Light from the Third Great Awakening: Harold Ockenga and the Call to Future Pastor-Theologians by Owen Strachan

April 27, 2018

Light from the Third Great Awakening: Harold Ockenga and the Call to Future Pastor-Theologians

Owen Strachan

Owen Strachan (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), is associate
professor of Christian Theology and director of the Center for Public Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Pastor as Public Theologian (with Kevin Vanhoozer, Baker Academic) and Awakening the Evangelical Mind (Zondervan Academic).

Abstract: Something remarkable transpired in the mid-twentieth century. Just as the First Great Awakening reset the ecclesiastical paradigm along gospel-demarcated lines in the 1700s, and just as the Second Great Awakening redrew the Protestant map through the explosion of upstart groups like the Baptists and Methodists, so the Third Great Awakening of the neo-evangelical years fundamentally recalibrated and repositioned evangelicalism for unprecedented expansion and activity.

Many individuals contributed to this galaxy-formation. Upon close reflection, however, Harold Ockenga—with Billy Graham and Carl Henry—formed the three horsemen of the Neo-Evangelical Resurgence. It is the purpose of this article to first explore Ockenga’s significance for the current day, as the twenty-first century church’s experience mirrors that of the neo-evangelicals some 60–70 years ago. Ockenga offers us an example of a richly theological pastorate, and a pulpit that majored in doctrine over storytelling and sentimentality.

In what follows, we shall see that, in a doctrinally-deficient era like ours, Ockenga offers the rising generations of pastors a faithful model to which to aspire and, God allowing, assume. This model we call the pastor-theologian. After showing what the pastor-theologian is and is to be, we offer five considerations for the rising generation of shepherds of God’s flock, considerations that together urge the church to invest in
the doctrinal formation, personal courage, and theistic confidence of its pastors.
Key Words: Harold Ockenga, pastor theologian, shepherding, pastoral theology, doctrinal formation

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