Training Men For Pastoral Ministry

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Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Perhaps you're missing my point. The reason is because pastoral ministry is not a career choice. Because churches somehow have the idea that they can hire and fire pastors just like a corporation. Because pastors leave one church for another as though it's a job and moving around as they want to, for whatever reason, is perfectly valid. Because seminary, while helpful, is not a necessary ingredient. Because God has laid down the credentials for the pastoral ministry and hasn't bothered laying out the credentials for any other calling. Spurgeon is an exception because he had a special set of circumstances and a mind to grasp and retain all he read, which most of us don't. I invite you to look through a listing of pastoral openings advertised anywhere. Count how many of them mention character qualifications. Count how many require an MDiv. Count how many require a certain number of years experience. I can almost guarantee you that the numbers will be disappointing. And yet these churches "call" these men to come be their "pastors" with little knowledge of their true qualifications as handed down by God. Again, Spurgeon wouldn't even get an interview at most of them. Neither would our pastor in Washington. But I think he's probably the best pastor we've ever sat under, by far.
Yes, it's specialized. But it's specialized by God accordingly to His mandate and credentials, not a piece of paper or institution. Science and the arts will never improve upon it. There are not new discoveries. While men may strive for godliness in all that they do, and should, only the pastoral ministry is a focused pursuit of godliness in not only yourself, but in all whom you affect. That is why there is no other calling, ever, that holds accountability for the eternal souls of men before God (Heb 13:17).
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
Joe, that is an incredibly humbling post. Thank you for calling our (us pastors) attention to that.

I was looking at ebooks by Samuel Rutherford today, and ran across this little bio blurb: "He had a true pastor's heart, and he was ceaseless in his labors for his flock. We are told that men said of Rutherford, 'He was always praying, always preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechising, always writing and studying.'" Rutherford was truly a pastor-scholar, but he was (or appears to have been) first and foremost a pastor.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, it's specialized. But it's specialized by God accordingly to His mandate and credentials, not a piece of paper or institution.

I don't disagree with what you say. But just to take it a little farther, don't you agree that God uses means for the specialization of His Pastors? He uses the means of a wife and children and parents and elders and employers and brothers and sisters and very often, but not in every case, seminaries.
 

ServantsHeart

Puritan Board Freshman
I must admit that the lack of belief in the ability of the Triune GOD to enable men and prepare men for service in the Church as Elders/Pastors without a Seminary Degree or formal training is troubling to me to a degree. The qulifications for Elders/Overseer/Pastor/Teachers what ever is your prefered translations usage in Timothy and Titus nowhere requires as has been said these degrees the Seminary provides. If a man is a gift to the Church from the Head, Christ our Lord he will have the grace and gifts needed to serve in the Pastoral Ministry. His knowledge of Theology,Hebrew/Greek and other tools will mature while serving, how much is enough to be ready to do what GOD requires to be set apart for service in the Eldership or Pastoral role? I still think the scriptures teach it is done in the local church. How and what that looks like does not mean the school can't be the size of a Seminary on a smaller scale or that the quality of education will be inferior because it has 50 students and not 5000, or 10 Professors instead of 200. All schools have small beginings and moving them out from under the Oversight of the local Church and its Elders seems unbiblical to me and more the way of the world to be quite honest. It seems to me nearly all the schools founded sence the days of the Reformers/Puritans/Evangelical Movement in the 17 and 18th century have mostly gone to secular or liberal institutions. Our newest ones are still strong but the list is short for the older ones. SBTS 20 years ago was going down the toilet until GOD in His mercy brought about a major change in the last decade or so for the better. I know my concerns and view on this will not change the current system in place but I hope if I'm wrong about it that at least some discusion will help all involved to think through the implications of getting it wrong. If the Bible says it should be done one way doing it another way will be seen to have been a great and costly error in the end. This is my last word on the post, I appreciate your interaction and ask for patience for Brethren like me who differ with the current view held by most.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
Yes, it's specialized. But it's specialized by God accordingly to His mandate and credentials, not a piece of paper or institution.

I don't disagree with what you say. But just to take it a little farther, don't you agree that God uses means for the specialization of His Pastors? He uses the means of a wife and children and parents and elders and employers and brothers and sisters and very often, but not in every case, seminaries.

Ken -

I can't speak for him, but as for me... I don't think he or anyone is saying that seminaries aren't helpful. Indeed, I'd go so far as to say that in most cases the best seminaries are hands down the best option. BUT. I think someone goes too far when they state or imply that the seminary is for all intents and purposes necessary and/or that it is all but impossible for a presbytery or church to properly educate a minister.

I remember prior to going off to seminary my wife's boss (who was a pretty off the wall charismatic) was mortified that I'd waste my time and energy on going off to study theology. I don't believe that ANYONE here has ever articulated anything like that.

The question is NOT as a previous poster said, whether or not we want an educated ministry. The question is whether or not the seminary is the only place in/at which a man can be properly educated for the ministry. If the answer is "no," even begrudgingly no, then in my mind that ends the principal discussion.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Yes, it's specialized. But it's specialized by God accordingly to His mandate and credentials, not a piece of paper or institution.

I don't disagree with what you say. But just to take it a little farther, don't you agree that God uses means for the specialization of His Pastors? He uses the means of a wife and children and parents and elders and employers and brothers and sisters and very often, but not in every case, seminaries.

He does use means. But the man may not be married. He may have never held any vocation at all. He may have no children. The means are according to God. And the means can, and often are, totally contrary to what we would expect. Would you send a man to a RCC school to be trained? I certainly wouldn't. But God did so with Luther. Would you give him illness so he would sit inside and read all the time? I wouldn't, but God did to Spurgeon. God needs none of the things you mentioned to raise up pastors. He is the primary means. He is the author and finisher.

Now, the "ordinary means" is found in the context of the church. Men grow in godliness, are recognized for their godly character and serve faithfully. They share with others and impact their lives. The church recognizes God's work in their lives and begins giving them more resources and opportunities. Perhaps, if possible, the church will send them to seminary. Hopefully, if they do, they will hold them accountable throughout their seminary education. This is nothing like the "specialized training" of fields of vocation according to the world. Any man with the brains for it can become anything he wants, from a neurosurgeon to a chemical engineer. And he can be as vile as anyone you know and still excel in that vocation.

I did not perceive the tension in the fact that God uses means that sometimes are similar to the preparation for careers. I saw the comparison, "The same would be true for any specialized field," as an imposition upon God's means though; and as a denigration of the pastoral calling. I consider all callings to be sacred and espouse the pursuit of God's glory regardless of what one does for a living. But the preparation for the pastoral ministry is in the heart first, which is the work of God in the man more than any institutions influence. I hope that is more clearly set forward.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
But the preparation for the pastoral ministry is in the heart first, which is the work of God in the man more than any institutions influence. I hope that is more clearly set forward.

You have made yourself abundantly clear on this point, Joe.

He does use means. But the man may not be married. He may have never held any vocation at all. He may have no children. The means are according to God. And the means can, and often are, totally contrary to what we would expect.

I guess that depends on what you mean by 'often'. If God 'often' went contrary to what we expect, then we would no longer expect it. Exceptions only establish the rule. Ordinarily God uses marriage, children and vocations to prepare pastors. (Tit 1:6) Ordinarily God uses a man who possesses 'sound doctrine' as well. (Tit 1:9) And ordinarily God uses seminaries as a means to equip pastors with that 'sound doctrine'.

It does not denigrate the office of pastor to point out that there are some similarities with other vocations. After all, the Bible refers to pastors as 'shepherds', 'stewards, 'ambassadors', 'under-rowers', 'teachers' etc.

-------------

Edit: Sorry if this post sounds sarcastic. I meant what I said. Joe has made some very good points and they should be taken to heart.
 
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War_Eagle

Puritan Board Freshman
It is my understanding based I believe upon Scriptural evidence that the local Church is to recognize and train men for the office of Elder/Pastor and to appoint Deacons as well. I add that schools for this training should be under the Oversight of the Elders of that local Church. If a candidate for ministry must be trained at a better equipted Church he should relocate and become a member of that Congregation. Is this a basically sound understanding. Your input is desired,thanks.

Do you mean in lieu of formal education or in conjunction with formal education? If you mean the latter, then I could not agree more.

We're currently mentoring three young men in our church for ministry right now.
 

ServantsHeart

Puritan Board Freshman
in conjunction with formal education?
Yes my Brother in conjunction with a formal education. I have seen in our circles men with that good desire to serve as Elders taken under the wing of our current Elders and trained for the Pastoral Office while getting some Formal training from say SBTS or MCTS in Owensboro or other schools. We have very capable Elders in our church who teach them at least Greek and all the Disciplines of Systematic studies. Hebrew is a little tougher and they have limited ability here but can get that at Southern Seminary while they serve as Pastors or while they prepare for the Office. Our Elders persue continual training and studies as they serve our Flock so they are better able to train us for service to Christ. When you hold to this understanding some think we are against Seminary or advanced Training but that is not the case. We simply believe based upon what the Scriptures not what Tradition has been established but that the Local Church is thr beginning place for this task not an Institution outside the Oversight of the Eldership of the Church.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
I must admit that the lack of belief in the ability of the Triune GOD to enable men and prepare men for service in the Church as Elders/Pastors without a Seminary Degree or formal training is troubling to me to a degree.

Would you take the same approach to the preparation of physicians? Would you trust your health to a man who had not been to medical school but who said, "The Lord prepared me to be a medical doctor"?

If not, why not?

Why should a minister have less preparation for his vocation than a physician has for his? Why do we accept the premise that academic preparation for ecclesiastical ministry is desirable but not essential when we wouldn't accept that standard for other vocations?

I suspect the answer has something to do with a view of ordinary means and how we define "spirituality" or how we use the adjective "spiritual." We've so defined it, in common use, to refer to moral qualities (even if they divinely wrought) that we've divorced them from ordinary means.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I don't think the analogy between an M.D. and a pastor totally works.

At least you toned it down a bit this time...I think last time it was a surgeon and now it is only a medical doctor.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Perg,

A pastor is a lot like a GP.

A pastor has to be equipped to handle a variety of different challenges, he must be generalist. Both must be well educated. Who would go to a GP who hadn't completed med school? Responsible MDs wouldn't attempt (and probably aren't allowed!) to replace medical school by teaching medicine themselves. Why not? Because they know that they aren't necessarily prepared to prepare others to become MDs.

Why doesn't the analogy work? I've never been an MD but I've been a pastor since 1987-88 and I see many analogies.

Why do we expect our MDs to be well prepared but we seem willing to accept less preparation in our pastors? I suspect it is because we think that pastors need less preparation. I suspect that, to some degree anyway, we've been influenced by the pietist notion that all that really matters in a pastor is godliness and that if a pastor can pick up a little book learning along the way, that's an additional benefit (a sort of second blessing).

This might fit the American Second-Great Awakening pattern and the democratization (see N. Hatch) of American Religion but it has NEVER been the Reformed approach to preparing pastors. There's a chapter on this theme of democratization in Always Reformed

We expect our pastors to be BOTH godly AND learned. The sacred ministry is far too important to be committed to the hands of those who lack essential preparation. As I keep saying, MDs can only help us in this life and look how much we expect of them. If ministers feed us the bread of eternal life, how much more should we expect of them?
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
It's interesting that medical school would be brought forward in light of the specialization and misinformation foisted on MDs in western schools. They graduate thinking they've arrived and many don't give their patients any credit at all for having a brain in their head. Some specialize in one aspect of medicine and fail to recognize that it's part of a whole picture. One endocrinologist we went to only deals with the thyroid. From his perspective all he has to do is treat yours and he's done. Frankly, he's destroying lives. Study of the whole body reveals that thyroid issues are, more often than not, symptoms of an underlying issue. And this often is the case with "pastors" who get specialized training. They think they've arrived. They think their perspective is the only one. They bring programs and promises divorced from the reality of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. So, I really wouldn't use the analogy of the training of a GP either. And they treat sin technically without truly understanding the underlying issue, the root sin, of the sin. Like so many medical doctors, they treat symptoms and never fully deal with the root cause.

As Spurgeon once said, a pastor who isn't a theologian is in his ministry nothing. It's impossible. They must be well educated. But "essential preparation," while it can include seminary, does not require it. That idea is a convention of man. The pastor needs to be more prepared than the MD. But the preparation is totally different. He is not studying in a lab. He can't put his ideas in a test tube and examine them under a microscope in order to arrive to exacting conclusions. And he can't treat the soul with technical precision. He must treat it with spiritual discernment according to the verity of God's Word. The last things our pulpits need today is more academicians. His constant study is living and active. The dynamic is totally different. A pastor breathes ministry. It reverberates in his heart. He is pastoring all day, every day. He is a pastor on his knees, in his study, in his interaction with all he meets and even in his greatest trials. An MD practices his trade.

I think the comparison CAN work. Both are involved in healing. The best of both are compassionate and sympathetic. But any pagan can be a good surgeon. Any pastor can pick up medicine. But no pagan and few doctors are qualified to be pastors; and no amount of seminary training will fix that. Perhaps a comparison in what they (should) do is valid. But to compare their training seems inconsistent with the calling. And we need to be careful not to impose western ideologies on God's Word. Missionaries often train men for ministry according to 2 Timothy 2:2. Godly men all over the world do this. If they can develop a school to help facilitate this, then it can be a good thing. But often the planting of western seminaries in new countries does more harm than good. This can especially be the case when a seminary trained man with no pastoral experience whatsoever is considered an adequate professor to train men for pastoral ministry. It might work in the medical field. But it's a bypass in pastoral ministry. The church can flourish without seminaries.

Blessings,
 

ServantsHeart

Puritan Board Freshman
Dear Brother/Pastor/Professor/Doctor/Scholar and everything else you have worked to be known for and I'm sure all who benefit from your hard work honor you for and I as well. I would delight in sitting under your able skills as a student and I mean that in sincereity. I fail to see why you can't believe or support a view that GODS means is not just one dimensional, namely a Seminary setting and not in other settings as well. The Church local and universal is blessed by GOD and has been so since Old Testament times the Isreal of GOD to the present with men very able to serve the people of GOD without what you are passionate about and believe is the only way to do it. You speak of the way it has been done by Reformed Churches throughout the history of the Reformation. Would I be ignorant in saying that not all Reformed efforts have been accomplised buy only those who have what you say is essential to be a Elder in Christ service? We focus on Calvin,Luther,Knox and all the most visible in the History of Reformed leaders, but was every Elder/Pastor Theologian educated and skilled to the degree you speak of?. True Spirituality is not without Understanding or a Good Mind trained by the Holy Spirit by whatever means He chooses, but you seem to demean and think little of those who are less educated than those with advanced education. I have met many who are very prideful and arrogant for Paul warns knowledge can Puff Up and make them very concieted if Spirit wrought wisdom does not guide and use that intellectual ability. Once again what you call (pietist notions) whatever that is I am not excluding a formal education where possible, I just refuse to make that the First thing needed but rather the Second. The requirements of GOD not the Reformed Tradition are first in my thinking if that is wrong show me in Scripture where it says so.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Perg,

A pastor is a lot like a GP.

A pastor has to be equipped to handle a variety of different challenges, he must be generalist. Both must be well educated. Who would go to a GP who hadn't completed med school? Responsible MDs wouldn't attempt (and probably aren't allowed!) to replace medical school by teaching medicine themselves. Why not? Because they know that they aren't necessarily prepared to prepare others to become MDs.

Why doesn't the analogy work? I've never been an MD but I've been a pastor since 1987-88 and I see many analogies.

Why do we expect our MDs to be well prepared but we seem willing to accept less preparation in our pastors? I suspect it is because we think that pastors need less preparation. I suspect that, to some degree anyway, we've been influenced by the pietist notion that all that really matters in a pastor is godliness and that if a pastor can pick up a little book learning along the way, that's an additional benefit (a sort of second blessing).

This might fit the American Second-Great Awakening pattern and the democratization (see N. Hatch) of American Religion but it has NEVER been the Reformed approach to preparing pastors. There's a chapter on this theme of democratization in Always Reformed

We expect our pastors to be BOTH godly AND learned. The sacred ministry is far too important to be committed to the hands of those who lack essential preparation. As I keep saying, MDs can only help us in this life and look how much we expect of them. If ministers feed us the bread of eternal life, how much more should we expect of them?



The sacred ministry is far too important to be committed to the hands of those who lack essential preparation

I agree with this statement. Yes, adequate preparation is essential. That was never questioned. The assertion of many, however, is that seminary is not the only place to do so.
 

rpeters

Puritan Board Freshman
Dr Scott,
One could say I am bias because I am in the LAMP program through the PCA. Then again one could also be said of you. But we have established that we believe in education. Here is the question the seminary model the only way to train effective pastors? Is their another method where we can train pastors too? I think if you say seminary is the only way to train pastors then one you cut half the people who would be called and an even confidence in your own people to train the people for ministry. I do not think that an independent church can do train men for pastoral rather must belong to a denomination where you can pull people from. In our site our pastor can pull from many men in the presbytery who bring a breadth of knowledge and experience. This also takes an extraordinary pastor to do it, but it can be done. You have to be sold out to building the kingdom. FYI at this year's gospel coalition they will be talking about this topic in one of their plenary sessions.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Stephen,

It's not a matter of what God CAN do. His power is not in question. What is in question is what, in the ordinary providence God, are the best and most appropriate means for preparing for pastoral ministry. Surely good, thorough catechesis is essential (and many ministerial students lack that). A sound liberal arts education (again, something that too many students lack) and a thorough formal education from qualified scholars using the necessary means (e.g., library and other resources). Without writing a history of education (which I've discussed on the PB before at length) let me say that in the Patristic period the church began to formal education in ecclesiastically sponsored schools, catechetical schools, which contributed to the formation of ministers. That training later became more regionalized as it became associated with cathedrals. Typically ministerial training was done by one teacher who taught both the arts and theology. Over time, as learning increased and scholarship became more specialized, the cathedral schools developed into universities with multiple faculties (arts, law, theology, medicine).

That was the pattern in existence during the Reformation. Where there wasn't a Protestant theology faculty, the Reformers sought to establish them and they did so across Europe and the British Isles. There were no "seminaries" (or not many of them) as we know them, in the 16th and 17th centuries, because theology was taught in the universities or in conjunction with them. Were Reformed pastors all trained in academies? As a matter of history the story is mixed. Most all had formal education in the 7 liberal arts and formal theological training was the goal. It wasn't just famous elites who had formal training. The Reformed churches worked very hard to establish schools and to see to it that their pastors received formal training, even even beyond their undergraduate education.

As the Enlightenment rejection of divine authority (whether located in the church or in the Scriptures) took hold the theology faculties were gradually turned to "religion" faculties or departments. Over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries orthodox theology was systematically excluded and the orthodox found themselves in exile. One can see this process in miniature in histories of Yale and Harvard and, to a lesser degree, in Princeton Seminary (which was distinct from the university but which jettisoned historic, confessional orthodoxy in the 1920s and 30s). There were "seminaries" of various kinds for various vocations in the 19th and 20th centuries. This is why the adjective "theological" was used, to distinguish them from other sorts of seminaries (e.g., for ladies).

So, no "seminaries" are not essential for ministerial preparation but some sort of extensive, formally supervised, thorough, academic preparation is essential for pastoral ministry. In our time, for the reasons I've sketched, that has come largely to be done in seminaries.

Joe,

I don't know how to respond. I'm thankful for antibiotics. Yes, western medicine is largely committed to "scientism" and materialism but that doesn't keep me from seeing my GP. I wouldn't go see a GP who lacked formal medical education. I guess the same is true for most folk.

Perg,

Is medical school essential preparation for a GP?

Robert,

I don't know much about the LAMP program but the little I've seen and heard about it concerns me. I've talked to people involved in it and they seem to recognize that they are not getting the same sort of training they would in a traditional residential, setting. The great stumbling block seems to be funding. If our Reformed and Presbyterian churches would value ministerial education properly we could overcome the funding problem.

I've tried to address your concerns in the various pieces linked to my post above.
 

ServantsHeart

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you Pastor & Professor Clark, Forgive me if my tone or comments have been anything less than respectful or lacking brotherly love to you a true Servant of Christ. I just want to affirm yet again that I am not anti Seminary nor anti Intellectual/Formal Training to any degree. I believe every Elder/Pastor should be trained to the utmost degree if possible and a Seminary setting in a Faithful GOD honoring school is I'm sure a great benefit to all involved. I sense your great passion and earnest desire to see men called to Christ service in His church and equiped as high priority and needful thing there is no want of agreement on this, in other areas I addmit we differ. I have only a High School level education I'm sure you have much more and have labored long and hard and are still laboring to ever advance your skills in order to serve your students,and they are the better for it. I only would say one thing that in our enteraction and those who agree with your position keep in mine but one important thing. The Roman Catholic Church puts a high premium on its Traditions, we believe so much so that it required the Reformation even to this day. The Reformation in my opinion is still moving forward in some churches in others it is dead because those bodies are Apostate. You spoke of the Reformed Tradition as regards Ministerial Eduaction being a reason why formal training is a must. I agree it is a good Tradition ie to train our Ministers well to be able Shepherds over Christ Flock. My earnest concern is that we do not fall into the same error as the Church of Rome and develop Reformed Traditions that over rule what the Scriptures teach and mandate in any area of Faith or Practice. If the Scriptures make clear what an Elder/Pastor MUST be in order to be set apart for the Pastoral Ministry and we in our Reformed Traditions add to that or in some cases take away from that then we fall into the same error as Rome. It is still my understanding and conviction that the local Church with Christ called and grace gifted Elders are the first and most responsible for this task of training future Elders and that this does not exclude a formal and more advanced training in the church and in a Seminary after and during their current service as ordained Elders. To me its not an either/or proposition but a both at the same time when possible. Once again thank you for you input and I think it has us all thinking and working through the issue which is a good thing. In Christ, Your Servant Gladly
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Scott, that really wasn't my point. I go to a GP too. We've been blessed to find a Christian doctor who doesn't think his education deifies him. He listens, considers and studies hard in order to try to dig deeply into the root cause of the illness. I'm very impressed with him. Many don't realize how much big pharma has tweaked the medical practice, especially in the states.

I hope my point wasn't lost in all the medical discussion though. I appreciate my seminary training. Would I do it again? Absolutely, but very much differently. I do appreciate that men are dedicated to helping the church train men for the ministry. While I don't think it's vital in seminary form, I do see it as a tremendous tool and potentially a great blessing. As long as those teaching men are pastors themselves, subservient to the church and can avoid the elitist mentality that is so common among those who teach in "institutes of higher learning," there is much to be gained by using seminaries as tools for training our pastors.
 

CIT

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I think we are asking too much for a seminary student to spend 16 weeks listening to a prof and absorb his lifetime of dedicated research on the subject. Do I really think that after 5 semesters of Greek, I will be as fluent as my prof who has been reading Greek for 20 years? Of course not. Because of this, it is better for someone to study under the prof who has lived this topic for decades vs. a pastor who has not.

The inability of everyday pastors to prepare men for ministry (as a general rule) is not a knock on seminaries, but rather a consequence of time.
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
It's interesting that medical school would be brought forward in light of the specialization and misinformation foisted on MDs in western schools. They graduate thinking they've arrived and many don't give their patients any credit at all for having a brain in their head. Some specialize in one aspect of medicine and fail to recognize that it's part of a whole picture. One endocrinologist we went to only deals with the thyroid. From his perspective all he has to do is treat yours and he's done. Frankly, he's destroying lives. Study of the whole body reveals that thyroid issues are, more often than not, symptoms of an underlying issue. And this often is the case with "pastors" who get specialized training. They think they've arrived. They think their perspective is the only one. They bring programs and promises divorced from the reality of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. So, I really wouldn't use the analogy of the training of a GP either. And they treat sin technically without truly understanding the underlying issue, the root sin, of the sin. Like so many medical doctors, they treat symptoms and never fully deal with the root cause.

As Spurgeon once said, a pastor who isn't a theologian is in his ministry nothing. It's impossible. They must be well educated. But "essential preparation," while it can include seminary, does not require it. That idea is a convention of man. The pastor needs to be more prepared than the MD. But the preparation is totally different. He is not studying in a lab. He can't put his ideas in a test tube and examine them under a microscope in order to arrive to exacting conclusions. And he can't treat the soul with technical precision. He must treat it with spiritual discernment according to the verity of God's Word. The last things our pulpits need today is more academicians. His constant study is living and active. The dynamic is totally different. A pastor breathes ministry. It reverberates in his heart. He is pastoring all day, every day. He is a pastor on his knees, in his study, in his interaction with all he meets and even in his greatest trials. An MD practices his trade.

I think the comparison CAN work. Both are involved in healing. The best of both are compassionate and sympathetic. But any pagan can be a good surgeon. Any pastor can pick up medicine. But no pagan and few doctors are qualified to be pastors; and no amount of seminary training will fix that. Perhaps a comparison in what they (should) do is valid. But to compare their training seems inconsistent with the calling. And we need to be careful not to impose western ideologies on God's Word. Missionaries often train men for ministry according to 2 Timothy 2:2. Godly men all over the world do this. If they can develop a school to help facilitate this, then it can be a good thing. But often the planting of western seminaries in new countries does more harm than good. This can especially be the case when a seminary trained man with no pastoral experience whatsoever is considered an adequate professor to train men for pastoral ministry. It might work in the medical field. But it's a bypass in pastoral ministry. The church can flourish without seminaries.

Blessings,

I just recently read a great book (which i recommend) by Dr. T. David Gordon called "Why Johnny Can't Preach". In there he writes how people in the pulpit are not educated properly. He writes the reason many "ministers" can't preach today is the lack of a good education. Now, let me ask you this, can a pastor give: 1) his full and undivided attention to the student? Absolutlely not. 2) a proper education for the student? No. Would I say then that seminary is neccesary for the ministry? Yes. Why? Because it provides the much needed and most adequate educational training for the preparation of the ministry. I go to a church where many seminarians from WSC go and it's interesting to see that they do not have this "elitist" minset that you are portraying them to have(or the profs at the seminary). Your understanding of seminary must come from your experience from TMS because that is not my encounter with seminarians.
 

ServantsHeart

Puritan Board Freshman
Andrew, Greetings to you and thank you for your comments,they are reasonable and needed. I agree with you that One Pastor could not give a great deal of attension to one or more candidates for Pastoral Ministry. But 4 or 5 can give more than One,this is why the Biblical pattern is a Plurality of Elders/Pastors.

Some men can't preach with or without a Seminary degree or training,I'm pretty particular about what I consider sound and excellent Preaching/Teaching. I have sat under many mens ministries in 30 years as a Believer and most of them do not have the degree of training some Brethren think they should have. So this comment is pretty subjective at best. Never forget an element of preaching that is beyond any mans gifts or abilities, the power and pressence of the Holy Spirit working through the Preacher and in the ones being preached to.

I can't speak for others only for myself,I don't remember saying that Pastor Clark or anyone from your particular Seminary is prideful,arrogant or marked by an elitest attitude but it is out there believe me.

And lastly don't miss the main issue by getting caught up in the secondary ones. The main issue I have sought to point out is this, what do the Scriptures say a Man desiring the Eldership/Pastoral office MUST be? If it says clearly what He MUST be then all the things men think He Must be are not binding or required according to GOD Himself.
Lastly no one is against training or equiping men for this great task but saying it must be done one way or no way is in my opinion simply not true. In Christ Stephen
 
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R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Stephen,

On tradition, there's a sizable portion of Recovering the Reformed Confession that deals with the biblical teaching concerning "tradition" and how we, as Protestants who confess sola Scriptura, should think about it. The short answer is that we're not biblicists (see RRC on this). We read the Bible with the church.

Scripture doesn't speak at length or explicitly about ministerial education. We've had to work that out over time. Clearly Paul was well educated. We have some idea of his educational background. He had formal academic training. Luke and the writer to the Hebrews were highly educated. Some of the apostles and apostolic company were not well educated but we're not apostles. None of us has the apostolic office nor have we apostolic gifts (despite the repeated claims by the neo-Pentecostalists).

So, we're left to try to apply the basic principles of Scripture in the post-apostolic, post-canonical period. Ministerial education is largely a matter of wisdom. This is where we can learn from the church. This is where tradition comes in. The Reformed churches worked out a process of ministerial preparation over a long period of time. They, who know a little bit about being Reformed, didn't see a need to junk everything that had gone before. They were not radicals. In this they had a different spirit from the Anabaptists who were genuinely radical, biblicists.

There's no question that God, in his freedom and providence, has used men who were not highly trained but those are exceptions that test the rule. Most of us need a thorough, formal preparation for ministry. There have been men who've been able, in extreme situations, to perform medical procedures but we wouldn't want to make that the norm or the routine practice. There's a difference between "is" (or "was") and "should." We're talking about should.

Should we encourage men who want to serve Christ and his church to become as throughly equipped as possible? Yes! Why would we settle for anything less than the best? One of the attitudes I've encountered and resisted for decades now is the notion that, when it comes to the church that "good enough" is good enough. It isn't, not at all.

The job is great, the calling is high. That is why we mustn't settle for educational mediocrity for our ministers. Such a choice will reverberate down through the generations and our grandchildren and their children will curse us for curing them with ignorant ministers. I'm quite serious about this. Refusing to let the church slip back into ignorance, from which it was delivered in the Reformation, is an act of the will as much as an act of the intellect. There was a time, a LONG time, when ministers could barely read and many could not read at all. With the collapse of our public (and private!) secondary and post-secondary educational system the return of pervasive ignorance is closer to hand than many would like to think.
 
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Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Andrew, you clearly did not read my posts very carefully.


The job is great, the calling is high. That is why we mustn't settle for educational mediocrity for our ministers. Such a choice will reverberate down through the generations and our grandchildren and their children will curse us for curing them with ignorant ministers. I'm quite serious about this. Refusing to let the church slip back into ignorance, from which it was delivered in the Reformation, is an act of the will as much as an act of the intellect. There was a time, a LONG time, when ministers could barely read and many could not read at all. With the collapse of our public (and private!) secondary and post-secondary educational system the return of pervasive ignorance is closer to hand than many would like to think.

I think this is very well said Scott. Thank you.
 
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Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
Andrew, you clearly did not read my posts very carefully.


The job is great, the calling is high. That is why we mustn't settle for educational mediocrity for our ministers. Such a choice will reverberate down through the generations and our grandchildren and their children will curse us for curing them with ignorant ministers. I'm quite serious about this. Refusing to let the church slip back into ignorance, from which it was delivered in the Reformation, is an act of the will as much as an act of the intellect. There was a time, a LONG time, when ministers could barely read and many could not read at all. With the collapse of our public (and private!) secondary and post-secondary educational system the return of pervasive ignorance is closer to hand than many would like to think.

I think this is very well said Scott. Thank you.

Joe,

I meant no disrespect by what I said. I should have wrote that a different way and I'm sorry if I came across disrespectfully. Forgive me.

Here is my concern. Too many men are coming to the pulpit uneducated and giving poor sermons. Without the proper education to read texts carefully (especially ancient texts) they will miss the understanding of God's Word and give a sermon that is either "introspective", "how-to", "moralistic", etc. I also know a hand full of "pastors" who went from being a lay-person with no education or training to a minister of the Word with no training or education. It's scary thinking about men "preaching" the Word that they don't understand. My conviction is that there is no better option then seminary.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
Without the proper education to read texts carefully (especially ancient texts) they will miss the understanding of God's Word and give a sermon that is either "introspective", "how-to", "moralistic", etc.

Andrew -

Since you want to write Gordon's categories, perhaps you should note that the problem (as he sees it) goes far beyond the seminary's ability to correct. He's refering to a fundamental shift in how people in our culture are taught to read. (Interestingly, Gordon thinks that future ministers should major in English literature.)

I have to confess that I'm wearied by claims or insinuations that the seminary is the only place one can receive a proper education for the ministry, or that the choice is between a seminary and an uneducated ministry.
 

ServantsHeart

Puritan Board Freshman
We agree, men Must be prepared for service in Christ Church to the highest standard possible. We also agree that unqualified men and ignorant men must be filtered out by a Biblical standard and tradition based upon Scriptural wisdom and precepts. The Church its Eldership as equiped by GOD the Holy Spirit must oversee this process if the Word is to be rightly devided or handled with skill.
How,where and by what specific process this is to be done we differ on,so let us agree to pray and labor to accomplish all we are passionate about and I am confident GOD will get it done through us His normal means to the Glory of His name and good of His Church. Ephesians 3:14 to 21 :amen:
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
I have to confess that I'm wearied by claims or insinuations that the seminary is the only place one can receive a proper education for the ministry, or that the choice is between a seminary and an uneducated ministry.

Ben,

Did you miss the post above? The point is formal, thorough, credible preparation for ministry. The question is how we get there. I tried to give a brief account how we came to the present situation.

Question: how, without the seminary (or some institution of formal education) do we achieve the goal? Distance Ed lacks major, necessary components. How can local congregations efficiently replicate the same resources?

My question and concern is this: do we want an educated ministry? My concern is thatnwe are tempted to alternatives that have the effect of lowering standards. Already many seminaries have given up on the languages. Church history (ahem) ttlgets short shrift. In many places systematic theology is downplayed. Ministerial preparation becomes a Bible school with a little practica. Machen addressed this very problem at the founding of WTS 1929.

We need to recognize that, since the 1820s, there has been a strong anti-intellectual strain in American culture. Thar tendency was at the heart of the pragmatism that dispensed with formal theological/ministerial preparation in the so-called 2nd great awakening.

The proposal to farm out ministerial prep (not to say examination) to the local or even regional church seems to be a step backward. It seems to be an implicit concession that we should just "make do." Most of the proponents of this idea concede that it would mean lowering standards, that candidates won't be as well prepared. Why should we settle for less?
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Is it possible that there are some speaking past one another here? In no particular order:
  • It seems that there is general agreement that seminary is not necessary.
  • All [here] agree that pastors should be well educated. Nobody wants an uneducated preacher.
  • All agree that the character qualifications must be a priority, as Scripture mandates.
  • All agree that there is a very real challenge in meeting these.
Some of the distance programs are really quite good. However, except in exceptional circumstances, they won't work well without good oversight from knowledgeable church leadership.

Seminaries can be excellent resources. But the challenge here is that the church must grasp the vision of making the seminary a resource rather than an outsource. If this is maintained then the integrity of both the seminary and the church is more likely to be maintained. Much that is theologically wrong in today's churches came from seminaries that were outsources of churches who had abdicated their responsibility.

Some churches have joined in an effort to train men locally. There has been some success with this and it can be a good model. Again, there must be the trained men in leadership already present in order for this to be viable.

Regardless of the model we pursue, those who train pastors should be pastors themselves. This is where there can be a terrible breakdown. It is heart work, not merely classwork. Those involved in training men to minister to eternal souls must have their own brokenness over sins, heartaches and the trials, tribulations and afflictions of others that they minister to in order to train a pastor to see all his training in light of ministry. Otherwise it becomes abstract. The "correct" answers become cold, mechanical and didactic rather than nurturing, dynamic, relational and comforting. From the first step of exegesis to the last condolences of a funeral must be seen as heart work. Whether reading the paper or visiting the sick, all must be seen through the lens of ministering to souls. It is to be the every thought and ambition of a pastor, whether he's a vocational or lay pastor, for we all will give account to God for the souls He's entrusted to our care.
 
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