I’m going to the Trinity Pastor’s Conference this week. I’ve never been to a pastor’s conference before. I’ve never wanted to be a pastor before.
But now I do. What I’d like to learn are the skills of pastoring, those things which are not part of the crucial academic aspect. What I’d like to find is a group of pastors who will help me confirm (or the contrary) the call to the ministry. I’ve been passive a good, long time. I have not actively pursued the office. Now it is time to be active.
5 years as a member in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church have taught me many things, one of which is that I am definitely a Reformed Baptist. I believe I could do full subscription to the 1689 LBC. In fact, I would like to. 2 years at Westminster have taught me that anything short of robust confessional subscription is a diminished Christianity.
I am grateful that no stage, so far, has come without learning. One of the kindest things ever said to me was by Michael Haykin when I interviewed for the program at Southern. “You’ve really come a long way, haven’t you?” It is the right way to put it. Trueman famously and good-humoredly despises the word ‘journey.’ I believe what he says is that only contemporary trendy types and medieval Nominalists use the word. There is a better way, because it all depends on where you are going. Platonists are the greatest viatores.
I am a nomad, by temperament, upbringing, and what meager integrity I have obtained so far. C. S. Lewis said that if there is nothing in this world that can satisfy us, then it stands to reason that we are made for another world. It might also be observed that this positive statement gives a large role to dissatisfaction when it comes to life on this planet. Platonists are the greatest viatores because we are of all the positions you can take, the one that begins with most dissatisfaction, and it is the one which most aspires.
So I aspire to the ministry, and if you are a Reformed Baptist so aspiring, there are only two offices. It is a thing still to wonder about. The magisterial reformation recognized four ecclesial offices: deacon, ruling elder, teaching elder and doctor. These are distinctions which allowed Christianity to flourish in Western Civilization. I am not sure that we can have a robust Christianity without them. In Baptist polity the last three get compressed, but I think there is a practical distinction still to be made.
Specialization is necessary, but intermediation is as well. Specialization ought to require interdependence, but interdependence is not something the specialist is always trained to appreciate. Pastors ought to be specialists, but they do not always recognize the need for specialists in the theological disciplines. The fact is that being a pastor is a more obvious specialization than being a Biblical scholar or a systematic theologian. But because the pastorate is a specialization, and because most people cannot specialize in more than one thing, pastors need to be connected to specialists in the theological disciplines.
The theological disciplines also need to be connected to the broader academic disciplines. There is a prevailing, diminished view of the need for academic specialization. It is probably due to the fact that this specialization is the least obvious, the most recondite. But you cannot be academic without being connected to the academy in general. To the degree that you disconnect, you languish. And if you do not have the rigor of academic discipline, in academic disciplines, all you have is amateurs. The problem with the amateur is not that he exists, but that his existence depends on professionals.
There is one vital link I’m driving at in all this: the one who cannot be an academic specialist but who understands the importance and serves to maintain and preserve the connection. Me!