DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Growing as a Theologian

Written by: on November 29, 2018

Our source for this week reminded me of my theological travels. Like many of my seminary texts, oh how I wish I had been exposed to these helpful concepts sooner in my faith and pastoral journey. This source provides very helpful language and constructs for theological formation. While I appreciate my Pentecostal denominational roots, my theology was probably more of a folk/lay theology hybrid (somewhere I recall ours being described as “an experience looking for a theology”). Also, like many conservative streams of the church, deeper (and especially broader) theological development was viewed skeptically.

The deficiency of my theological preparation spoke to me loud and clear when I was thrust into my first pastorate. My perspective and my calling have always been of a pastor, and I view all theology and practices through the lens of application in the local church. I had faithfully pursued all of the distinctive resources and ministerial development stages of my particular denomination. Grenz and Olsen define three main tools in the development of one’s theology. These include the biblical message, the theological heritage of one’s particular church, and contemporary culture.[1] In my setting, these would have included a Thompson Chain version of the KJV, the theological heritage of our Pentecostal fellowship, and the contemporary culture of being a suburban couple transplanted to a small rural Texas town. Since these were the tools I was given, even though I worked with them diligently, in hindsight, they felt theologically inadequate.

My perceived dearth of theological development became heightened in my second pastorate which was in a congregation recovering from a split in a bedroom community of Houston. My biblical resources were somewhat updated, by that time I served our denomination locally by reviewing ministerial candidates and being back in the suburbs, I thought I would have less culture clash within our locale. I sought out and nurtured weekly times of prayer and friendship with three other area pastors who were all MDiv grads and appointed church planters of their respective denominations.

Up to this point, I assumed most of my pastoral leadership issues (and my insecurities) were due to my lack of formal seminary education (i.e., formal theological training.) Within my community of seminary trained pastor friends, I observed that while our (1) biblical messages were somewhat different and (2) our respective theological heritages were very different, (3) our contemporary culture and our respective pastoral leadership issues were identical. That is, I discovered I was already a theologian (although probably more of a lay theologian than a ministerial theologian)[2] and that we were all struggling with the issue of forming a contextually constructive theology.[3]

While never desiring to alter the gospel, I think most struggling pastors start with their local culture to counter the culture clashes in their respective churches. Without intending to, they can subtly approach cultural accommodation to grow alleged, healthy, vibrant, reproducing churches.[4] Even my well trained and educated pastor friends, were as susceptible as I to the latest popular book written by or a conference speaker who was a recognized large church pastor (after all if it works, it must be both true and reproducible, right?)

I so appreciate Grenz and Olson’s idea of an integrative motif.[5] Without realizing it at the time, my pastoral experiences led to my desperate search for a contextually constructive theology. This painful and fearful experience caused me to re-examine all of my theological heritage and associated biblical messages. I found them inadequate to bridge the gap of contemporary culture along with inadequate support and emphasis for deeper and especially broader theological development. Time and distance have now provided me with a perspective to see God’s redemption of this very dark and lonely season of my life and ministry.

Eventually, God sovereignly led me to where I am today, in the Association of Vineyard Churches. Their central idea of the Theology and Practice of the Kingdom of God has provided me with the integrative motif that I desperately needed. Scripture, a theological heritage that marries orthodoxy (including an appreciation for the entire history of the church) with Holy Spirit charismata, and the pursuit of cultural relevance are all viewed and understood through this integrative motif. In the Vineyard, I have found deep, and broad theological development within the community of scholars encouraged both within the Vineyard and across the church.

To summarize, Grenz and Olson have reminded us that we are already theologians and are charged to enhance our theological acumen.[6] As participants in Portland Seminary’s LGP, we are pursuing a call to become doctors of the church we all love. As we lead our respective ministries, let us ever grow as theologians and be faithful to serve the church well.

[1] Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996) 141.

[2] Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology?, 26-32.

[3] Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology?, 106.

[4] Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology?, 110-111.

[5] Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology?, 115-116.

[6] Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology?, 145.

 

About the Author

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Harry Fritzenschaft

Harry is the Pastor of Business Administration for the Vineyard Church of Houston and the Mentor Coach Coordinator for Vineyard USA. He is also a grateful member of the LGP9 cohort, pursuing a DMin in Leadership and Global Perspective. He is married to Gloria for over forty years and has two grown children; Mark and Michelle (who is married to Brandon and has two sons (Caleb and Judah.)) He loves making friends from different perspectives, watching college football with Mark, and helping ministry leaders (especially pastors) accomplish their goals in fulfilling their call.

8 responses to “Growing as a Theologian”

  1. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Harry, I always appreciate your practical, pastoral heart toward people. It is so important as we gain knowledge to anchor it in practice. There are many theorists, but those with scars from practice have the strongest grasp on their theology in my opinion.

    Our journeys sound somewhat similar and I have the same appreciation for The Foursquare Church.

  2. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Tammy,
    Blessings on you and I pray you and your community are recovering from recent tragedies. I have learned to accept the reality that everything I read and research is filtered through my perspective of the local church. Somewhere I recall (I wish I could cite the source), “Our theology is pounded out on the anvil of experience.” I think that is why I love pastors and the church so much, despite all of our flaws and deficiencies. I so respect your leadership calling to The Foursquare Church. Many times as a lonely solo pastor, Dr. Jack Hayford’s books and sermons helped me to get through the hard places. Many blessings on you and yours, H

  3. mm Mary Mims says:

    Oh Harry, how I agree that I wish we had these books earlier in our faith walk! However, I think that having made some missteps in our walk has made us appreciate what we are reading now, and has made our theology much stronger. We now have a much stronger foundation. I am sure that now you are much more effective than you think. Let us continue to grow!

    • mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Mary,
      You are so wise and so right, our missteps do motivate us to appreciate and incorporate what we are learning into our faith and practice. Truth be told, earlier in my ministry I “thought” I already knew what I needed or did not need to learn and incorporate. Painful experience is no doubt the best teacher of humility and a greater openness to God and his broader church. Thank you for your kind reminder that we get to continue to grow forward (together!) Blessings, H

  4. Mario Hood says:

    Thank you, Harry, for the insightful post. I agree with you on everything you have brought forth and am challenged to seek out my integrative motif.

  5. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Mario,
    Prior to Grenz and Olson, I would not have had this language. An integrative motif has really helped me to pull together what is healthy and works and view with caution those influences that seem to be out of synch with my integrative motif. I applaud your recognition and bless your search for what will help you pull together orthodoxy and orthopraxis. Blessings on you my good looking Brother, H

  6. I so liked reading through your blog and identifies with your journey in serving as a pastor and how you’ve grown in Theology. I always pray that my teachings in church are relevant and address the issues that are relevant and applicable to the congregants. Contextually constructive theology then becomes helpful and it was good reading the Grenz and Olson book.

  7. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Wallace,
    Always so good to read your thoughts and insights. Your heart for relevance in your teachings to your congregation (s) is wise and inspiring. I find Grenz and Olson’s contextually constructive theology so helpful and so practical. This is why we need never fear that we lose touch with people and ourselves as we continue to grow theologically. Blessings, Friend

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