The Hermeneutics Class and the Hospital: A Reminder For Pastoral Balance

I read this brief account of a man who spent some time with a well-known pastor in the Tennessee Baptist Convention. And in reading this account, I was reminded that pastors have to have balance, particularly balancing serious theological study and everyday ministry practices.

This summer, I spent my time in Nashville working with Mike Glenn, the senior pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church. I grew up at Brentwood and Mike was even the one who baptized me when I was much younger…

I remember the conversation he’s (Mike) talking about well.  I spent the beginning of my work at Brentwood going to a funeral and going on hospital visits as well as visit those in hospice care. A remarkable amount of things I did at the beginning of the summer had to do with death. It really did make me think. That’s not something I deal with face-to-face to often (thank God, truly). I realized that when you get down to it, I can tell you all I know about Patristics and the exegesis of the Sermon on the Mount, and I can nuance my theology as much as I want to make sure it makes sense and takes all things into account. However, such careful meticulous construction of theological truths is not really possible when dealing with something like death. A nuanced explanation of eschatology does not do much for someone in hospice. So what do you do? You never cease to be true, but sometimes things need to be explained with a little more black and white than various shades of gray. As Mike asked, what do you think? 

After reading these words, I’m reminded that those whom we study to preach for, need more than just our preaching. It’s good to know theology, I would say it is necessary, but it is nice to be reminded that pastoral ministry requires doing things you cannot learn in a textbook: funerals of loved ones, weddings, baby dedications; they need ministers to give martial counsel and to visit the hospital when they are dying and to pray for them.

It is important to say that theology is vital. Theology informs our practice. Our practice in ministry is to be grounded in a robust theology. It is just as important to remember that ministry is being among your people, not just in your study practicing what you learned in hermeneutics class (a good and necessary tool for sermon preparation), but being at the hospitals and in the homes of your flock, perhaps having to deal with issues that you didn’t find in your seminary textbooks.


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