Shortly after Christ transformed my life at age 19 (I’m 35 now), I gained a growing desire to pursue ministry. I didn’t even know what that meant, but I loved to study the Bible and think through theological issues. So hey, if I can get paid for it, that’d be a pretty cool gig! So I went off to Bible College.
I immediately loved the ministry that my professors were able to have. They studied. They taught. They preached. They hung out with college students, and they had summers off. I immediately knew my ministry career: I wanted to be a professor at a Bible College. “Ahhhh, but you’ve got to get all kinds of degrees to teach at a college,” was the frequent warning I received. This only seemed to fuel my passion to teach at the college level all the more. I’ve always loved a challenge. So off I went to get a few degrees to get my “union card” (as one prof used to put it) to teach at a college.
Along the way, however, several people discouraged me from becoming a teacher. “You actually like being around people,” they would say. “I think you should be a pastor instead.” I wasn’t sure what to make of that, except that I could kind of see where they were coming from. I mean, throughout my educational journey, I encountered several professors (who will remain unnamed) who were—as we would often say—not pastors for a reason. Students and reality took back seat to the more important things like books and theology for some of these profs. They were busy, flustered, socially awkward, and hardly looked you in the eye when you were pouring out their heart. (Many profs were not, however; and may God rebuke me when I act like this!!) As the saying goes, stereotypes exist for a reason.
But I wanted, and want, to break this stereotype, and I would love it if more and more people-loving, socially capable, passionate communicators, who love Jesus and love the church would pursue teaching. Throughout my journey, I desired to be either a theological PASTOR or a pastoral THEOLOGIAN. And I chose the latter because I get to preach and teach all week long—not just on Sundays! But I never shied away from being a pastor because books were more important than people. There’s no reason why our teachers and scholars should be the socially awkward bunch of non-pastoral-egg-heads who can’t hold a normal conversation. And there’s no reason why pastors shouldn’t be leading the way in doing (writing and preaching) rich, constructive, engaging theology. There’s no reason why college professors and scholars should not be bringing their riches to bear on their students through counseling, conversation, and exploring fresh avenues in which theology can be seen as necessary and relevant for the common person.
I’m so stoked that there are many Evangelicals rising up today with a passion for both the heart and mind. In fact, I’m part of a society of young pastor-scholars called: the Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology (SAET). Sounds pretty geeky, huh? No way! This group consists of a bunch of young, zealous pastors who are insanely normal. (Some are actually insane, but in the Chan/Platt sort of way.) In other words, if they got into a fight, some of them would actually win. They all have Ph.D.’s and are brilliant, but they don’t let it get to their heads. They are some of the most humble group of pastor-scholar dudes I’ve ever met. And they believe that the social location of the local church is necessary for doing constructive, church-shaped, Christ-encountering, passion-igniting theology—theology that digs deep into the text in order to encounter God and spread his fame among the nations.
May God give us grace and an extra endowment of humility as we seek to bridge the gap between text, church, and world.