Two Cent Tuesday – Should Seminary Be Required to Pastor

by on January 22, 2008

So, I’ve decided to spice things up around here and start adding some questions. I think it’ll be interesting to see how people weigh in on various seminary related questions.

Today’s question is one that I think is particularly interesting:
Should seminary be required for someone to pastor in a church?

Cast your vote and feel free to expound on your answer in the comments section.

{democracy:2}

About

The author of this post is noted above. GoingtoSeminary.com and Best-Seminary.com were created by Ryan Burns. He is currently on staff at Redemption Hill Church in Richmond, VA, and recently launched a site to help people find Seminary Scholarships and anther site to help people find Church Jobs. He also writes about his experiences doing GORUCK events on his hobby blog.

Comments

I think some sort of ministry education should… not necessarily seminary. Conferences, church based programs or internships could also fit the bill.

I think what’s really needed is training and mentoring, of which academic education is only a part. The Biblical Institute for Leadership Development (www.bild.org) advances the proposition that such training is best done within the context of actual ministry in the local church. Jeff Reed, founder of the Institute, makes a very good case for that model in his Paradigm Papers (www.bild.org/philosophy/ParadigmPapers.htm), and the Institute’s Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership Development (www.bild.org/antiochSchool/Home.html) paves the way for churches to implement their model of church-based leadership development. Observing that the Western university campus model is really Greco-Roman at its roots, Reed encourages the return to a more biblical model of leadership development. I like what I’ve seen.

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What has really bothered me is we are told (at least I was told by many) that the ministry is not a “profession” so to speak. We should not approach it as we would any 9-5 job. Piper even wrote a whole book on not being a professional minister.

With that said, all I heard when I had my resume out last year was you need seminary, go to seminary, a little bit of seminary will do you good, etc., etc. I guess my question is if God has called you to the ministry and they recognize that calling on your life, why are they demanding a seminary education?

The way I see it, it is a game we must play. We should not be professionals all the while fulfilling the professional role the church body thinks they are requiring of us. It is a bit annoying to say the least, but it is a game we must play.

Piper’s book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals! is a great read. And yet he is not shy to endorse the academy. For him, knowing more about God has always led to loving Him more. I find the same true in my journey.

Yet in class I find the professional mindset among some of the students. We had a candid discussion about this led by our prof in our Biblical Leadership course last Fall. It was good and jarring I think for many, and I had to check my own heart and uproot the idol of my pride. I find that some (not all!) of those in my classes are seeking to get the degree so they can get on with their career. And it comes out in small ways, like guys doing their reading for other classes when they are in Counseling class. That is a colossal mistake, for as I found in ministry before coming to Multnomah the main problems I came across in the church were interpersonal ones, of communication and listening and conflict. We need those classes!

I see it as a happy tension, while noting the necessity that our learning fuel our knowing and enjoying God personal, intimately and deeply. Pastors do not general leave the ministry because of competency issues. It is almost always because of moral defects, lack in their character and deep personal issues. That emphasis (character > competency) is all over the words and tone of our professors, and especially in the internship program. The academic portion is so vital but must serve our character formation if we are to do and finish well in all of life.

I come from a church background that has a general suspicion of seminary, as if not being equipped makes one’s calling more valid. That viewpoint can be ridiculous, but so is the other extreme, that if a person earned straight-A’s in grad school that one is qualified to lead and teach.

Let us all seek a happy balance and sense the tension (not competing!) of knowing God and enjoying and loving Him as Father, Son and Spirit more than anything else in all the world!

Jeff,

I appreciate your thoughts on seeking a happy balance and sensing the tension. I am afraid I have over-reacted the other direction whereby I do not think seminary to be all that important. With that being said, I knew when I arrived on the campus of Southern Seminary that 1) God had called me here and 2) I had better drink in all the knowledge and godliness from the faculty that I can. I have been blessed to befriend one member of the faculty who has had a major influence on my life both in private and in the ministry.

God bless and thanks for the new direction in thought regarding this subject.

For His glory,

Terry Delaney

It is interesting to see how the voting is going. “Yes” has a commanding lead at the moment and, as I write, “Maybe” has only a single vote… mine!

Why “maybe” you ask?

Simple, God does not “require” seminary. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a scripture to support the claim that God requires you to get masters degree… or even a college degree for that matter. Therefor, if God has not required it, I find it difficult to make a hard and fast rule of it.

That said, we must ask what is required to pastor in God’s church. Well, namely the things listed in 1 Timothy and Titus (uh… yeah, I just linked that to wikipedia… what is the world coming to?). In the list of God’s qualifications you will not find “seminary.” You will however find that God requires the ability to teach sound doctrine, refute false doctrine, and hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught (among a HOST of character requirements).

Now, I obviously believe that seminary is a GREAT thing. My point is I don’t think we can require what God has not. I believe that, as Julie and Cale mentioned, there might be other avenues for pastoral training (of which seminary is a great option).

So, why did I vote “maybe” for the question?

The reality is that, for some people, God may require it. I know, in my own heart, that I felt a very strong call to invest in a seminary education. I believe that God is calling me to serve as a pastor and elder in His church. I believe that one of the best things I can do to honor and serve him, and the people he will give to my care, is that I submit myself to “the trustworthy word as taught” for 3 years. For some of my best friends who also are called to pastor, this isn’t necessarily the case.

So, seminary good? Yes… Required? Maybe.

But thats just my 2 cents…

I agree with R. Scott Clark that “face to face” training is best. That’s the way Jesus trained the twelve and that’s the way Paul did it for the most part. But does that mean a pastor needs a seminary education? Does it even mean seminary is the best way to go?

Clark says the Internet can never replace the sort of community which exists between professors and students in the classroom, lunchroom and office. I agree. But those aren’t the only options. Did the Apostle Paul start a seminary and pull men away from their churches to sit in classrooms and learn? Do you suppose that’s what Timothy did to fulfill the charge Paul had given him to pass the teaching on to other faithful men who could do the same? Or did they teach believers in the contexts of the local church and local church ministry?

Clark asserts that seminary does not take men from “the” local church, but merely shifts them temporarily from one local church to another. But let’s be real about it. If I have a promising young man in my local church who is beginning to exhibit his calling as a leader in children’s ministry or youth ministry and he goes away to seminary, that man has been taken from the local church where he is already serving and may be very much needed. My local church—the one left behind—has suffered a loss by his departure. In a small church, the loss could be truly debilitating.

Clark makes a reasonable point that local church pastors do not have the time to stay abreast of all the relevant academic developments. My question is, why can’t seminaries provide a support function to local churches? In fact, they already do to some extent. Why not expand on that to help facilitate training at the local church level for men who are called to pastor?

Of course, if someone wants to do translation work, that person will need to master the biblical languages and that is a purely academic exercise. Seminary, or something like it, makes sense for those individuals. But most pastors don’t need that kind of linguistic training. In preparing to write a book on pastoral training, a pastor friend of mine surveyed hundreds of pastors, including a number of seminary professors, about the need for biblical language training. The overwhelming response was that pastors need enough training to facilitate their interaction with technical commentaries, but typically don’t need or use linguistic skills beyond that level. There were exceptions, of course, but that was the general consensus. In fact, seminary professors responded that students with three years of Greek tended to think they had a greater mastery of the language than they really did, which often led them to overreach their abilities when exegeting passages of Scripture.

If we don’t find a seminary model in the NT, where does that educational model come from? When did we begin using it to train up pastors and why? Has the transition to a seminary model had unintended consequences? Has it changed not only the method but also the content of what is taught? How has it affected the average Christian’s attitude and approach to theology? And what impact has that had on the way most Christians think and live their lives? The answers to these questions might surprise you.

I believe formal pastoral training is important.However in the situation with seminary,I don’t think it a must.But I prefer an educated trained Pastor who is able to meet people at every level.
God has granted me the grace and opportunity to attend a theological institution in Grenada, then I will be moving to Jamaica for more studies.I feel the man of God must be thoroughly equipped.

I do believe a period of academic training is important. Should it be necessarily seminary? No, not in my opinion. I commented in another area on the cost of a seminary education. A traditional seminary education will be priced out of the ‘market’ with the less-expensive, non-traditional methods (online, distance-learning, church-based, etc) because of the prospect of adding $60,000 or more in loans to some potential pastors is just too much. I am looking to get a reasonably priced seminary degree simply because I think it will give me a valuable framework for the ministry, especially since I may want to do some research/writing in the field as well as serve.