I read an article while on vacation on the Building Church Leaders website called; “The Pastor as an ‘Organic Intellectual’” While the term organic is highly misused in our culture, I had never seen the words “organic” and “intellectual” used together.

The idea was described as the pastor’s special charge is to care for the people of God by speaking and showing, being and doing God’s truth and love. Success in ministry in this sense is determined not by numbers (e.g., people, programs, dollars) but by the increase of people’s knowledge and love of God. This is the only way “to present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). Pastors are to be in and among the people (organic ministry) while introducing them to truth of God. (intellectual)

My seminary leadership professor once described the peculiar passion for his own vocation in the following terms: “The joy of teaching lies not in one’s own enthusiasm for the students, or even for the subject matter, but rather for the privilege of introducing the one to the other.”

If this is true of teaching leadership classes, or chemistry or history for that matter, how much more is it true of the pastor’s passion, which is not simply love of God or love of people, but rather the love of introducing the one (people) to the other (God)?

In some ways, pastors must be public theologians. But pastor-theologians, in order to minister truth, must also be “intellectuals.” An intellectual is one who speaks meaningfully and truthfully about broad topics of ultimate social concern.

The truth of God’s plan for the world is clearly such an issue! Indeed, even to speak of “God” is to address a topic of potentially universal concern. Surely, we would not want those who speak of God’s plan for the world to be anti-intellectual?

What do I mean by “intellectual”? There are intellectuals in the academia as well as society, but they are few and far between. Most academics are specialists: they know a lot about a little, but they are often tongue-tied when forced to address the big questions.

Yet on a regular basis pastors address the big questions – questions of life and death, meaning and meaninglessness, heaven and hell, the physical and spiritual.

To be sure, no church wants a pastor to be an intellectual if this means being so cerebral and preoccupied with ideas that one cannot relate to other people. This kind of intellectual is so theoretical as to be practically good for nothing. However, the kind of intellectual I have in mind is a particular kind of generalist who knows how to relate big truths to real people.

While I am not parading myself as some super smarty-pants intellectual in the academic sense, there are certainly some similarities in the marks of a pastor that mirrors the biblical mandate that we are to be shepherds, and Ill explore that a bit more next week.