I have a theory about why God seems to use pastor/theologians in the ways in which He does in the world. I have come to believe that God blesses the labors of pastor/theologians who give themselves to him and the work of the church in a way that He often does not do so with other believers actively engaged in helpful para-church ministries.
Last May, while I was in Durham, England to speak at the Jonathan Edwards for the Church Conference, I had the privilege of spending some time with Doug Sweeney–Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought and Director, Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity school in Deerfield, IL. Doug also happens to be an elder in his church. In the course of one of our conversations we discussed the high calling of the pastorate. Doug noted the fact that he would often ask new classes of students to list off their top 10 theological heroes from church history–those men by whom they had been most influenced. He then remarked that, almost without fail, every one of the theologians that the students put down on paper were pastors first and then theologians. He went on to explain the great need we have for pastor/theologians today.
It is something of a late 19th to 21st Century novelty for theologians to serve in theological academies without being in the pastorate–or, at least, without having served many years in the pastorate. Even so, God still seems to give pastor/theologians the most vocal and prophetic voices in the world. Consider the fact that John Piper, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur et al are all pastors, first and foremost, who have given themselves to the work of shepherding a congregation throughout the entirety of their ministries. God’s sovereign providence in raising up one and not another aside, I believe that there are several reasons why God uses pastor/theologians in special ways. Here are my five theoretical observations:
1. God has promised to bless His work in the church in order to show His wisdom to the Angels and to the world. Paul says as much in Ephesians 3:10, where he writes, “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” In his oustanding series of sermons titled, “The Wisdom of God, Displayed in the Way of Salvation,” Jonathan Edwards noted:
In the foregoing verse the apostle, after speaking of revealing this wisdom of God to man, “And to make all men see, what is the fellowship of this mystery,” etc. speaks of this mystery as a thing from the beginning kept hid till now, “The mystery, which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God — that now,” etc. In this verse he mentions another end, viz. that he may, at the same time, make the angels also see God’s wisdom in his glorious scheme of redemption. — “Now at this time,” implies that it was before a mystery kept hid from them in comparison of what it is now. And here is room enough for the angels to discover more and more to all eternity of the wisdom of God in this work.
Observe the medium by which the angels come by this knowledge, viz. the church — “That now unto principalities — might be known by the church,” — i.e. by the things they see done in the church, or towards the church. and by what they see concerning the church. So has it pleased the sovereign God, that the angels should have the most glorious discoveries of divine wisdom by his doings towards his church, a sort of beings much inferior to themselves. It has pleased God to put this honor upon us.