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. 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) and that we were all struggling with the issue of forming a contextually constructive theology.
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. 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. 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. 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.
 Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996) 141.
 Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology?, 26-32.
 Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology?, 106.
 Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology?, 110-111.
 Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology?, 115-116.
 Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology?, 145.