The Academic Pastor
Be moved by the truth of the gospel, rather than be motivated by the desire for self-adulation.
As many of you know, I filled the pulpit at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church during the illness and homegoing of our beloved pastor, Dr. D. James Kennedy, as well as throughout the pastoral search.
During the couple of years that I was preaching virtually every week, I had occasion to think about what it meant to be both an academic (a professor at Knox Seminary) as well as a “fill-in” pastor. It was a wonderful time but also a difficult time, as I was teaching a full load of classes as well as preaching to a large congregation and trying to keep them hopeful while we looked for a pastor. I must say that I learned a great deal during this time and that the preaching greatly impacted my teaching. What was it that I learned from being a preacher coming straight from the academy?
1. I LEARNED TO THINK OF THE CHURCH IN ALL OF MY CLASSES.
While one may think that the church has nothing to do with many of the classes that I teach at Knox (advanced Greek grammar, hermeneutics, and Greek syntax) the truth is that all classes in seminary must have some bearing upon the churches to which our graduates will be called. If my students cannot teach or preach better as a result of learning Greek grammar, then either I should change the way I teach or change the class. The goal of all of the classes at Knox is to make our students better stewards of the word of God and better communicators of that word to the average person on Sunday morning.
2. I LEARNED TO THINK OF HOW THIS ADVANCED INFORMATION MAY BE COMMUNICATED TO THE PERSON SITTING IN THE PEW OR SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS.
Too often the minister or the teacher desires to “show off” the knowledge that they have gained. The real goal of a seminary education is to make the graduate capable not only of understanding deep thoughts and writing about the scripture, but also capable of communicating those thoughts in a clear, easy-to-follow manner. The pulpit or Sunday school podium is no place for the proud. The goal of “dazzling” their hearers, rather than educating them is prideful and of the evil one. We at Knox want our students to come before their listeners with the desire to bless them, not to say things that they cannot understand in an effort to appear “educated.”
3. I LEARNED TO THINK OF HOW THIS PASSAGE SPEAKS OF OUR LORD JESUS.
The scripture is gospel centered. Any passage reminds us of our lostness, our need for a savior, and God’s provision for a Messiah. We seek to remind our students that a message without Christ is not a Christian message. Thus all sermons, lessons, or Bible studies should, in the word of Charles Spurgeon, “make a beeline for the cross” which is the only hope of mankind.
A professor of mine once prayed in class, “Lord may we not seek to master your word, but to be mastered by it.” It is this prayer that the professors at Knox have for all of our students as well as all of our graduates.