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Biblical Theology and Pastoral Ministry

One of the challenges facing biblical theology is making it applicable to the local church and pastoral ministry.  However, when we recognize that we are part of God’s ongoing redemptive plan we quickly discover how the story of Scripture has implications for the church and ministry.  I am grateful that over the past year or so there have been some good resources that address how biblical theology is applied to the church and pastoral ministry.  

Michael Lawrence, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church.  Lawrence has done the church a tremendous service by providing in one volume a book that covers the what, how, and why of biblical theology.  In the first section of the book, Lawrence spends a good deal of time on what biblical theology is and how it relates to systematic theology.  This section of the book is especially helpful for those unfamiliar with biblical theology.  Lawrence then shows how biblical theology is done by providing five examples on various themes from Scripture.  The final section of the book is most helpful.  Lawrence spends time explaining why biblical theology is important for the church and applies the discipline to various aspects of ministry: preaching, teaching, counseling, missions, et al.  If you are seasoned in biblical theology you might find the first two sections of the book a repeat from things you have read and learned elsewhere.  If you are not seasoned in biblical theology then carefully chew on what Lawrence has to say in those two sections.  Regardless of whether you are conversant or new to biblical theology the last portion of the book is where it all comes together.   Lawrence’s book is a great resource to introduce others to biblical theology while showing its practical benefits for the local church and pastoral ministry.

Michael R. Emlet, CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet.   Emlet’s book came out near the end of 2009, but I did not read until recently.  It is by far one of the best books I have read this year.  In his book, Emlet seeks to apply biblical theology to pastoral ministry.  Specifically, he wants to show how biblical theology is essential and applicable for counseling.  Emlet spends several chapters talking about what the Bible is and is not.  This part of the book is important, since it helps readers understand that proper biblical interpretation is crucial for effective counseling.  Emlet argues that a correct interpretation of the Bible is done when Christ is seen as the sum and substance of God’s Word.  Believers must understand redemptive-history if they are to properly apply the Bible.  In the next portion of the book, Emlet states that all people live by some story.  Although people are directed by all sorts of stories, the story that should govern our lives is the story of Scripture.  Emlet explains how to connect the story of Scripture to the lives of people in a way that is responsible and meaningful.  Emlet provides some helpful categories of understanding the lives of people (saint, sufferer, and sinner) and then shows how Scripture addresses each of them in a biblical-theological way.  In the last four chapters of the book, Emlet unpacks how to apply biblical theology to counseling with two different people and situations.   Emlet has provided a helpful book for pastors.  I found myself agreeing with him again and again.  Whether you are a pastor or not, purchase CrossTalk and be encouraged to see how biblical theology is applicable to the lives of God’s people. 

Here are a few other resources on applying biblical theology to the church and pastoral ministry. 

R. J. Gibson, ed., Interpreting God’s Plan: Biblical Theology and the Pastor.  A collection of essays from the faculty at Moore Theological College on the importance and application of biblical theology for the pastor.

Scott J. Hafemann, ed., Biblical Theology: Restrospect & Prospect.  In this book there is a short essay by Graeme Goldsworthy entitled, “Biblical Theology as the Heartbeat of Effective Ministry.”

Graeme Goldsworthy lectures at Southern Seminary on biblical theology.  His lectures are in MP3 and PDF format.  Pay special attention to the one on “Biblical Theology and Its Pastoral Application.”  See them here.

Read anything by the authors and faculty of CCEF.  CCEF is a ministry that seeks to provide and train the church and pastors with a gospel-centered approach to counseling.  Interestingly, Michael Emlet is a faculty member at CCEF and one of their required courses is a class on biblical interpretation.  Learn more about CCEF here.

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