In this blog we continue to hear from some who fulfill the role of Pastor-as-Scholar in their church. Scott Jones is a full time pastor and will soon defend his dissertation titled, “Pastoral Leadership For Congregational Change: An Evaluation of Edwin Friedman’s Theory of Nonanxious Leadership in Congregations,” in order to complete his Ph.D. degree from B. H. Carroll Theological Institute. Scott attended Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas where he received his undergraduate degree in English with a minor in Speech Communication. It was at Howard Payne where he met Kim and were married in 1993. Kim and Scott both attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where Scott received a Master of Divinity with Biblical Languages. He served in student ministry for ten years until God called him into the pastorate. Kim and Scott have a son, Michael, and a daughter, Kathryn.
Q: Where do you serve as a pastor, and were you in this position as you worked on your doctoral degree? Describe some of the struggles you encountered as you went through the disciple of a doctoral degree.
I am the senior pastor at First Baptist Church, Rockport, TX. I became pastor here about the same time I began the Ph.D. program.
I constantly struggled with knowing where and how to invest my time and emotional energy: care of self, family, church, or school. Too often I allowed taking care of myself take a backseat to everything else. There were times I managed better than others. The support of my family, friends, church, and school made the difference.
I don’t remember struggling with doubt over whether or not I was smart enough or talented enough to complete a doctoral degree. The real struggle was whether or not I would be able to devote enough time and grit to develop all the disciplines necessary to go the distance and do good work. I believed doctoral work was important to me and to my church and was therefore worthy of the time spent doing it, even when I had to sacrifice time from other worthy areas of my life.
Q: In what ways has your doctoral studies benefitted your ministry as pastor of your church?
I think my teaching and preaching has improved. I think I better understand things about the pastorate which help me to be a better pastor/teacher. I think I am more confident and relaxed, able to endure scrutiny and critique without feeling too threatened. I think I am better able to see things from a different perspective and help others to do the same.
Q: What value does your church place on you as a pastor/scholar?
I think my church places a high value on me as a pastor/scholar as evidenced by the investment they made in me while working on my doctorate. The church was generous with my time, counting my study time for school as office time, allowing me sufficient time away to participate in school functions and study, and granting me a three-month sabbatical to work on my dissertation. The church was generous with financial support. Many members contributed to a scholarship fund for me. Church members were very supportive and encouraging. They were faithful to pray for and encourage us through this whole process.
Q: Do you believe pastor/scholar is a value that should be reestablished in local church pastoral ministry? Why or why not?
I think pastors would benefit for having a continuing education/training plan for themselves, whether for academic credit or not. If the world is truly constantly changing, then pastors need to challenge themselves to stay sharp. Some have described pastors as the resident theologians in their churches. If this is true, then pastors will need to sharpen their critical thinking skills and the ability to be aware of God’s activity in the world and how to interpret God’s activity for parishioners to grasp. As resident theologians, pastors can also challenge parishioners and other pastors to develop the skill of theological reflection and life-long learning.
Q: While not everyone will pursue a terminal degree as part of their pastoral training, what are one or two reasons why you believe pastors should have some kind of seminary training as they serve the local church?
Personally, I want to be as well-equipped as I possibly can be to fulfill my calling as pastor of a local church. The church and God’s kingdom both deserve my preparation. Professionally, I want to be trained, skill, and proficient within my profession. I expect other professionals to meet some minimum standards of training or proficiency. I expect that of myself in regard to ministry.
What questions or comments do you have for Scott?