Interview with Pastor Paul Lamey
Dr. Paul Lamey is one of our seven TES campus pastors, having served as pastor of preaching and leadership development at Grace Community Church in Huntsville, AL since 2002. Today we have the opportunity to check in with Paul and hear about his first year and a half of being part of The Expositors Seminary.
TES: Paul, your church in Huntsville just became part of TES a year and a half ago. Why don’t you start by telling us what classes you’ve taught and what the experience has been like for you personally over the last 18 months.
Dr. Lamey: It’s been a fast 18 months! It is thrilling to walk out of my study at the church, down the hall, and into a classroom of our own seminary students. What’s more, we are joined with six other church campuses in a live atmosphere that is rigorous, pastoral, and bustling with energy.
I have dropped in as a guest lecturer across a few disciplines, but most recently I finished teaching a sixteen-week theology class on bibliology [the doctrine of Scripture]. We are asking our students to be “men of the Book,” so naturally bibliology is a sweet blend of exegesis, systematics, biblical, and practical theological disciplines. I want our men to hold to a theology that is self-attesting at every level according to Scripture. This means, in essence, that issues like inerrancy, inspiration, and canonicity must first arise from the text of Scripture. So, for example, our understanding of the canon is not handed down to us by historic decrees but comes from the very nature of Scripture itself, since it possessed divine qualities before the ink was dry.
I also want our students to understand that our bibliology is not historically novel. It has become de rigueur for some to charge that inerrancy, for example, is a modern North American concern or notion. When I hear or read such things, I immediately know that such statements are desperate political posturing with no grounding in the historical record of the church. We stand firmly within the great heritage of key theologians on this issue whether one is talking about Warfield, Bavinck, Owen, Turretin, Calvin, or Luther. Even the apostolic fathers are quite lucid, though their bibliology was often assumed more than proactively defended. Collectively, the fathers continually point us back to Scripture as uniquely inspired by God. As early as 1 Clement (ca. AD 96) we are told, “You have studied the Holy Scriptures, which are true, and given by the Holy Spirit. You know that nothing unjust or counterfeit is written in them.”
This semester I am teaching one of our pastoral ministry courses, which is a significant change of pace from teaching theology. I’m covering a gamut of pastoral care disciplines such as weddings, funerals, and ministering to the sick, bereaved, and dying. I find the practice of personal pastoral care is often overlooked by young pastors. Our cultural practices of isolation make these personal aspects of ministry quite challenging. Nonetheless, as shepherds we must never be aimless and aloof from the sheep the Lord has entrusted to our care. I love the fact that these men will soon go into churches and not only faithfully preach the Word every week but lovingly walk with the souls God has placed in their care.
TES: Tell us about the church and the other elders and what role they’ve played in the training of these men.
Dr. Lamey: The students on our campus have constant exposure to our elders in a variety of ways. After new students become acclimated to the new environment, we begin to pull them into pastoral discussions, monthly elder meetings, and this year we are taking some on our annual elders’ retreat. Through the ministries of our church students are often in different elder homes for small groups, studies, and fellowships.
Probably the most important shaping influence on our students is their being grounded in the regular life of our church family. It’s one thing for me to assign them 700 pages of reading in theology, but their theology is truly cultivated when they are groomed by the daily fellowship of God’s people. After all, it is churches that train, affirm, and send pastors into ministry. The seminary is only one aspect of that recognition process.
TES: What kind of response have you gotten from the men there in Huntsville who are enrolled at TES? Anything in particular that has encouraged your heart?
Dr. Lamey: It’s always interesting to hear the various perspectives. I think some enter with romantic or idealized notions of pastoral ministry. They learn very quickly what we are attempting to do cannot be relegated to a classroom or a pulpit on Sunday. Pastoral ministry is a fully involved labor of love, which means we are not preachers who occasionally pastor but pastors who get to preach. It’s fun to watch students eventually “get it.” One student recently told me he now understands the unseen aspects of pastoral ministry are what gives fuel to faithful pastoral preaching. I want our men to nurture a deep love for Christ so that they will love what He loves. When this is true of a pastor, it becomes obvious to all and this Christ-ward love flows through the character of their ministry.
TES: And lastly, what word of encouragement would you offer to our men as they strive to be faithful as students and pastoral residents at TES?
Dr. Lamey: Give thanks to God every day for the Father’s amazing grace, the Son’s sin-conquering love, and the Spirit’s making us alive to life in God. Watch the character of your life closely, nurture your family carefully, dive deep into the local church, and love God’s people fervently. Keep watch on your doctrine and don’t relegate it to a shelf in your study. Finally, even though you will forget so much of what you learn in the classroom, master your English Bibles.