What would be the reaction if you mentioned at a church function that you wanted to discuss theology? How many people would roll their eyes?
I have often lamented the lack of interest in theology among Christians. Recent reflections on this have made me think of the role of pastors. What are pastors doing to encourage or discourage interest in theology?What are pastors doing to encourage or discourage interest in theology? Click To Tweet
I remember what it was like coming out of seminary, students eager to escape theological study and to jump into “real” ministry. Pastors are often avid readers, but the books are likely what are seen as “practical,” including topics like leadership, evangelism and communication. Those topics are extremely important and pastors should seek to grow in those areas.
But if congregations are going to discover that theology is important, it is going to have to start with pastors. Instead of making jokes in sermons about how boring theology is, pastors need to model why theological study is important.
Just knowing theological categories such as pneumatology or eschatology is not enough. The Church has a rich theological heritage with volumes of works written by devoted and and brilliant Christian thinkers. Reading some of these theologians can help rekindle a passion for God that includes the mind.
I recommend the book Pastor as Public Theologian.
My plea to pastors is to consider reading some good theological books to inform and strengthen your ministry. It can be from theologians of the past or more modern thinkers. Consider reading a theology outside of your tradition. Do something to stretch your theological muscles.
I am doing this by reading through Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics (I only read about four pages a day). That might a lot to start with. Consider reading something by N.T. Wright (his bigger books over his popular level books), Miroslav Volf, John Calvin, Millard Erickson, Wayne Grudem, Augustine or any of numerous respected theologians.
You might wonder how this will help your ministry. It is not about an immediate result such as learning how to run a meeting or preach a better sermon. It is about long-term development that will enrich all that you do.
Listen to this interview by Scot McKnight with Brian Zahnd on the radical transformation from good theological reading.
My challenge to pastors to take an intentional step to enrich your theological foundation.