Is it possible to preach without going to seminary?

Discussion in 'Preaching' started by The Mexican Puritan, May 31, 2009.

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  1. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    Sorry for the delay in response. I missed this last night.

    Both are NAPARC, have similar standards, and a man seeking ordination in one might, at some point, end up in the other.

    This is particularly true of church planting, as the NAPARC members have a formal agreement to not step on each other's toes in church planting efforts.
  2. ReformedChapin

    ReformedChapin Puritan Board Freshman

    I like seminary degrees. I think a good biblical education before one pastors a flock is extremely helpful. Not to mention I see a big difference in ministers comparing credentials. Who generally speaking will do better? A PhD or a MDiver? I am not trying to belittle people who have less credentials just stating the more the education the more helpful it is.
  3. Michael Doyle

    Michael Doyle Puritan Board Junior

    In response to this, I simply must assert Ephesians 4:11-15 as a text dealing specifically to Evangelist being an office in church ministry. I do not believe ecclesiastically you can separate the evangelist from the body. This does not give me any more credibility, however, I have been open air preaching and witnessing for the better part of 3 years and have finally come to believe myself to be in need of church oversight. I am called to witness for Christ but I must be accountable to the body.
  4. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    As for the biblical office of Evangelist, The Westminster Assembly's form of church government reads:
    Of the Officers of the Church.

    THE officers which Christ hath appointed for the edification of his church, and the perfecting of the saints, are, some extraordinary, as apostles, evangelists, and prophets, which are ceased.
    Others ordinary and perpetual, as pastors, teachers, and other church-governors,* and deacons.
    *they mean ruling elders.
    See the full text at

    As far as the Divines' thinking, see Gillespie's study of the subject in his Miscellany Questions.
    A treatise of miscellany questions ... - Google Book Search
  5. Oecolampadius

    Oecolampadius Puritan Board Sophomore

    Lawrence you are right in saying that the OPC documents we are referring to here are not Scripture. But these OPC documents (secondary standards) are part of our denomination's constitution because we believe them to be faithfully representing that which is mandated by Scripture. In other words, the reason why church officers in the OPC are bound to these documents is not just because they have agreed to abide by them but because the body believes them to be representative of Scripture principles.

    Another thing that I would like to point out to you is that the "particular method" that the OPC has chosen for its church leadership is the same as what you have said. You said, "They must be called (given to the Church by the Lord)." This is what the OPC FoG says concerning Evangelists:

    In addition, when it comes to educational requirements, I've been told that the OPC does ordain men who do not possess the degrees that one would usually expect of a man aspiring for ministry (the least is a Bachelor's degree) by way of exception.
  6. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner

    Educational requirements differ widely among Christian groups. In the last few decades, however, there has been a general tendency for official denominations to require the M.Div. of their candidates for ordination and pastoral ministry AND to permit exceptions for a variety of "exceptional" reasons.

    I have been chair (for roughly half of my 28 years serving on the committee) on the standing ordination and credentials committee of my denom (first in the ABC and then of the successor body here in the southwest). Looking at nearly 500 candidates for ordination during that time, I am not so sure that one can draw much of a correlation between education and pastoral effectiveness. Those who select a namby-pamby seminary actually come out demonstrably worse for the experience and seemingly more incompetent than when they matriculated! I have seen effective leaders of ministries within a church become ineffective pastors because of seminary.

    Don't presume that more education leads to greater effectiveness. It simply denotes one who completed more years in school. At some point, a surplus of education may point to a person afraid of engaging the real world or with limited pastoral skills. Give me a pastor any day called of God, strong in the word, theologically astute, orthodox, and burning with zeal for the cause of Christ lacking a M.Div. rather than a PhD lacking in these former qualities.

    In some of your denominations, you have a tradition of effective pastors entering the ranks of professors. What a blessing! May your tribe increase. They know both the world of the academy and that of the church. I am familiar with too many seminaries where the profs either never had significant pastoral experience or were never any good at it, hence their retreat to the academy. Obtaining a PhD under such educational leadership only makes one like the prof and basically useless for the church.

    For aspiring PB future seminarians, INVESTIGATE the product of the school in terms of its alums. Do you want to be a professor or a pastor? If a pastor, does this school have a track record of producing effective ministers? For instance, leaving theology out of the equation, Dallas Seminary has a long tradition of preparing effective communicators who know the Bible (including the languages). If a dispensationalist wanted to become a philosophy prof, however, he would be better off at Biola (same theology but one of the VERY best pre-PhD philosophy programs in the country).

    If I were 21-22 and a newly minted B.A. heading off to seminary, my short list of Presbyterian schools would include WTS, WSCal, GPTS, PRTS and probably Covenant or RTS. If I wanted a Baptist school, it would be pretty much limited to SBTS. My no-no list? ANY of the seminaries affiliated with a mainline denomination or ANY school trying to be PC, "diverse," "emergent," or calling itself "evangelical" without holding to inerrancy.

    I would not argue that inerrancy is the most important Christian doctrine. However, in selecting a school, it is the virtual "canary in the mine" test of whether you can work safely in this environment. There are inerrancy-affirming schools that are not much good. However, don't go to ANY seminary for pastoral training that denies it (either functionally or practically). Like the canary (not the most important animal but a VERY good test of good/bad air in a mine), inerrancy is a petty good litmus test for whether the seminary operates in safe air or not. That, by the way, would exclude my alma mater from consideration for seminary!
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2009
  7. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Thank you Dennis. Very well put.
    One dear friend of mine advised me to find a seminary that would teach me how to think, rather than what to think. I am confident that I received such an education. But, if local pastors had the right vision, I could have received a similar education tempered more fully by faithfulness in the local church, thus been better prepared for ministry.
    Unless tempered by practical ministry experience throughout, seminaries generally engender pride and can often ruin a man for ministry.
  8. Oecolampadius

    Oecolampadius Puritan Board Sophomore

    That's the very same advice I would give to college students. My wife used to be an instructor at a University and she would often complain to me about how students often expect to be spoon fed. in my opinion, a lot of these kids probably went to public schools where they were taught what to think and not how to think.
  9. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner


    I'm good with "how to think" as long as the environment is not infected with studied pluralism. The typical cafeteria seminary offers any number of different ideologies, endorsing none, and so communicating that all ideas are equal in value. Hence, my inerrancy "canary in the mine" test. If you study under people who do not have some confessional boundaries, the noetic effects of the fall will lead their (and your) flesh to pernicious and dangerous doctrinal directions that will corrupt the church.

    Inerrancy is such an offensive doctrine in the academy, that few hold it by mere tradition or out of accident of training. So, whether the inerrantist is a Dispensationalist (Masters, Talbot, Dallas), Arminian (Asbury), or Reformed (WTS, WSCal, PRTS, GPTS, Covenant), inerrancy will tend to be a self-limiting governor on on the degree of foolishness he can actively promulgate.

    Brethren, I see seminary grads coming out that haven't a CLUE where the lines are with regard to truth. Granted, the Reformed schools I recommended in my earlier post would not be afflicted with this particular problem. However, because I attended a school that had just dropped its inerrancy stand a few years prior to my arrival, I can testify as an eyewitness to the corrupt and corrupting impact of this upon the corporate culture of the place. The current prez is a "Calvinist" with a M.Div. from Western Theological Seminary 17 years teaching at Calvin. But, YIKES!!!, the place will allow you to believe just about anything and prides itself on its broadmindedness:

    Teach them to think, don't tell them what to think? Sure. But, don't teach them that truth is in the eye of the beholder and that good ideas and bad ideas are of the same intrinsic value! "Christian camaraderie" is not a strong enough central core. It is certainly not an adequate substitute for confessional boundaries.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2009
  10. Oecolampadius

    Oecolampadius Puritan Board Sophomore

    Don't you worry too much about me. Lord willing, I will be going to PRTS (one of the seminaries you highly recommend) this Fall for my M. Div.

    BTW, I'm a Presuppositionalist (Van Tillian) and what that means is that, for me, teaching students how to think would be to basically first teach them that true knowledge presupposes God.
  11. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Actually Sarah, if I remember right, your own pastor was ordained as an evangelist. In the OPC, the evangelist is basically a church planter and is a type of teaching elder/minister. He has to work in the mission work without a local session. He doesn't get ordained as the pastor of that congregation until the congregation moves from the status of mission work to a regular congregation. I don't remember if your church has moved into that status yet or not. But your pastor could clarify some of these issues for you.

  12. Damon Rambo

    Damon Rambo Puritan Board Sophomore

    The Master of Ministry degree, is for those called to full time ministry positions, OTHER than Pastor. It usually consists of 50 to 60 credit hours after your under grad, as opposed to the 85-95 of the M.Div.

    New Orleans Baptist Seminary, Liberty Baptist Seminary, and I believe RTS, all offer Master of Ministry degrees.
  13. Oecolampadius

    Oecolampadius Puritan Board Sophomore

    What are full time ministry positions other than that of a pastor? Could you give some examples?
  14. puritanpilgrim

    puritanpilgrim Puritan Board Junior

  15. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    Thanks, I do know that he is an ordained pastor of our little church. We are in the process of getting elders but we are still under our mother church in Hanover IL.
  16. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner

    In much of the evangelical world, a church will have 3-10 full time seminary trained staff. Unless a person sees himself heading for a pulpit ministry, the MAMin is often viewed as a more practical option than the M.Div. Full time associates working with youth, specialized ministries such as seniors, children, etc. are often seen as the types of roles for a MAMin rather than requiring the full M.Div. curriculum with Greek, Hebrew, and extra history and theology.

    The logic (not expressing my agreement with it) is that requiring a children's pastor to complete two years of Greek and one year of Hebrew plus a full course in theology and church history is overkill for working with the "tykes and tots."

    The other time the MAMin may be followed is when the undergraduate program was so full of Bible and theology that what seems needful are the "practical" courses in the seminary curriculum more than a repeat of what was already taken.

    I know people who have 65+ undergraduate units in Bible, theology, hermeneutics, church history, NT, OT, etc. They do not always see a repetition of it at the seminary level to be good stewardship of time or money. For them, a two year seminary degree is often quite useful. One of my kids was better prepared for entry level ministry after college than I was after Fuller. He elected to go the direction of the MAMin (his program had theology, exegesis, and Bible as well as integrative courses in the practice of ministry). All in all, comparing him with the hundreds of MDiv grads I have examined, he stacks up pretty favorably and is completing his 10th year of full time ministry in the same church with a good deal of success and effectiveness. My older daughter also had 65+ undergraduate units in Bible and theology and completed a two year seminary program (where she took Greek and Hebrew but not homiletics). She teaches at a Christian high school so it is not exactly parallel.
  17. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Give me a few days....I'm under a pile of tasks....prepare your answers and give me till tuesday.
  18. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    To answer your opening post, the evangelist in the OPC (for example) is an ordained minister, so the requirements are the same as any other minister. In the modern evangelical world the evangelist is just a preacher, without any pastoral responsibility. In the OPC, the evangelist has a more specific purpose than that because he is called to a specific task by the presbytery. Read through the OPC Form of Government ch. 7 (it's on their website), it outlines specifically what an evangelist does. They are ordained ministers laboring to spread the gospel without being attached to a local congregation. Ministers who fit this category are home and foreign missionaries (church planters), chaplains, stated supply, etc.

    So if you wanted to be an evangelist then you must be called and sent by the presbytery for that purpose. But they would want a more specific description as to what exactly your calling is before they sent you. Preaching for what purpose? Missions? Chaplaincy? Pulpit Supply?

    The other route you could take, is to seek ordination in the local church as a ruling elder, and serve that local congregation in their outreach to the community, and preaching/exhorting in those opportunities.

    Hope that helps. :2cents:
  19. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner


    Oops! Mea culpa, mea culpa. In my pontificating about schools I would consider on my short list if I were a 21 or 22 year old, Covenant and RTS were omitted by mistake. I do not know as much about Covenant as some of the other schools and did not mean to slander them by omission. And RTS has a wonderful history of doing kingdom work, especially in the Jacksonville campus. My list was not meant to be co-extensive with the range of orthodox options, merely were I would probably look with my own set of interests.
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