Len Evans has a good article on 10 things that youth pastors can do to make themselves indispensable. It is well worth reading. In fact, I think he is right on with many of his thoughts. There are a few things that I’d tweak, but really, good thoughts.
There is one exception to this. I’ll quote the relevant text here, but I really would encourage you to head over to Len’s site and have a look for yourself.
6. Pay attention to doctrine.
Read more books about theology than about leadership, Christian living, or youth ministry. Theology is the foundation of all you do in ministry and in life. If you learn to teach theology clearly and relevantly, you’ll be valued as a rare commodity.
On the one hand, I think this is right on. The days of youth pastors who don’t know the difference between ecclesiology and eschatology must end. Youth pastors should know their theology well. Even if they aren’t theology geeks, they should be able to hold a discussion about theology, knowing the more important points. However, I take issue with Len’s second sentence. Theology is not the foundation of all we do in ministry and life. I realize that many people, when they use the term theology, simply mean “the Bible.” The problem is that in our current western Christian context theology is often so horribly disconnected from what the Bible actually says that there is little similarity between the two. I think much of the blame for this rests squarely on the shoulders of systematic theology. We have too often, as Christians, attempted to systematize a book (the Bible) that simply resists systematization. As a result of this we have had to create systems of theology that ignore certain parts of the Bible.
The Rabbi once told me that one should be a Calvinist, and an Arminian. He went further and said we should be okay with God’s openness and yet hold such doctrines suspect. The whole point he was making was that the Bible, at various points, says various things, systematizing them is impossible. So I would change what Len is saying here. I would say that youth pastors need to read the Bible more, or that they should read more critical commentaries or books about the Bible (a la N.T. Wright, Walter Brueggemann, Craig Evans, Scot McKnight, etc) than they read books on leadership or youth ministry. Basically, just replace “theology” with “the Bible” and I think Len is absolutely correct.
I’m curious on your thoughts. Am I just playing too much with semantics? Is there really a difference between theology and the Bible, or as big a difference as I make it out to be?