local theology: local theologian(s)

October 22, 2009

I’m long over due on writing more thoughts in my ongoing series on Local Theology. I have notes with thoughts for several more posts scratched out and I will keep working them out as I find the energy to put toward them.

On my Austin Mustard Seed business card, I have a title that almost always draws a comment when someone takes the time to look at my card when I hand it to them:

John Chandler, pastor / local theologian

The usual responses are “Local theologian…I like that.” Or “Local theologian…what does that mean?” Or confusion.

I like all of these responses, because they all lead to a conversation where I can talk a little more about why I’ve chosen that title. When I crafted my job description (thanks to the prodding of the IRS), I divvied my responsibilities into three roles, with Local Theogian heading the list as the primary responsibility. It reads this way:

Local Theologian – The pastor serves as a local theologian by connecting an understanding God’s ongoing work in creation with the unique contemporary context of Austin. Functions of this responsibility include:

  • Deep listening to the Scriptural narrative, the Christian tradition, and the cultural influences of Austin as a means of engaging the three with one another.
  • Form the church community around the core values of Story, Wholeness, and Presence through teaching and interaction.
  • Invite the church community into local and global mission and justice as an expression of a theology shaped not only around ideas, but action.

Looking back at the language of this even a year after writing it, I still like it very much. But I am challenged by one thing. My friend, and fellow pastor in Austin, Jonathan Dodson once said that he wanted to develop Austin City Life to be a church full of theologians. (Sorry Jonathan, I don’t recall when I heard this from you…maybe you can help me.)

Local Theology is not something that just I should do within our church community. Some of the expressions might vary, but I would love to see the description of a local theologian above be true for each member of our community.

On future printing of my business card, I’m considering changing the title to Lead Theologian to express that this is something I am drawing the entire community into. My only hangup with this title is that it removes the word Local, which is critical to the whole point.

Good thing I have plenty of business cards left to allow me ample time to decide.

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