I have been writing about the need for change within our seminaries and the basic foundational problem within the current system we have in place for training pastors and leaders for ministry. I have suggested that the fundamental problem is an over-emphasis on knowledge/information as the means for pastoral training and development.
Since writing the first part of this post, I’ve learned of so many more initiatives that seminaries are undertaking because they recognize the gravity of this situation. It’s also been interesting to discover other blogs being written on the same/similar topic. As I’ve been reading and researching, I’ve been encouraged by what I’m hearing, but not convinced that the root of the issue is yet being addressed.
The root of the issue, as I have been suggesting, is that the training of pastors has come to focus too much on knowledge as information that simply needs to be downloaded over a series of courses in a classroom. Such an approach ignores the person of the man or women being trained and zeroes in simply on making sure they have all of the right information. The result is that a professor can walk into his classroom, download all of the required information to the students, issue some assignments, and then leave – feeling entirely confident that he has just adequately prepared his class for the world of ministry that awaits them after they graduate.
I’m sorry, but that may “work” for the secular world of MBA and MD’s out there, but so much more is necessary for the proper training of pastors and ministers.
What if seminaries made it possible for professors to shepherd their students by eliminating the need to be published or the responsibility to go on the road and speak? What if seminaries gave up on maintaining their reputations by flaunting their professors and instead built them by the way they discipled their students? What if seminaries told accreditation boards to go to h—…uh…home? What if the seminary course-load was all inter-related and seamless? What if the professors took personal responsibility for knowing their students beyond first names and where they come from and actually discipled their entire class they way Jesus led his disciples?
Sounds amazing to me. Why isn’t this happening?!
No, really. Why isn’t this happening?!
Seminaries and their professors who are training the future pastors of this world must see their responsibility as more important than grades, accreditation requirements, or even prospective students. So many of their students have never been mentored or discipled in their entire lives. Several have never had someone walk alongside them in order to help them see how their personal story interacts with the reality of God’s existence. Who knows how many seminary students have personal identity struggles or other kinds of baggage that needs just as much attention and training as “rightly” understanding the book of Romans does.
Jesus trained His disciples by simply making sure they were in His presence when life happened. His classroom wasn’t just the synagogue, but also the marketplace, the homes of tax collectors and sinners, weddings, funerals, pagan cities, righteous cities, and even the open water of the sea. He made sure the disciples were there when He corrected the bad theology of the Pharisees, but He also made sure that Matthew (a tax collector) and Simon (a zealot who hated tax collectors) got along as they walked from Galilee to Jerusalem for a week. Jesus invested three years of His life into twelve men. Eleven of those went on to lead their own churches and had an enormous impact on the world around them.
Jesus prepared disciples to not just possess right knowledge about Him, but to live and die just as He did.The result wasn’t disciples who walked across the stage with a diploma, but disciples who did the will of God because they knew exactly what it was simply because they had been trained how to know it.
It is my strong opinion that we could more adequately prepare our ministry leaders if they didn’t just teach a right understanding of what Jesus taught, but also trained them the way that Jesus trained.
When the irony is that obvious, isn’t it time for a change?