Since graduating seminary three years ago, I’ve noticed a number of very encouraging trends related to the gospel and matters pertaining to the church. One of these trends is a conversation about the pastoral theologian. The general idea behind a pastor-theologian builds on the concept from R.C. Sproul that every Christian is a theologian. Since every Christian is a theologian, every Pastor is the lead theologian in the church. In their helpful book, The Pastor Theologian Resurrecting An Ancient Vision by Gerald and Todd Hiestand and Wilson seek to provide historical and theological undergirding to the pastor-theologian movement.
In my pastoral ministry classes in seminary they focused mostly on the nuts and bolts of ministry instead of on discernment and theology. There is nothing wrong with understanding the how to of ministry. What was missing in my seminary classes was an explicit focus on how all our ministry must be undergirded by a biblical-theological framework. This is why I’m encouraged by this current conversation on pastor-theologians. While pastoral ministry today often focuses on goals, results, and shallow thinking—the Pastor has been called preach the Word, to contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, and to love and care for God’s people. Sadly those in the academy tend to have the opposite problem, failing to connect theological study to the pressing issues facing the church. The result of this is theological anemic local churches and lay people who don’t know even know basic Christian doctrine.
This is reason to rejoice at the current conversation on pastor-theologians. Many if not most of the best theologians in the history of the Church have been pastor-theologians. Men like John Owen, John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, Augustine, John Knox, and Jonathan Edwards, among many others were all pastors who served faithfully in the context of the local church. Yet, God also used them as popular theologians to reach a wide array of people. Men like RC Sproul, John Piper, John Macarthur, among many others would fall under this category that the author describe as popular theologians today.
The entire book is excellent. Chapter one looks at the labor of the pastor-theologian and the crisis of identity for pastor-theologians. Chapter two looks at the pastor-theologian in historical perspective. Chapter three looks at the demise of the pastor-theologian in Europe and North America while chapters four and five consider theological and ecclesial anemia in the church and theology. Chapter six explores the idea of pastor-theologians further. Chapter seven and eight consider the pastor-theologian as ecclesial and local theologian. The book concludes with the future of the movement and calls for continued renewal in the church.
As I read this book I was greatly encouraged. This excellent book rightly diagnoses the problem in our local churches as starting with the pastor. It’s been said before and will be said again that the pastor sets the tone and the culture of the church for either good or ill. The recovery of the pastor-theologian is not a power-play move as if only the pastor were the only theologian in the church. Rather, the pastor-theologian model seeks to help every Christian to become a theologian to know what they believe, why they believe it, and how theology relates to their daily life. The Pastor Theologian is an excellent book that will help lay Christians to understand more of the work of their pastor.
I also recommend this book for Bible College and seminary students preparing for pastoral ministry. This book will help such students to learn how the task of pastoral ministry is biblical-theological work with the goal of discipling fellow Christians who will carry forth a biblical-theological vision of Christianity to the nations. This excellent book considers the nature of pastoral ministry and the work of scholars and addresses both groups.
I highly recommend this excellent book as it will help readers to think perhaps for the first time about pastoral ministry as a primarily biblical-theological work for the purpose of equipping the saints in the service of our great God and King. I encourage you to go pick up and read this excellent, challenging, and helpful book that will help you to gain a vision for pastoral vocation along theological lines for the good of the Church and the edification of God’s people.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to his wife, Sarah. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021), The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022), and Contentment: The Journey of a Lifetime (Theology for Life, 2024). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.