Would John the Baptist have read the Harvard Business Review? (See comments).


What’s behind this question, I think, is the idea that the pastoral ministry is so different from any other kind of work that we cannot learn anything from other people in other walks of life. Is that idea correct? I say, no. For two reasons.

First, God used existing models of leadership to describe the pastor’s role and responsibilities. Every model of leadership in the Bible existed before God took it over to define, explain and illustrate the pastor’s role: shepherd, watchman, rabbi, captain, steward (or household manager), father, mother, judge, builder, etc. Not one of these models gives a complete picture of the pastor’s role. However, each one sheds significant light on one aspect of it. To understand our pastoral role better, we need to understand these other roles better.

Second, the sufficiency of Scripture, does not mean that the Bible gives specific or detailed guidance on every single problem or opportunity we face.  If it did, instead of having one book we can carry with us, we would have a library of volumes that we could never read in a lifetime.

Does that mean God has left us lacking something? No, of course not. God has given us sufficient general principles to work out and apply in every single specific situation. And sometimes we fill out the detail of the biblical principle by learning from non-biblical sources. John Piper put it like this:

To be obedient in the sciences we need to read science and study nature. To be obedient in economics we need to read economics and observe the world of business. To be obedient in sports we need to know the rules of the game. To be obedient in marriage we need to know the personality of our spouse. To be obedient as a pilot we need to know how to fly a plane.

The sufficiency of Scripture means we don’t need any more special revelation. We don’t need any more inspired, inerrant words. In the Bible God has given us, we have the perfect standard for judging all other knowledge. All other knowledge stands under the judgment of the Bible.

John Calvin used the illustration of spectacles to explain this [Inst.1.6.1]. He said that the Bible is not only what we read, but what we read with. We use its pages as spectacles to view and read the world and the knowledge God has distributed throughout it. Calvin explains:

The human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. . . . We will be careful . . . not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears.[Inst.1.2.15]

If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole foundation of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God. Shall we say that the philosophers were blind in their fine observation and artful description of nature?  . . .  No, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without great admiration. But if the Lord has willed that we be helped in physics, dialectic, mathematics, and other like disciplines, by the work and ministry of the ungodly, let us use this assistance. For if we neglect God’s gift freely offered in these arts, we ought to suffer just punishment for our sloths.[2.2.15-16]

Take time management, for example. We are given some principles in the Bible about time, some of which are explicit and some of which are deduced. But we can be greatly helped to redeem the time by reading modern books on time management and organization—again, never leaving our spectacles off but rather reading and checking this knowledge with the Bible.

In some cases the Scriptures will be explicit. In others we can deduce helpful principles. But in some areas we need to use our Bible as spectacles to read and learn from the knowledge God has distributed and deposited in the world.

Are there dangers in this approach? Of course there are. Have some adopted unbiblical models from the world? Sadly, yes. We always have to be careful that we do not adopt the world’s standards or practices just because they work or are fashionable. However, with the help of prayer, the Holy Spirit and Scriptural spectacles, pastors can learn from non-pastors.