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Ministry

The Pastor and Education

I want to be a pastor, so typically I read a lot of posts and articles about things to consider before you become a pastor.  One general point that pastors always list has to do with being well-read or getting a seminary education.  This always rubs me the wrong way.  Now, I love education and think it is invaluable.  I love to read.  I’m a guy who has a BA from a university and plans to attend seminary to get an M.Div.

Yet this issue never ceases to make me shake my head a bit.

Does every pastor in every context needs to be well-read and seminary educated?  Consider a pastor in an inner-city setting where the people in the neighborhood didn’t even finish high school.  Will they care if he did his thesis in Pauline theology?

Does this mean we don’t read the Puritans or Edwards or Spurgeon or Calvin?  Does this mean we never seek formal training?  Of course not.  But when reading every book out there and getting a master’s degree become requirements, we become legalistic.

These thoughts come to mind because Peter was a uneducated man in the formal sense, and he ministered to blue-collar Jews around the Roman Empire (and Pharisees at times too, of course).  Paul, on the other hand, was the Pharisee of the year from fourth to ninth grade, and he ministered to Greeks who loved logic, debate, and formal education.  Different contexts.  Different ministers. Different backgrounds.  Same gospel.  Same fruit.  This led to a world-wide revolution.

John Piper has said, “We should not say, ‘You have to have an M.Div.’  There are so many M.Divs [and PhDs] who are incompetent pastors!  And there are people without them who would make really good pastors. I think all of that is changing, in fact.”

This isn’t a knock against seminaries or reading.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that.  I think any man who wants to be a pastor should be trained and mentored by other pastors and, if possible, formally educated.  But I think we need to be careful to tell every man who wants to be a pastor to read a lot of books and go to seminary.  Instead, perhaps we should tell those who desire the noble task of overseer that they should soak up the Scriptures, especially the pastoral epistles.  They should be exemplary in what Paul lays out for a qualified elder in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.  And it’s funny, because when I look there, I don’t find anything about reading or education.