From Exegesis to Theology to Practice
Pastors are faced with a host of questions on a daily basis. What’s the best use of my time today? What should I preach on Sunday? Should our church start a Saturday night service for those who work on Sundays? What advice should I give a couple contemplating divorce? Should I perform this wedding ceremony? There’s seemingly no end to the list of questions that a pastor might have to answer.
How does a pastor know how to answer each of these questions?
The argument that we are putting forward on this website is that if Scripture is “totally true and trustworthy,” which we believe it is, and if “Scripture is the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried,” which we believe it is, then our practice as pastors must come from our study of God’s Word. Paul lays out four uses for Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Two of those uses have to do with right doctrine and the other two have to do with right living. Scripture is useful for teaching sound doctrine and for correcting false doctrine, and Scripture is useful for correcting those who are living in sin and training people to live in righteousness. So if we want to know not just what to believe, but if we also want to know what to do, our source must be God’s revealed Word.
This might sound like a self-evident claim to most pastors, but in the heat of the moment, we are often tempted toward pragmatism. Pragmatism is a philosophy that judges our actions based not on whether they align with God’s Word, but based on whether our actions seem to work. And churches today will face constant temptations to trade what seem to be short term “wins” for long term faithfulness to God’s commands. To give just one example, a pastor might win a lot of favor with church members if he spends his entire week fellowshipping with church members and knocking on doors inviting people to church. As valuable as these tasks might be, if the pastor fails to spend sufficient time laboring in the Word, the short time “win” of happy church members and more guests on Sunday might be gained at a great cost, a cost which might not be felt for weeks, months, or even years.
We are arguing for a specific method of answering questions related to pastoral ministry, a three-step process that must be followed if we want to know what to do as pastors.
- Exegesis is the careful study of the Bible in order to determine the meaning of a passage.
- Theology for our purposes is the systematization of good exegesis. As we carefully study specific passages related to pastoral ministry, we can begin to give answers to definitional questions like what is a pastor, what is preaching, or even what is a church.
- Practice must then be the final step of the process where we decide what we will do today based on the results of the first two steps.
Reality is often more complex than theory, so we recognize that in real life, we will often begin with questions of practice. The questions of practice are often the real questions we want answered, and they are often what seem must urgent. But if we have not spent sufficient time in exegesis, and if we have not developed a sound biblical theology of pastoral ministry, then we will be ill-equipped to answer the very practical day-to-day questions that come our way.
The first question we are going to address on this site is: “What is a pastor?” By design, we will begin with exegesis and the careful study of biblical texts that are particularly relevant to this important question. The exegesis section contains the findings of careful study intended to determine the original message of the passage. From there, we will move to theology and attempt to look at these passages together as a whole in order to answer the question, “What is a pastor?”
Hopefully, this will not just be our definition, but hopefully it will be a definition that we have drawn from our study of God’s Word. Finally, we will move to specific questions related to pastoral ministry that we will seek to answer based on the results of our exegesis and theology.
The steps in the process are tremendously important. Faithful pastors cannot short-cut this process. Some may be tempted to read the practice section of the website and dismiss the sections on exegesis and theology. But without the exegesis and theology, we have no standard by which to judge the validity of the answers to our very practical questions. As men who have a pastoral calling and a heart for training pastors, we desire this website to be a useful tool for any pastor. We hope that the content of this site encourages you to press on in faithfulness to the high calling of pastoral ministry.
 See Article 1 of the Baptist Faith and Message (http://www.sbc.net/bfm2000/bfm2000.asp)
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