Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Are we teaching Pastors right?

The New Testament church had it's leaders. Teachers, prophets, apostles and elders. But where did these men get trained? I mean you can't be a church leader without training, right?  Actually, yes you can! And yes, they did. Absent from the early church was college training, seminary, and even Sunday school. They all came about hundreds of years after the apostles.

But surely these leaders had to receive some training? Yes. They did. The best kind. Hands on training!  They learned the essentials of Christian ministry by living out their calling and living their lives among a group of other Christians. At the same time, they also learned under the tutelage of a seasoned worker. It was a matter of apprenticeship rather than intellectual learning. It was a matter of the spirit rather than the brain.

R. Paul Stevens states :The best structure for equipping every Christian is already in place. It predates the seminary and the weekend seminar and will outlast them both. In the New Testament no other nurturing and equipping is offered than the local church. In the New Testament church as in the ministry of Jesus, people learned in the furnace of life, in a relational, living, working and ministering context.

Now, that's something to think about, isn't it? Yet, how many of us will judge a pastor or teacher on his  credentials? Oh my, if he has a doctorate in Theology, he must know what he's talking about, right?  He may have a ton of head knowledge about the Bible, but what about his spirit?  How is his spirit trained? Not in a classroom, I can tell you.

Without boring you with a ton of details on how training church leaders began and how it evolved over the centuries, let me just say that like most everything else in the church, it became highly steeped in Pagan philosophy, Greek oratory skills, and intellectualism found at Universities. In fact, most universities grew out of cathedral schools.  Theology was regarded as the "Queen of the Sciences" in universities.

Even Martin Luther knew what occurred with this type of training when he said. "What else are the universities than places for training youth in Greek glory?"

Out of all this grew the professional seminary. Thomas Aquinas, one of the fathers of the seminary, and who had the greatest influence on theological training believed that it was through the intellect that one could know God, not the heart. Hence, the more trained a person was, the more he could know God.  This type of theological training produced a new profession--the trained pastor.  By 1860, there were 60 Seminaries in America.

Today we also have Bible colleges, which are a more recent invention and a cross between a Bible institute and a Christian liberal arts school. There are currently over 400 in the US and Canada.

The question is, is this the right way to train our pastors and leaders?  We fill them up with a ton of knowledge and them let them loose to run a church. I'm not saying that knowledge of the world, church history, theology, philosophy and the Scriptures isn't valuable. It is! But does it qualify a person to lead a church? Does it make a man a strong man of God? Does it help him to know God in a deep way spiritually?  Does it prepare him to deal with different kinds of conflict, communication issues, counseling,  teaching all types of personalities, dealing with drug addictions, adultery, as well as a host of other situations he will have to deal with?

As one pastor so succinctly put it, "I came through the whole system with the best education that evangelicalism had to offer, yet I didn't really receive the training that I needed..... it didn't prepare me to do ministry and be a leader.  I began to analyze why I could preach a great sermon... but people in my church were still struggling with self-esteem, beating their spouses, struggling as workaholics, succumbing to their addictions. There lives weren't changing.. . we were taught that if you just give people information, that's enough!"  

What are your thoughts?

Taken from Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna


  1. Hmmm...yes, this is all very true. Our mission agency keeps sending down this American pastor (with a doctorate in missions of course!) to teach the missionaries how to do missions. Haha, even the green first-termers could show him a thing or two!

    However, I value my theological (and other) education very highly. No, there's no way they could teach me everything I needed to learn in a classroom, but I feel I received a very solid foundation on which to build. If a Christian college or seminary is really doing its job for young people headed specifically into ministry, it should be tackling subjects such as counseling, conflict management, and other current issues. Many of these things couldn't have been adequately approached within the context of my tiny local church.

    As always, nothing teaches better than hands on experience and working with another in a mentor/disciple relationship. Practical preparation and personal spiritual maturity both take a lot longer and should be lifetime objectives really. I don't know too many people who've gone directly from the classroom to the senior pulpit position anyway.

    Just some thoughts...

  2. Tues Aug 7th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    Thanks so much for the blog today ...
    My thoughts: well, I have had this Senior Pastor for the past 18-20 years or so. He would have received his Pastoral/Theological training back as a young man ... and started off in smaller Churches ... taking on many other tasks as well (Sunday-School bus driver, teacher, etc) ... Then, eventually being offered the Church I am in now, a relatively large one. He was not absent all the time, nor was he taking constant schooling courses. He was "amongst" us ... teaching, learning along with us, very sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading. We could "relate" to him and with him. He shared from the heart, whatever God layed upon his. He was transparent, spoke the truth in love, and his messages were memorable and helped to lead many to change for the better. Because his love for the Lord was on fire, and he had such compassion, he was effective, and was not too proud to openly confess any shortcomings of his own. He was my favourite Pastor.
    Having all kinds of degrees, seminary courses/training etc, does not overly impress me. I need a Pastor to be relatable, sincere, filled with the Holy Spirit, and so MEGA in love with Jesus ! The education-thing ... well, it has its place ... but I relate much more to the 'spirit-man', rather than the 'head knowledge man'.
    Yes, things have changed. The new, younger Pastor we have now ... is big into Theological training/courses, trying to obtain his Doctorate in Pastoring. I'm having more of a struggle trying to relate to him.
    Thanks again for sharing.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  3. Diane, I hope you know I wasn't in any way disparaging a theological education. I've often thought of getting a masters in Theology myself. I'm sure in most schools, students receive a solid Biblical foundation of knowledge. I believe what the authors of Pagan Christianity are saying is that this sort of training was never done in the early church. At least not in the professional level.. because there really weren't any pastors. There were elders who guided the young but everyone in the home church used their gifts to help everyone else. Of course in our present way of doing church, our pastors need some training. I went to a church a few years ago where the pastor did go straight from school to the job of senior pastor. It was a disaster. He became arrogant and proud and he was terrible at counseling people. The church ended up splitting up and we left.

    Brenda. .I'm with you.. all I really want in a pastor is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and MEGA in love with Jesus. And of course some hands-on training under an older, wiser mentor. I'm just not sure this is the case in most churches today. :-(

    Have a great day, Ladies!!

  4. Speaking just from personal experience, the most amazing sermons I've ever heard came from a pastor who had no college whatsoever, let alone some sort of seminary - he knew his stuff *and* was passionate about it.

    I've also noticed that many (not all!) of those who attend Bible colleges (regardless of if they do so to become a pastor or not) become rigid doctrinally, insisting that what they learned in college is correct, and refusing to let their ideas evolve as they study the Bible and gain expereince over years.

    I've heard some people picking on a pastor who didn't have any sort of Bible degree, and it disgusted me, quite honestly. If he is spiritually gifted in that way, then God will enable him to teach the Bible with amazing skill, regardless of whether he has a diploma or not.

    Thanks, as always, for being willing to post about controversial subjects. ;-)

  5. Interesting post! I really had no knowledge on this subject, so this was a very interesting read. It gives me things to think about! Thanks for sharing!

  6. I completely agree, Sapphire! I've heard some GREAT messages from Godly men without any education. I'm not saying an education doesn't help.. but if a man has been a disciple of Jesus for a number of years and is called to preach, then he doesn't need anything but the Bible and the Holy Spirit!

    Thanks for dropping by Emma!! Glad you found it interesting. :-)

  7. Thank for this article. It is Awesome. Keep them coming, they make me think and some of the things you write about are things that I have been think but to afraid to say.

  8. Thank you Anonymous.. . This series is coming to an end.. but please feel free to look through my older posts in the topic, or better yet, I encourage everyone to buy and read Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna.