If we hope to see renewed spiritual vitality come to our churches, then we must insist that those who serve as pastors recognize that inherent in their calling is the responsibility to be sound theologians. Only then will God’s people be properly instructed in the way of Christ and effectively protected against the errors and heresies that corrode spiritual health.
Christ intends for His churches to be led by men who meet certain qualifications. In his letters to Timothy and Titus, the apostle Paul writes very plainly about what the elders of a church must be. The main concern is character.
They must be men whose lives are exemplary in holiness.
In addition to this, however, men who would shepherd God’s flock must also be doctrinally sound. They must believe truth sincerely and be able to teach it clearly. In the first chapter of Titus, after highlighting the moral qualifications that every elder is to possess, Paul makes this point in verse 9. An elder, he writes, “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
Churches are to be served by pastors who are sound theologians. That idea strikes many as strange today because the last one hundred years have witnessed a separation of those two roles. Pastors belong in churches while theologians, we have been led to believe, belong in universities and seminaries.
Paul’s instruction to Titus, however, forces us to admit that every pastor is called to be a theologian. The truth that God has revealed in His Word is to be explored, understood, believed, taught, and defended. That describes the work of a theologian, and pastoral ministry cannot be effectively carried out by a man who does not engage in this kind of effort.
Churches are to be governed by the Word of God. Those men who bear the responsibility to lead a church have no alternative but to be well grounded in Scripture.