Note: This post on the January 2012 RBS Theology module was originally posted on a now defunct predecessor to The Decablog. An audio slideshow of the module has been posted by RBS here. You will notice if you click that link that the freeze-frame on the slideshow is a profile shot of my fellow Decablogger. Nice shot, Nick.
From January 23-27, Reformed Baptist Seminary hosted a module class on Pastoral Theology in Greenville, SC. The RBS syllabus describes the course as
A systematic and practical study regarding the nature and methodologies of pastoral ministry in the church. Includes an analysis of the pastor’s role as leader, administrator, shepherd, counselor, and trainer, as well as his relationship to his fellow-elders, deacons, and other church staff.
There are other available courses in the RBS catalog which deal more extensively with specific matters of pastoral ministry such as counseling and preaching. Pastoral Theology is like the skeleton which unites the larger body of a practical ministerial education in that it provides shape and form and is connected to all the other sundry emphases which make for a well rounded Shepherd of the flock of God. I was privileged to be in attendance and would like to offer some brief reflections.
While Pastor Robert Selph served as the primary instructor for the course, he was joined in the work of presenting lectures by Pastors Tom Ascol, Gary Hendrix, and Donny Martin; as well as Dr. Mark L. Ward Jr. The wisdom in spreading out the lectures between these men was apparent in two ways. First, their diverse backgrounds and experiences expanded and enriched the perspectives on ministry which they presented to the students. You get a more nuanced and balanced picture of the ministry when you are drawing off more than just one man’s counsel. Second (and paradoxically), the significant commonality and overlap of a core set of themes among the men served to drive home the weight of those very central issues. Again and again the various Pastors returned to themes such as the necessity of maintaining a personal and vital communion with God; the grave responsibility a man in the ministry has to guard and treasure his wife and children more than he does his work; and the foundational role of Christ as the one who calls men into and then enables, blesses, and sustains fruitful and faithful pastoral labors.
While the materials presented were all very helpful, each man had one or two lectures which especially stood out as stirring and profitable.
For Pastor Selph, this was his presentation on Pastoral Evangelism and Equipping, which surveyed both the biblical and historical data regarding the role of every church member in the furtherance of the gospel, as well as his various practical helps and directives concerning day to day ministerial labors. His true pastor’s heart came through in the details, as he even offered advise on how to sit, speak to, and hold the hand of those approaching this life’s final hours.
Pastor Ascol provided the students with an excellent study entitled The Necessity of Accommodation and the Danger of Compromise in the Life and Ministry of the Church. In this lecture he demonstrated that accommodation and compromise are not fundamentally two principles in tension and conflict, they are of a different species from each other entirely. We are never commanded, nor allowed to compromise biblical truth and principle; yet we are we are duty bound by love to be as accommodating as we can be to others weaknesses for the sake of the gospel.
Pastor Hendrix gave four lectures entitled The Pastor with God, The Pastor with himself, The Pastor with his sermon, and The Pastor with the Army of the Lord. The students were made the beneficiaries of Pastor Hendrix’s 41 years in the same pastorate, and all four lectures were deep wells of hard earned wisdom and advice. However, the final lecture on The Pastor with the Army of the Lord stood out as unique, the sort of address that leaves the room silent for a few extra seconds when it is over. More than any other words spoken last week, the words still ringing in my ears are
Our objective is not to get to heaven fat and without wounds, it is to attack and drive back the gates of hell and save as many as Christ gives us. Our objective is to come to the end exhausted, battle worn, and bloody; but convinced we have fought the good fight. -Pastor Gary Hendrix (based on my hand written notes, may be slightly paraphrased and any error is obviously do to my transmission as opposed to his presentation)
Pastor Martin’s materials centered around issues of counseling, church discipline, and conflict resolution. His lecture notes provide a handbook in these areas which will be turned to again and again throughout as many years as the Lord is pleased to give me in His ministry. However, Pastor Martin’s last lecture was a little different from his others, although in truth it provided the unifying theme and foundation to not only his other materials but for all the various topics and subjects addressed over the five day class. The title of that lecture was From Grace to Grace: The Pastor and the Preeminence of Grace in All Aspects of Ministry. Much could be said about this exposition and application of John 1:14, but the most direct charge given was this: make audacious claims about grace in your church. We have been lavished with grace upon grace, and it is this grace alone which will both stoke the fires of our ministry and keep us persevering in the service of Christ and His church.
Dr. Mark L. Ward Jr. gave two excellent lectures entitled Technology Givith, and Technology Taketh Away. Dr. Ward is an engaging and effective communicator, and he peppered his talks with practical advice and genuine humor. These were extremely helpful and fascinating, especially the materials relating to the ways that our tools and technologies shape our culture and even our minds. I hope to consider these materials in greater detail at a future date. For those interested in these matters, Dr. Ward has a great blog you may want to take a look at.
As I reflect back on the experiences of the week I am amazed that so much was packed into a week long module format. In addition to the excellent times of teaching and instruction, it was a joy to meet men from all over the country and hear about their various ministries. I am also thankful for the labors of Seminary Dean Dr. Robert Gonzales, videographer Ryan Hobson, and all the saints of Grace Baptist Church in Taylors, SC who helped out during the week.
There is much that I do not yet know about the Lord’s plans to use me in the service of His kingdom, but I am convinced that I will be more useful and better prepared for having attended this course on Pastoral Theology.