Depending on the tribe you belong to, the term “pastor/theologian” might be seen either as a redundant, or oxy-moronic expression. Some view the pastor as a practitioner, and the theologian as a theoretician; two separate roles. Others, like those of us in Acts 29, understand the pastor to be a leading theologian among the people he is called by God shepherd.
At the recent Acts 29 Bootcamp in Louisville, KY I was given the opportunity to lead a break out session in the Pastor as Resident Theologian Track. The title of my session was, "How Theology Can Kill Your Church." If the audio is made available, I'll link to it [Now available: here]. I sought to make four basic points.
Theology Can Kill Your Church (Plant) when:
1. Your Theology is Under-developed
Under-developed theology leaves your church defenseless against false doctrine and heresy, and corrupts the spiritual growth of the body. We need a robust theological confession and culture in our churches.
2. Your Theology is Over-valued
Theology is over-valued when we find our identity more in a system than in the Savior. The dangers here are often pride and pugnacity. Good theology will always give a clear picture of God and self, which promotes strong convictions and humble hearts.
3. Your Theology is Compartmentalized
Compartmentalized theology is a purely academic discipline removed from Christian experience. The danger here is being satisfied with knowledge over transformation. We need "experimental Calvinists" who are not content to be right, but desire to be made right by the Spirit of God in conjunction with the truth of God.
4. Your Theology is Disconnected
When our theology is disconnected from the gospel, all of the above dangers are likely, and additionally our preaching will be little more than moralism. Imperatives apart from the gospel tell people to "do this," and doctrinal preaching divorced from the gospel tell people to "know this." In both cases people are not led to the grace of God in Christ, but to their own attainments. We need theologians who can show the connection between doctrines like sin, creation, the Trinity, etc. and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
In short, I was aiming at encouraging our men to be passionate, convinced, humble, experiential, gospel-centered theologians.
I shared some of my journey and failures in all this, and some of you asked what books I have found helpful. Here are just a few of them, but these were instrumental in breaking me of pride and theological elitism, while encouraging humility. Feel free to make your recommendations in the comments.
The Practical Implications of Calvinism, A. N. Martin (read it online for free)
Words to Winners of Souls, Horatius Bonar (read it online for free)
Vital Godliness, by William Plumer (read it online for free)
Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, Matthew Henry