Edwards, for example. Pastors no longer enjoy a taken-for-granted cultural authority or legally sanctioned power. Americans now have to use voluntary means to gain a hearing from the public. And it is difficult to persuade people to choose theological education---especially when it requires earnest effort on their part. It is easier to gain a hearing by pandering to popular tastes.

Further, research universities and their fruits in mainstream culture (The New York Review of Books, National Public Radio, Alfred A. Knopf, etc.) are now the places where most self-selecting intellectual types, even intellectual Christians, get their mental nourishment. So it's natural for scholars to invest the bulk of their energy in the academic arena and/or semi-popular work that stems from academic soil. Both the church and the world, however, need our leaders to resist the current temptation to abandon the goal of improving the intellectual lives of people in and through our churches. Pop-cultural forms have their place within the church. But so do high culture and intellectual culture. We must do more than simply follow the latest pop-cultural fads if we are to deepen and enrich the cultural lives, indeed the theology, of God's people.

12. We need to avoid a Pollyannish view regarding the prospects of the pastor-theologian.

Given this intellectual history, there is only so much that is possible for pastor-theologians in the present. We ought to be realistic and humble as we pursue this kind of ministry. Not many in the pews are ready for it.

13. We should work toward a day when theological professors view themselves as handmaids serving pastor-theologians (among others), and pastor-theologians play an important public role in guiding people theologically.

Professors should continue to offer specialized instruction in ancient languages and history, exegesis, church history, social science, and philosophy. They will continue to equip future generations of pastors. But they should work to raise up pastors who can synthesize, exposit, and apply the knowledge of God to the lives of all God's people with authority.

14. This shift will require a major restructuring of the current division of labor in our churches and our schools.

This agenda will require a major restructuring of congregational priorities, and the schedules and the disciplines of some of our leading pastors. It will require some restructuring of seminary life, more and better partnerships with key churches and their pastors, and increased flexibility on the part of leading laity (who will need to give all of our pastors more time for study and some pastors time to speak and write for the church at large). This will clearly take some time. The effort will meet with stiff resistance in some pockets of the church.

15. The spiritual health of the church is worth the effort.

Let's work together to promote a reformation in the theological life and work of the church---for Jesus' sake.

Douglas A. Sweeney is professor of church history and the history of Christian thought and director of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Categories: Ministry
  • Alex Madlinger

    Eh. I agree with all of this as a principle but there's simply no reason to act like academics (by that, let's be clear, I mean people engaged primarily in academic teaching) are a bad thing for the church. Just a balance issue.

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    • Robb Redman

      Well said!

  • Neil

    The church is the body of Christ and only those who have accepted the truth and grace of Christ are indwelled with Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13,14), and only they are able to discern the things of God because we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:10-16) If anyone wants to speak publicly the things of God in a church building, on a street corner, to a classroom or in a meeting; they need to preach the Gospel which has reconciled them to God.(Col 1:21-23) The Gospel is the power to save and once this occurs in a person’s life they will be a new creation. They will no longer be a slave to sin but a slave to righteousness and nothing should impede their desire to seek and know God. They will have a strong desire for God’s word. They will gather with other saints and then they will begin to use the spiritual gifts they received to edify each other. They will have a strong desire to witness to others how the Lord Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. The leaders are those men who have fit the requirement of the elders in 1 Timothy and Titus and they will do this as examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

    “The time is ripe for dialogue, even charitable debate, regarding the best way forward.”

    This is the most understated sentence of the whole article. Please consider this list.

    1. Our churches and our world desperately need pastors, apostles, teachers, prophets and evangelists.

    These are the children of God because every believer should fit into one of these categories. This edification and discipleship starts when the body of believers gathers in unity. Most often churches are led by a select few who may be feeding the sheep or preying on them as wolves. The example in our homes is that the believing husband raises his family spiritually with the word of God. The Holy Spirit that reveals to us the things of God and the biggest problem today is that seminaries and bible colleges are replacing the power of the Holy Spirit. We must not say that the Holy Spirit is incapable of teaching directly from the word of God and that one needs formal education to understand scripture. Pastors are those individuals who shepherd the people and watch over them and what we have made them out to be is this all knowing, all gifted person who is responsible for everyone under his care.

    2. All “pastors” (spiritually gifted and not paid hirelings) are to be shepherds that protect the flock from heresies and false teaching.

    Pastors are gifted to shepherd, protect, and not necessarily gifted to evangelize and teach. A plurality of elders is required to protect, teach and edify the flock and most pastors today are required to teach, preach, protect, edify, lead and then lock the church at the end of the night. This leads either to pride or total burn out. Any man with the power that today’s pastors are given will compromise God’s word, and God’s people somewhere down the line. In addition, this position encourages passivity among the body.

    3. Elders (plurality of leaders) need to inform their people theologically.

    One person calling all the shots is dangerous. The body of Christ is many parts under the headship of Christ. If one man is constantly required to feed the sheep, who is he accountable to when he errors in doctrine? The blind leading the blind can be found in very many denominations and churches in this world. This will happen more readily in “Senior Pastor” churches than in a body of believers led by a plurality of elders.

    4. Elders should be able to recognize the various gifts distributed among the body.

    Each believer has the spiritual ability to edify the body as they meet to read and learn God’s word. This comes from the power of the Holy Spirit and this edification and sanctification is applicable to these believers’ lives. If believers gather every Sunday, sit, and listen to one man talk for an hour without engaging the conversation. This lacks the unity that the Holy Spirit desires. The church at large will grow if each individual community relies on the power of the Holy Spirit.

    5. We need to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Seminaries and bible colleges have substituted the Power of the Holy Spirit with man-made devises. All the history we need to know can be found in God’s word. If we need to rely on someone teaching us through philosophy and psychology, we are essentially saying that the Holy Spirit is not enough. Fear of God is the beginning of knowledge. We either fear God or we want to be gods. There is no middle ground. History teaches that people who fear God and have put all their hope and trust in Him lead reformation in the church. Intellectuals have caused more problems in the church because they have relied on their own understandings. A great example of this is that even though the Protestant Reformation recognized that Sola Scriptura and Sola Fida (all true followers of Christ believed this and not just those who pointed it out and were recognized through history) were essential to Christianity, they clung to the hierarchical system of lording over the people. They merely changed the title of priest to pastor. If seminaries and bible colleges are so necessary, why then are they not available to every believer?!? The answer is that they are available to every believer who is able to pay the price. Paid hirelings are running the churches (congregations and denominations) now and this system is the major problem of the church. Heresies and false teachings are rooted in seminaries that teach false teachings. Upton Sinclair said it best: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something if his livelihood is dependent of his not understanding it.”
    Perhaps we can word it like this: “It is difficult for paid clergy, seminary presidents, doctorates of theology and theological authors to understand that the pastoral system is the problem if their livelihood is dependent upon them not understanding it.”
    On the other hand, have they hardened their hearts and the desire for change is another reason to write a book on how we need to be a better church? Everyone under the influence of a pastoral system who is writing about the problems of the church is the problem of the church. Think of all the money being spent in the church on salaries, pensions, building maintenance, questionable overhead, supplies, conferences, appearances, performances, etc.? When is the body of Christ going to see this and react? I am sure that I am not the only person addressing this problem and that over the century’s money and greed for power has quenched the Holy Spirit on countless occasions. The most harm done to the body is by the spiritual forces of the enemy that has infiltrated the ranks of the elect. Wake up brothers and sisters. We are in a battle that is not between flesh and blood but we face an enemy that will do anything to divide and conquer the church. (Eph 6:12)

    • KM Wallace

      I find the things you have stated to be utterly true. These are words that many need to hear, but I question the strength of your argument. You speak about the saving power of the Gospel for the whole Church, but then you limit this power by only applying it to male leaders. Are not women saved through Christ as well? I agree with your argument for the plurality of elders. Having a strong, wise, and diverse body of elders does indeed strengthen a church body and keep it from harm, but shouldn't the females be included in this mosaic of voices? Doesn't the Church run a great risk of falling into doctrinal blindness and shortcomings if She does not listen to the wisdom of all members, including women? I really did enjoy hearing your thoughts and wisdom on this issue, but your argument would be stronger if it was applied to every member of the Church instead of only applying to half of them. The exclusion of the female voice in leadership may just be a part of the "divide" that the enemy is trying to use to conquer the Church.

  • Matthew Wilson

    Although Professor Sweeney makes a sound argument for the necessity of strong, sound theological presence within our churches and seminaries, I believe his focus upon the pastor is short-sighted in some regards. One of the reasons many pastors (and their congregations) have veered away from theology and embraced a more "ministry-approach" to church is that theology has been raised to a level of elitism: only seminary graduates hold the golden knowledge of God's Word. The senior pastor -- or the one pastor for many smaller churches -- is crowned the bestower of true biblical knowledge, alone.

    This is the flavor of Professor Sweeney's article. Everything seems to elevate the pastor while diminishing the layperson and ordinary Sunday school teacher. Are we not all called to the priesthood? Are we not all responsible to train up and equip fellow saints? How can God's people truly minister to one another in the knowledge and wisdom of our Lord Jesus if the pastors are the only ones accountable to carry the deep things of God's Word?

    By focusing primarily upon the pastor instead of all teachers (and even laypeople), we further push theology out of the hands and minds of God's people. This is not only a mistake but the tragedy of our modern era. No longer is a Sunday morning Bible teacher expected to exegete God's Word and properly apply its truths to the lives of his/her listener. He or she must be provided pre-digested study guides or literature helps to feed God's people. (Yes, I said that a Sunday school teacher is to feed God's people. It is NOT the sole responsibility of the pastor to do all the pastorial care: feeding the sheep.)

    There needs to be a new expectation for all of God's people, especially those who are expected to teach God's Word...at any and all levels. Theology is not for academics, or senior pastors, alone. It must be the love of every Bible study and child of God. That passion must be accessible, taught, and exemplified within the church by men and women who have a desire to minister to one another. Bring theology and a love for the deep things of God down from the rafters of the elite and chosen few and any church can thrive and grow strong!

    • danny

      "risen to a level of elitism"??? more like they stayed smart and we got dumb...

    • Michial

      I agree. There is an atmosphere of theological pride and elitism in many higher educated. Show me from the bible where a humble pastor of people is to have 7 years of schooling and pay upwards of $400 plus an hour for "theology". The costs of seminary MDiv's is higher than most secular MDivs and considerably more in hours for most MDivs which are only 50 or so credit hours.

      The model of educating a pastor is at the local church level biblically speaking. Timothy said to hand down the teaching to other faithful men who will do the same. To study to be approved, knowing the scriptures. Its ok to be aware of the false winds but the best way to detect a counterfeit is to know the real thing so well you can spot a phony. But the whole notion of massive institutions charging upwards of near 50-100k to be a shepherd is unbiblical. I have heard just as many if not more uneducated fishermen better in the pulpit and sickbed than many a PhD or Mdivd "divine" whose sermons stink. Church level is where this is to be done biblically.

  • http://Heggthought.com David W. Hegg

    Dr. Sweeney has written one of the most insightful and necessary articles I have read in the ongoing discussion of theologians in the pulpit. As a pastor and college instructor I work everyday at the intersection of theological instruction in the classroom and the crying need for it in the church and home. The fact is that the worship service and small group, while so necessary and essential, do not provide the theological training Christ-followers need. Expositional sermons, filled with theology are vital, and yet the overall theological training of our people will also demand classes, reading groups, and forums specifically designed to teach and discuss theological topics and systems in the same way we teach parenting skills, and deal with other practical issues of Christian living. Bravo Sweeney! Only wish I could meet you and have coffee!

    • Barry Howson

      Well said Dr. Sweeney and David. I am a Bible College professor and a pastor in a local church, and long for the day when pastors will fulfill their most important task and gifting (Eph. 4:11-16). If churches don't have pastors whose main task is knowing and teaching the Word (gleaned through the study of church history, theology, biblical exegesis, etc), we will not be the light to our world that brings the nations to Christ. God has given gifts to the church; where are the those Ephesians 4 gifted people who are called pastor/teachers? Are they not necessary for the well-being of the church and the world?

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  • http://carsontclark.com/ Carson Clark

    Great post. That's all I've got to say.

  • http://www.theologyoutofbounds.wordpress.com Jon Coutts

    Appreciate this a good deal. Would like to see theology more carefully defined, however. In the intro it seems like it is little more than the amassing of biblical knowledge, and in a later point systematics is rather reductively depicted as the mere synthesizing of that knowledge. The remainder of the points would be well served by a more robust picture of the constructive and vital role of church dogmatics.

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  • Robb Redman

    I deeply appreciate the two-fold emphasis on the value of an appropriate academic setting for theological development and the importance of serving churches. Seminaries fulfill their mission best when we partner with churches as servants. This will require both academic theologians with humility and a commitment to serve the local churches, and pastors and elders committed to deep biblical and theological formation and with a similar humility which acknowledges they are unable to provide it themselves. I see this consensus beginning to emerge, but we still have a long way to go to break down the walls of mutual ambivalence and animosity.

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  • Clint Hudson

    I understand what the author of this blog is saying. I am a minister who does desire this kind of formal theological training. My only problem is at 33 with a wife and 3 kids and being the only income it is hard to attend the colleges when tution is as high as it is. Being bi-vocational there is no way the church can pay for a $20-30,000 school debt. I deeply desire further training in the many areas of theology. Not because I am a pastor but because I am a child of God. He is my life and I want to be filled with as much of Him as I can. I try to study on my own but this has proven dangerous when I misunderstand certain truths in the Bible. My prayer is that not only will there be pastor/theologians but also men that would train guys like me. That would see the value in men that are called by God to preach but are not in a position to spend so much money on what was given to us at such a high cost, i.e. salvation in Christ alone.

    • http://strandedscholar.blogspot.com Zack Skrip

      Hang in there Clint! God will show you a way to do this. I'm pursuing some further education through Columbia Evangelical Seminary which, while unaccredited, is giving me the chance to continue to study while working full time. I have a personal mentor, who is an adjunct prof at Union who is helping me through coursework. We communicate through email, phone, and YouTube (I'll record my sermons and then upload them). Not ideal, but the best I can do, and I don't have to do it alone.

      CES is not the only one that provides education like this. Maybe there are other pastors in your town that would like to read through a Systematic together, or some other work. Anything to keep filling up your reservoir.

    • http://livinghopechicago.org Robert Peters

      Clint, what denomination are you and where do you live?

    • http://livinghopechicago.org Robert Peters

      Clint,
      What denomination are you and where do you live?

    • http://beaconbaptistalbany.wordpress.com Reagan Marsh

      Clint,

      Look at the Founders Study Center (founders.org) or at Third Millenium Ministries (thirdmill.org). Both provide trustworthy, Reformed, confessional biblical/theological training through the internet for a very low fee.

      For books, check out Monergism's Directory of Theology (monergism.com/directory) and the Puritan Library (puritanlibrary.com). Download the Westminster Confession of Faith & Shorter & Larger Catechisms, the 1689 Baptist Confession, and the Abstract of Principles and wrap your head around them.

      Also, get the free e-Sword Bible study software, install commentaries from Calvin, John Gill, Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, J.C. Ryle (on the Gospels), Alexander MacLaren, Jamison-Faussett-Brown, and Keil and Delitzsch (on the OT). Download Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology and James P. Boyce's Abstract of Systematic Theology. Use these faithfully and you'll be in better shape than a lot of seminary graduates I know. (All of these listed are free or minimal cost digitally).

      Grace to you, brother.

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  • Dana Young

    Great article. Thanks.

    On point #1, I agree with the need as expressed, but not with the reasoning behind it:

    Certainly, “our pastors truly need to give themselves far more fully to a ministry of the Word that is profound and systematic…” However I disagree with the idea that, “we clearly can't rely on families to raise their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord…)

    That is the primary calling of Christian parents. Do you truly believe that we can’t rely on families to fulfill it? Are you actually saying that pastors are the only ones who can be expected to teach theology and doctrine to our children and preserve it in our churches? Perhaps I misunderstood you.

    I agree that pastors are specifically charged with carrying out this task and that they need to give themselves fully to it for the sake of Christ and his church (Jer. 3:15; Lk 12:42-43; Jn 21:15-17; 2Tim 1:14, 2:2; 1Pet. 5:2, etc.). But this is not because we can’t rely on families to do it. It is because families need to be equipped to do it. What a terrible lowering of the bar of expectations for families. As a father, I see it as a particular dumbing down of expectation of fathers to think that doctrine and theology are the province of the pastor.

    I have to stand before God and answer for how I passed on what I received. I’m not given the option of out-sourcing that part of my calling as husband and father. I need my pastor to teach me correct doctrine and theology so that I can be sure I’m teaching my children correctly. I believe that the degree to which fathers are not theologians to their children is the degree to which they are not being trained and equipped to be so by their pastors as well as the degree to which they are not demanding to be so equipped.

    Luke 12:42-43; John 21:15-17; 2Tim 1:14, 2:2; 1Pet. 5:2 apply to me as I shepherd my family as much as they apply to a pastor in shepherding the church. That I is why I need (and am so thankful for) the pastors in my church who give themselves fully to the Word, preaching and teaching us applied doctrine and theology. I agree that the church as a whole needs more of it and we’re undernourished and weak for the lack of it.

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  • http://secondtimothy215.blogspot.com Doug Phillips

    I hope and pray this call is answered.

  • http://www.immanuelbc.net Robert Briggs

    There is much that I agree with in this article, there are elements that I would love to discuss further. Who is invited to the dialog about this ? Ordinary pastors in the trenches are certainly in need of as much theological help as they can get but how much will they be given a place at the table for discussion? I would love to see the academics in the church with no pastoral experience under their belt let those with the pastoral experience to have as much a part in this dialog as they do. Can we start by discussing the cost of seminary education in America ?

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  • http://wadholm.blogspot.com Rick Wadholm Jr.

    While I truly enjoyed the article and resonate with its contents as someone who is a pastor of a small rural church and yet also an academic, I was just wondering about the irony of John Piper's picture given the call for NOT having schools belong to an individual church (ie, Bethlehem Baptist). It just seemed rather humorous to me and I wondered if this was considered.

  • http://www.jesusbibleinstitute.org/ Alan Kurschner

    I established the Jesus Bible Institute precisely for the deficiencies you have spoken on. My hope is more church leaders would see this model as a benefit for their people and for fellow leaders in the local church.

    http://www.jesusbibleinstitute.org/

    "Jesus Bible Institute is an evangelical interdenominational school serving New Jersey churches by teaching biblical studies that is centered on Jesus Christ. Rather than function as a degree-seeking institution, the aim of JBI is to offer biblical studies for Christians who simply desire to learn for their own edification. It is also for Christians who are church educators such as teachers, youth pastors, elders, and deacons. JBI provides a formal traditional classroom setting taught at a college level. In short, it is for all Christians who desire to benefit themselves and the people of God in their local church."

  • Zachary Mccoy

    How about catechism for members?

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  • http://abyers.wordpress.com Andy Byers

    I really appreciate Sweeney's article. If anyone is interested, here is a post I've written asking if the idea of the pastor-theologian is intrinsically elitist or pretentious: http://abyers.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/re-forging-a-new-vocational-identity-the-pastor-theologian-part-1/

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  • http://www.epikquotes.wordpress.com Dan

    One of the points that I would love to see more elaboration on is on #9. I want to see more people interact on the pros and cons of independent churches starting seminaries. I have heard Dever, Mohler, Piper and obviously MacArthur encourage the idea of churches starting their own seminaries.

    The reality is that the resources will be more scarce at a seminary which might lead to professors who shouldn't be teaching there but are so they can fill a necessary role for the school. Also having a myopic view of the scope of doctrine and practice can lead to all sorts of issues.

    But what good is there to be said about a church that is able to train the men in their area that want to get a theological education? Unfortunately some young guys will have to uproot and leave to go to school, when they could have stayed in their area or at their church to continue ministry.

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