Every shepherd in the local church has a God given responsibility to teach solid biblical theology to the people of God. This is a challenging calling, given the broad topics that need to be addressed. Shepherds are generalists in a sense, but they are specialists as well, giving a public voice to biblical truth.
The shepherd’s responsibility as resident theologian, to feed the people of God from the Word of God, is clear in the Bible. Our English word “pastor” comes from the Latin word meaning “shepherd.” Jesus is the Good Shepherd and he charged Peter with the importance of shepherding and feeding the sheep (John 21:17). The shepherd’s theology needs to be clear, and consistent.
The flock of God is under constant attack from false teachers, and false teaching. Many are subject to poor interpretation and weak application, because of their insufficient understanding of the Word of God. Between the flesh, the world, and the devil, pitfalls are everywhere. Shepherds must take their responsibility to guide, feed, and protect seriously.
How can a shepherd fulfill his role as a theologian in the church?
The shepherd should be a lifelong student of the Word of God. If the shepherd stops growing in his knowledge of the Word of God, and in humility to gain the wisdom he needs to apply it, both he and the people he serves will be left vulnerable to error.
The shepherd should be a man of prayer. The clearer his view is of glory of God, the greater His worship of God and dependence on the Holy Spirit will be.
The shepherd should think of preaching/teaching theology, and the discipleship process, with a long-term view in mind. It takes time for the shepherd to get to know the people he serves. He must know them well enough to be able to recognize how to lead them. A long-term ministry in one place can significantly shape the culture of a church, and also raise up others who are able to carry it on.
The shepherd should be able to communicate the intricacies of theology, in common language. This does not mean jettisoning biblical words or dumbing down what he knows. The idea is, the pastor in the local church must be able to take complex truths, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, communicate them in a way that people understand how to live them out.
The shepherd should understand that his work as a theologian is not limited to the pulpit. In the counseling room, in one on one discipleship, in conversations with the people of God, at times in confrontation with the culture, the shepherd serves as a theologian. He sees the places where the Word of God and life intersect, and brings clarity to the situation. It is also quite useful in evangelism to be be able to clearly communicate the the gospel to the lost.
Every shepherd is a theologian. He should strive to be a faithful one!