Dr. Douglas D. Webster is today's Friday Faculty Feature. Dr. Webster is professor of divinity at Beeson, where he teaches courses in pastoral theology and Christian preaching. Before coming to Beeson Divinity School, he was the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church of San Diego (1993-2007).
Where are you from?
Once when I was ordering coffee at O’Henry’s, the barista asked, “You’re not from here, are you?” My Yankee accent must have given me away. I answered, “I was born in Buffalo, NY,” adding, “but for fourteen years I pastored a church in downtown San Diego.” She quipped, “Oh, all those pagan places.” Since I couldn’t leave it at that, I volunteered that I found it easier to preach the gospel in those pagan places than in the South. She looked at me quizzically and wrinkled up her nose. We left it at that. I grew up in a wonderful Christian home, and, if I parent my three kids and grandparent my five grandkids the way I was parented, I’d be very pleased. I think the Lord would be, too.
Why pastoral ministry?
I never pictured myself becoming a pastor. What introverted teen wants to become, a glad-handing, gregarious center of attention? The preachers in my world all sounded alike. Even in conversation they sounded like they were talking to a crowd. Their preaching voice was their conversational voice, at least when they were on the job. The pressure to be “the man of the moment” must have been a constant strain. But as a teen I was captivated by Jeremiah, the prophet, and struggled to understand the Apostle John’s Revelation. I’m pretty sure becoming a pastor and then a seminary teacher was in the plan all along, but I didn’t get the memo until much later.
What do you enjoy about being in the classroom?
Pastoring and preaching make the classroom third on my list, until I realized that I can be a pastor in the classroom and preaching takes many forms. I love the idea of being involved with a pastoral team Monday through Friday—my Beeson students. I count it a privilege to work with like-minded disciples who really want to understand the Bible, grow in Christ, preach the gospel, and serve the household of faith.
What are some of the most important lessons you hope students will learn from you?
I’m only half-joking when I share with students that I’m preparing them for churches that don’t exist. Yet. I’m into preaching the whole counsel of God in the household of faith for the sake of Christ’s kingdom. I’m not big on training people-pleasing-pastors who see their church job as satisfying the passive spiritual consumer of cultural Christianity. I want to encourage the priesthood of all believers coupled with a Christ-for-culture understanding of evangelism and mission.
What courses do you teach and what excites you about your courses?
I regularly teach pastoral theology and preaching, along with several electives, such as, Preaching Christ from Genesis to Revelation, Soulcraft: How God Shapes Us In Relationships, and Faith and Vocation. I also love teaching in Beeson’s Lay Academy. The privilege of being able to teach Bible and theology to serious students of the Word is a tremendous responsibility and a wonderful gift.
I wasn’t aware of Beeson until Timothy George, Beeson’s founding dean, showed up one Sunday in our San Diego congregation. I was preaching on the Trinity that day and Dr. George was in town for a conference. A mutual friend introduced us over lunch that week. I began checking Beeson out, and I was impressed with what I learned. That, coupled with praying about our last phase of ministry, led to Beeson and the opportunity to work with the next generation of pastors.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
I’ve just completed a manuscript called, The Parables: Jesus’s Friendly Subversive Speech. I’m on sabbatical this semester, and I’ve been working on two small projects which may turn into books down the road: “The Unlearning Curve: Pastoral Identity in the Household of Faith” and “The Rock and Reed Challenge: The Purpose and Practice of Preaching.” My long-term project is a pastoral commentary of the Psalms.