Over the last several years I’ve begun to wonder whether our (evangelicals who value theologically educated pastorate) system is a.) the most faithful to Christ’s commission and b.) doesn’t eliminate pastors who may be truly called.
Here are some thoughts from seminary professors, one of which, Richard Pratt, had a huge influence on me personally. If you check this out, and read the comments below, you can tell that they didn’t have him as a professor: he made us call him “Richard” not “Dr. Pratt.” Anyhow, Richard argues for a more hand’s on technique, evangelism, preaching, evaluation, and emphasis on rigorous spiritual disciplines like a “boot camp.”
I also appreciated Al Mohler’s remarks, calling us to understand the obvious inability of seminaries to give hand’s on training to pastors. That’s the job of the local church. That’s why I found a mentor very quickly upon arriving at seminary.
One of the things that I appreciate about our denomination is that we place a high value on a theologically educated pastorate; I would NEVER argue against this. I believe this is necessary if the Reformed faith is to be passed on and serious gospel deviations are to be squelched.
An interesting lad in our Intro to Hebrew class told us that in his Baptist church (I know they’re not all like this), they just voted him in as pastor. And that was it! There really wasn’t any training or testing period, or ordination process. That scares me.
I’m still in the process of thinking through this, so I’m only thinking. I’ve personally seen the danger of people who haven’t been to seminary, and have simply read a ton of books. They consider themselves theologically educated, but what they’ve done is simply read the books they liked. They are not well rounded. Their ideas are not tested or challenged in community, or by former pastors, and they are far from teachable. And they too scare me. Learning from experienced pastors and dialoging in community is vital.
There are alternative ways of theological education currently available which don’t require someone to uproot the family, and leave the place where they are currently ministering. I’m becoming more of a fan of these lately.
However, there is also part of me that isn’t totally sold on these. I thoroughly enjoyed my seminary experience. It was in seminary where I met my wife, my closest friend, got mentored, and left with a number of fellow ministers who have been a huge resource and blessing in my life.
But since I escaped from my three years without any debt, that probably puts me in the small minority. While I wouldn’t do church the way some mega-churches do it, I wonder whether their process of ordaining pastors from within might be a better and more biblical model. Then add to that some distance education, spiritual formation, dialog with experienced pastors, and finally passing denominational ordination requirements.
I’m trusting that those in my denomination, who have begin to already consider these things, will move forward in dealing with this issue with both wisdom and proper haste.
Feel free to comment and tell me what you think of seminary education today or my thoughts.