Where Should the Pastoral Training Take Place?

When a passion for the church is added to a grounding in the gospel, a proper understanding of ministry calling begins to form. If you believe you’re called to pastoral ministry, you must see your potential calling in the context of the local church, where ministry is shaped and defined according to Scripture.

This makes sense. But think about it for a second. You might be in a church right now but considering hitting the road to get training somewhere else—seminary, Bible college, parachurch ministry. Funny thing about us evangelicals: we take men who are in the church out of the church in order to send them back into the church to do ministry for the church. Is anybody else confused?

Suppose you had a guy whose greatest dream was to make doughnuts. He couldn’t imagine a life where he wasn’t covered with flour and sugar, helping out in the little shop where he grew up. A dream stirs in his heart—he wants to make doughnuts for these folks the rest of his life. So what do we do with Doughnut Joe?

If we follow the common model for training pastors, we tell him he’s got to leave the doughnut shop and go to doughnut school—study the history of doughnut making, parse the intricacies of recipe texts, be able to cogently argue the merits of traditional doughnut design versus the modern fat-free varieties. You get the idea. Joe becomes a “professional” now. But that path takes him far away from the neighborhood shop where he’s always dreamed of carrying out his vision. Somehow we reached the point where the most commonly accepted approach to training pastors is to draw gifted men away from the local church and educate them largely outside it.

Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t about seminary bashing. I went to a great seminary while serving my local church. It gave me a deep appreciation for the key role that Christian educational institutions play in helping the church protect sound doctrine and train teachers and scholars for the advance of the gospel. But there are other important aspects to training men for ministry, areas where the Bible school or seminary can often bump up against limitations. I’m thinking specifically of identifying called men, evaluating their call, assessing their character, and positioning to be fruitful in their call. That’s the responsibility of the local church.

Dave Harvey (2012-03-07). Am I Called?: A Summons to Pastoral Ministry (pp. 52-54). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

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