Hiestand on the Pastor-Scholar

I somehow missed these worthy words from my buddy Gerald Hiestand, a pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel, on the need for pastor-scholars:

piper“The legacy of such great men teaches us the value of uniting the role of pastor with that of theologian; yet a resounding absence of such a union marks the church today. Our most significant theologians now reside almost exclusively in the academy. To be sure, the rise of the academy requires thoughtful academic theologians who live and move in that environment. But is it best that virtually all of our theologians have moved to the academy? There is a need for a renaissance of the pastor-theologian, pastors who endeavor to do theology from the pastor’s study and not solely the professor’s lectern.  Not every pastor is called to a life of scholarship. Nor is every professor called to the pastorate. But many young people today feel the pull between a life of scholarship and the life of the church. It is to our detriment if we force such individuals to choose between these two callings.”

This is something I’ll be writing more about in days to come.  For now, it’s enough for me to heartily second Gerald’s words, and to point you to an exciting event that the Henry Center will be doing on this topic.  Piper, Carson, and Q&A at one of Chicago’s most exciting churches–does it get any better?

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  • Jaden Smith

    I just happen to stumble across this blog and took notice of the subject matter. This has been a topic of much interest to me over the years and thought I would throw my two cents in to stir the pot a bit.

    First – The Head
    I agree with the statements that not all professors make for good pastors and vice versa. In fact, most professors don’t make for good pastors and in a lot of circumstances don’t necessarily make good teachers either. Superior knowledge of a subject often usurps essential abilities for solid teaching. This is true both in the classroom and/or from the pulpit.

    For example, if a pastor is scholarly in the scriptures yet is a poor communicator, his teaching/preaching ministry will likely suffer and he will be ineffective. The same could be said of a professor. If a professor is brilliant in his knowledge and comprehension of the scriptures, but is unable to teach it effectively to those below his level of intelligence, he too is an ineffective teacher. This is what made Jesus so amazing. His knowledge of the scriptures were premier, yet he was able to communicate it at a level that was understandable to his audience; which were primarliy poor, homeless, peasant, type people with little or no education. So the point being, we ought to be careful to examine the skills and abilities of teachers and pastors before placing them in a teaching role simply because they have the head knowledge to do so.

    Second – The Heart
    With that in mind, it is also just as tragic to place academic theologians in the pulpit if (“if” being the operative word here) they lack the ability or desire to shepherd the flock. The rise of the role of “teaching pastor” and the corresponding rise of mega-churches has led American evangelicalism to over emphasize theology above practice, knowledge above application, and thinking without action. In essence, we have become hearers and not doers of the Word. Right at the center of this disturbing trend is the practice of churches to place pastors in the pulpit because they are theologically astute, but have no idea how to minister to mothers of anorexic daughters, verbally abusive fathers, or suicidal teenagers. But make no mistake, they can surely quote the greek NT verse-by-verse. Without even quoting the studies demonstrating the impact of this trend, suffice is to say that we should be very cautious in our zeal to have a theologian placed in the puplit.

    As a final comment, we should take notice and learn alot from those pastor/theologians who have been able to pull this off. John Piper is a prime example of someone who has done so. This man of God is at the hospital on a Thursday night with a greiving mother and in the pulpit that following Sunday expounding the Scriptures with great insight and authority that stems from what could only be considered a scholarly understanding of the Sriptures. However, he is not the norm.

    In the end, my arguement is that we should expect more from pastors/teachers than only head knowledge of the scriptures and we should expect more from pastors/teachers than only the ability to the communicate the scriptures. We should expect our pastors to think, teach, and act the role and calling of the NT shepherd.


  • Al

    Good morning. As a pastor/teacher, who is not one of the super gifted, that is, can do all things well, I find I have to place priorities on my time, both for my ‘job’ and for my family and self.

    The office of deacons came into being because the apostles, while seeing a need, realized that they should not abandon their calling to do, or even oversee, a good service.

    Pastors need first of all to teach the word well and to pray. There is something that appears to be overlooked in Jaden’s response. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can take the word and make it fruitful. My hope in building ‘my’ church theologically into a body that does good deeds, visits the mom at the hospital for example, is probably not going to happen – and should not happen – just because I am a ‘good speaker – communicator’. It should happen because the sheep are being shaped by the word.

    Our churches are full of people who get blown about by every wind of doctrine. Again, only the blessing of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is ultimately going to stabilize the church, however, the Spirit uses the Word. If we have any hope as pastors it is to work hard to accurately teach the word, while humbly seeking God’s blessing.

    Today we have many men in the ministry because people like them, not because they have the theological foundation to minister the Word.

    None of us will do this well, but I side with Owen’s comments: we need to get good theology into the church.

    Having said this, it does seem me that Jaden and Owen might have the same man in mind, except that each is looking at the faults and failures of the opposite side? If the pendulum needs to swing I would rather have the problems of the pastor/theologian.

    Both the pastor and professor have sheep to whom to minister. None can stand on their own intellect. Prayer and a humble spirit are vital.

    May the Lord send growth.

  • Jaden Smith

    Thanks for the response Al and I agree with everything you stated. I apologize if my language caused you to believe that solid teaching is secondary.

    On the contrary, solid biblical teaching is imperative and is the catalyst for all other ministerial elements. However, to think that the HS will simply take over after the Word is preached is a bit naive. Good solid biblical teaching must be followed by active and intentional efforts from the church. This is precisely what I was pointing to in my initial response; there seems to be this belief over the last several decades and currently that all we need to do is preach and trust in the HS to take care of the rest. This line of thinking has contributed to numerous problems both inside and outside the church. There needs to be a balance between trusting in the HS and our active and genuine involvement in the lives of our congregations. Prayer and humility are not substitutes for action, but compliments of it.

    Back to the original article by Owen, my observation was that as the Church continues to emphasize good teaching from the pulpit (which is essential), we must not allow ourselves or fellow pastors to recluse from his sheep all in the name of being a “pastor-theologian”. We must strive to be both the theologian and the example of how to minister to our people. Godly action from saints will further the kingdom more than godly preaching alone. Countless churches have solid preaching week-in and week-out and yet the church is stagnate. If we don’t example the truth, then it is worthless. Again, i look at both James and Jesus as advocates for this. James’ letter may not provide the level of theology that Romans does for pious pontification, but his words are equally inspired and must be reckoned.

    If you unsure of this to be true, look at the NT examples, then with your congregation members, and then take a poll of unbelievers – the results will all be the same. The Word of God converts the soul. Period. Nevertheless, the action of the pastor and his congregation among the lives of fellow saints and the world will draw the lost in and compliment the HS in the sanctification of believers.

    Just for the record, my line of thinking stems from Richard Baxter’s “Reformed Pastor”, Tim Keller’s philosophy of ministry, and most Urban focused missionary settings.


  • Al

    Hi Jaden, as we talk behind Owen’s back.

    Your second note does help me understand where you are coming from, and I appreciate that, and I understand your first post now in that light.

    I am in full agreement that the pastor/teacher must life the faith. This is where emphasis needs to be given to the whole list of qualifications of the overseer, rather than to focus on the single point of teaching ability.

    Last Sunday I taught from John 17:17-19, and did not teach that sanctification was a retreat into one’s own private little retreat center. I suspect we have much in agreement.

  • Jaden Smith

    I figured we were on the same page. I just have a tendency to wave the caution flag these days when the church thinks that all we need in the Church to make a difference is more theologians in the pulpit. Bring the theology – just don’t forget to bring the practice with it.


  • Fantastic quote. Really wish I could attend this event!