As a professor of the New Testament at BLI, I certainly believe that rigorous academic study in theology is very important! WHY? Because what you believe will determine WHAT you preach, teach, and do in the pastoral ministry. So many self-help ministry books focus on recent trends, relevance, and quick results. However, genuine ministry cannot be easily quantified into sterile categories. Long-term ministry is better served by a foundation of good theology which then relates to the parishioner’s lives.
My two published books demonstrate what I mean about the importance of theology in pastoral work. In my theology composition, The Wisdom of the Cross and the Power of the Spirit I reveal the two important theological topics in my ministry. First, and foremost, our message must be about the cross. I believe from scripture (see 1 Cor. 1:18, Gal 6:14) that every sermon we preach must lead people to the cross of Jesus. Our worship must be focused on the gospel or we are not performing our task as a pastor. As well, without a relationship with the Holy Spirit, ministry will become dry and impersonal.
The Spirit is the Paraclete, “the one called alongside to help” us minister with the people (John 14:26; 15:26). Only the Holy Spirit provides the power to serve in the ministry with all the various people we encounter. My book details the exegetical and theological concepts behind the impetus of my ministry for thirty years. I know, without this foundation of theology, that I would not have finished as a pastor. There are too many obstacles and hidden landmines that can crush your work in the church. Without a strong theology of the cross and the Spirit, we will quit because of the stumbling blocks we encounter.
My second book, The Call describes my service for almost twenty-four years at Trinity United Christian Church in Lower Burrell PA. The middle section of The Call supports my theology of ministry, which is evangelism and discipleship. Why has my emphasis remained in these two areas? Because of my theology! The cross informs me that my eternal goal remains to lead people to Christ.
That aspiration is my main vocation as a minister. Additionally, discipleship involves small group ministry in conjunction with the Holy Spirit. The gospel message of the cross and the power of the Spirit is revealed weekly in my messages. Because of my theological study, I have taught the church family that, as the author of Hebrews wrote, “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Heb 10:24-25).
I note in The Wisdom of the Cross and the Power of the Spirit that “a grounded theology is necessary for practical faith” (Wisdom of Cross, p. 145.) My meticulous years of study in college and seminary brought me to the conclusion that I must emphasize these two important ideas in the ministry. A healthy and biblical church must ground herself in a theology of the cross and Spirit! I believe, as you study and prepare for ministry, you must come to your own conclusions about the WHY behind your ministry work so that WHAT you do relates to what you believe! That is your CALLING from the Lord!
Church growth books are great, but they must be filtered by good theology. If you are Reformed, you will look at aspects of the ministry differently than if you are Wesleyan. BLI can help you unpack those ideas so that you can critically analyze scripture, theology and church history. Then as you apply these principles, your church will understand their purpose as they reach into their spheres of influence for Jesus. We are to REACH, TOUCH, and BLESS our generation for Christ. May your theology lay the groundwork for your life and ministry.
You can read more from Dr. Hull on his website or his two books The Wisdom of the Cross and the Power of the Spirit and The Call: My Mission and Our Ministry at Trinity United Christian Church, Lower Burrell PA