How does a pastor keep learning theology throughout their ministry?

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I’m taking a sabbatical from ordained ministry at present, which is providing space for study and writing of the kind most of us find tricky in the usual press of weekly pastoral and preaching work.

Over the years I’ve at times taken a study day once a month, and more recently have followed advice of wise people like Bill Hybels, doing at least 30 minutes of (his term) “serious” reading every day (not newspapers, not sermon prep!), and setting myself stretching targets of theological and other reading each year. That has all helped enormously not just to keep my brain ticking, but to deepen faith and love for God, for which I am grateful.

One brilliant new resource for those of us (most?) who struggle to keep up our use of the Biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) after college is this one on Vimeo, Daily Dose of Greek, where Rob Plummer of Southern Seminary in Kentucky, USA, reads a short daily verse (in charming southern-accented NT Greek) and then parses and translates, one verse per day. Absolutely brilliant; I have been using it for the last few weeks, and it takes no time at all.

I’m not aware of a Hebrew version yet, but in this article on the TGC site Trevin Wax interviews Plummer giving other advice on keeping your Greek strong, such as using it in daily Bible reading and sermon prep, and taking a Greek study retreat each year. I’m planning to do a Hebrew revision week during my current sabbatical, but you may have other ideas on how to keep and improve our understanding of Biblical languages?

My main sabbatical reading and writing is in the area of apologetics, faith and reason, and it has struck me how few study groups I am aware of among ministers to sharpen our thinking and practice in this key part of theology and evangelism. I like the apologetics315 website for its enormous list of resources (books, blogs, videos) about the theory of giving reasons for our faith, and about the reasons we can give. From that site, there’s clearly more of this already in the US than in the UK, but surely we should work harder at getting together to discuss and learn from each other why and how to defend the faith in our postchristian and pluralist culture? Or is “just preaching the gospel” really all people need to see the light?

OK, there is OCCA and Zacharias Trust, there is the Cambridge Summer Course in Apologetics, and there are great specialists like McGrath and Lennox doing work on science and new atheism. But do let me know any resources, study groups, or courses for pastors and thoughtful church members which you know on apologetics and “reasonable faith” in the UK.

If the apostle Paul, with his pharisaic training and Damascus Road revelation, still called for “the books and parchments” at the end of his ministry, I suggest we all in pastoral ministry need to find ways to feed our hearts and minds with the truth of the gospel, so that we avoid Greek apostasy (and all other kinds) and “finish our race” stronger than when we started it.

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