Willie E. Hucks II is the associate editor of Ministry.

Illustration 1: Riding home from church one Sabbath afternoon, my then four-year-old daughter asked me, “Daddy, does Jesus love the devil?” My wife and I looked at each other in amazement while quickly pondering her query. Although I knew the answer, I was stunned nevertheless. Stunned not only because I had never been asked that question, but because it came from a four-year-old.

Illustration 2: Early during my congregational ministry, young people often asked me why we are not supposed to attend movies. Their inquiries were often prompted because they saw a double standard that forbade attending theaters, while hardly anyone ever spoke against watching movies on television at home. They were not angry with what they felt was the church’s position; rather, they were seeking solid biblical support upon which to decide what to do and what not to do.

Illustration 3: Many churches have debated the use of various musical instruments in church— such discussions usually taking place within the context of wanting to liven up the worship services. While people often simplistically couch such conversations within the framework of older-versus-younger members or cultural background, these deliberations transpire across a broad spectrum of people groups.

One commonality

These three settings have one thing in common: each begs a theological response that differs from the customary answer we as ministers often give. Those who inquire seek scriptural principles upon which they can construct a philosophy that governs their relationship with God and others.

For the average church member to contact some well-known theologian every time they faced a theological conundrum would be difficult, if not impossible. Indeed, it is impractical and, most of the time, unnecessary to do so. The answer to many of their questions already resides in their congregation: the pastor! Pastors serve as the resident theologians for their congregations.

While pastors understandably do not possess the answer to every question that comes their way, they are the ones who wrestle with divine revelation and place it in a setting where their church members can experience this for themselves. Indeed, pastors are ideally suited for such a task because they, more than most other ministers, live life in the environment of the day-to-day challenges people experience. They battle alongside their church members as the members face the daily issues that threaten their mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. And the person most accessible to the congregation is the pastor.

My own pastoral-theological journey

There were many questions I was forced to wrestle with early in my pastoral ministry. Among them were, When should we baptize a person (upon their acceptance of Christ as their Savior and Lord, or after a lengthy series of Bible studies)? Will a person who commits suicide be eternally lost? What should the church’s response be to those in the neighborhood who repeatedly come to the church for aid—especially monetary assistance? If Jesus says, “I come quickly” (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20, KJV), then why hasn’t He returned yet? I do not doubt that as you read this editorial you can add many more queries to this list.

As pastors, we have quickly discovered that while we do not necessarily need to possess a doctorate in biblical studies, systematic theology, or ethics, we do need to capably perform the task known as theology. And such is a critical task to perform because everyone does it. Everyone develops their own understanding of how God wants them to think, speak, and act. And it is our job to do it in a responsible manner so that our preaching and teaching may remain informative and enlightening. Furthermore, pastors who invest the time in “correctly handl[ing] the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, NIV) create, as it were, church members who develop a healthy respect for studying the Word for themselves and allow it to speak to their hearts without the presuppositional baggage that leads to false interpretations of what the Holy Spirit says to them.

Ponder the possibilities

This issue features several theologians (here I use the term theologian in the sense that they are those who perform biblical theology and/or applied theology) who wrestle with questions that perhaps you yourself have pondered. But if not, their approaches are instructive in that we all, on a daily basis, address questions that others pose to us or we pose to ourselves.

May God bless us as we lead those to whom we minister into a better understanding of what God has revealed to us through His prophets.

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Willie E. Hucks II is the associate editor of Ministry.

November 2010

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