Can We Make Seminary More Effective?

"I am concerned that seminary focuses too little on discipleship and replaces it with scholarship. I am not against scholarship, but scholarship is a feeble substitute for biblical discipleship. A model of preparation for ministry based upon Jesus’ practice should seem a reasonable goal for educators with a high view of scripture." Can We Make Seminary More Effective?

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Paul J. Scharf's picture

I am one of those old-school guys who thinks that seminary could be more effective if we went back to making it about a traditional theological education—with a heavy emphasis on Hebrew and Greek, systematic theology and Bible exposition.

The author makes some good points, particularly under his final heading.

I have to admit, though, that I am growing leery of people trying to make seminary more effective, more appealing, more exciting, more within reach, etc. Are law schools doing this? Are medical schools doing this? Is the average person supposed to be capable and qualified to go through seminary just to say he or she did it?

I may be unique in this, but I am eternally grateful for the seminary experience I received at Faith (M.Div., '99). It was old school—there were few bells and whistles, except for the advent of week-long modules, which were new at the time and provided a feasible way for schools to offer classes with visiting professors. We were blessed to have a resident faculty that was second to none, providing an elite learning experience in an intimate atmosphere. We were exposed to such world-class visiting professors and lecturers as Drs. Whitcomb, Walvoord, Ryrie, Showers, McCune and Beale. We were trained by men who represented "old Dallas Seminary" and "old Grace Seminary"—some still in their primes and others able to share a lifetime of wisdom. This training is a part of me that I would not trade for anything—no matter how personal, practical or otherwise attractive it might be.

There is, however, one pragmatic improvement that I would like to see seminaries (and also colleges—where it is even more necessary) make.

There ought to be a time, somewhere—a special class, a series of chapel sessions, a special evening—where knowledgeable experts provide real-world counsel to ministerial students. Topics would include the following:

  • "Here is what you have to know about opting out of Social Security."
  • "Here are some things you will have to do if you want to be a missionary."
  • "If you are planning to be a pastor, here are some things you have to know about housing allowance and expense reimbursement."
  • "If you are going to be in ministry, here are things you have to know before buying your first house."
  • "Here are some legal issues that you have to be aware of every time you do ministry in a new state."
  • "Here is a list of areas that you have to monitor immediately when you begin a new pastorate."

If I were running a school, I would also require completion of Financial Peace University to allow students to graduate. When I was in college, the only such available resources of which I was aware were a few Larry Burkett books. Today, there is little excuse for failing to expose students to such needed information.

Food for thought—for what it's worth.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Kind of depends on what we mean by "emphasis on discipleship."

Seminary is supposed to happen at a point in ministry training and experience where the believer being trained is already mature. That is, he does not need discipling in the basic habits and attitudes of genuine Christian living. So making seminary more discipleship oriented in that sense is, would be making it more remedial... get it to fix problems that should be fixed in the local churches students come from.

On the other hand, there is definitely a tendency -- in my experience -- for seminary training to get too isolated from real world ministry concerns. There is often a gap between academia and practitioners. (This is also a common problem in many other fields, such as the law enforcement sector I now work in: criminoloigy and policing are two different things and much work is going into getting the two talking to each other better.)

So if by "emphasis on discipleship" we mean "better connection to real world ministry skills," I would agree with that.

The defense that many seminary profs are part-time pastors or have pastoral experience only goes so far. Seminaries tend to exist in places where there are multiple local churches with a high percentage of Bible college and seminary graduates. So they minister to a relatively well-educated constituency. When you get further away, you find that the biblical-educational background of the folks in the pews is quite different. And ministry to them is significantly different in a number of ways.

Personally, I think it's time to at least look at a completely different approach to training pastors, something more like an internship --> journeyman --> certification process. But I'm just brainstorming. The advent of widespread distance education means the process is going to continue to change dramatically in coming decades, regardless. So the question is, what are the best ways to depart from the traditional model.

So... from the article, yes, more personal, more emphasis on people skills.

I like the idea of required continuing education, and this might be where some kind of certification would tie in.

Also connected to certification: a strong continuing ministry ethics training component.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

ScottS's picture

I have been co-teaching the master's level RES511 Research: Writing and Communication course at Piedmont International University for three years now, usually six courses per year. While my PhD is specifically in Theology (the co-teacher has hers in Writing and Rhetoric), the RES511 course gives me an opportunity to see a variety of students pursing one of our three master's level degrees from our seminary, including the MDiv, and also our Master of Education students, and see them write on a variety of topics (since they essentially can choose, assuming it involves research).

While students vary, the ones that are weak (which, BTW, the Master of Education students tend to be some of my strongest), I find are weak in one or more skills of (1) logic, (2) ability to organize their thoughts, (3) and basic English grammar. All three are vital to effective communication, whether written or spoken, and so important for preaching, teaching, evangelizing, etc. (the core things a graduate from seminary should be able to do well). Unfortunately, these are things that should be gained during the undergraduate level so that they are not an issue at the graduate level.

My own training came from masters degrees (Bible Exposition and then MDiv) at Pensacola Theological Seminary and then my PhD from Piedmont. Comparing the two schools at the master's level, Pensacola (at least at the time) did a far better job at Bible exposition, while Piedmont had better emphasis on theology and hermeneutics (the latter of which is not even offered as a course itself at Pensacola, though the Bible exposition courses do discuss Bible interpretation within them, they do not discuss the field and process of it generally like a hermeneutics course would). Pensacola also has a broader biblical languages program because they offer more exegesis electives beyond the introductory courses to the languages than Piedmont currently does. 

So I state the above to just say that I agree with Paul Scharf that "a heavy emphasis on Hebrew and Greek, systematic theology and Bible exposition" (emphasis added) is critical to a good seminary training, and so a balance of those should always be the core. I see these skills as being the core "real world ministry skills" (to quote Aaron Blummer) since they are the foundation behind how other such skills should be functioning. Yet I also would agree with Aaron on the common division between academy vs. practice that needs to be corrected, and Scharf on some of those other practical points noted. But skills of how to lead a church, how to counsel those in need, how to manage finances, how to cross-culturally engage effectively, and apologetics and ethics, etc., must all be tied into the Bible to be effective, which goes back to the core. Yet these latter skills also need a contemporary cultural connection to make them relevant to where one may minister today. So really, a broad balance of training is needed in both the core and the other skills.

But that need for balance is also part of the issue. Some MDiv programs (like Piedmont's) are reduced down to 72 credit hours from 90+ that other institutions have (mine at Pensacola was 96) or had (since some are reducing). Couple that with the fact that students these days can get a number of credit hours needed for graduation reduced for "advanced standing" from their undergraduate studies, and you can end up not having as much training in seminary as what used to be required, and so not as many credits to work with to get a "balance" of what is needed.

Now regarding the post that this discussion is about, Kevin Schaal gave three areas he felt needed attention. My comments on those:

  • More Personal: I agree with Schaal that those involved with students "need to be involved in the personal life and walk of seminary students." Seminary training should still be (a higher level of) discipleship training. This is particularly needed for all those students that go straight from their undergraduate studies into seminary, but even the most seasoned pastors can have areas of weakness, and blind spots in their lives and ministry that others (peers at that level) on the outside may see and be able to help correct. Unfortunately, this level of personal involvement is decreasing tremendously because of online education. An online teacher cannot assess accurately what is going on in the lives of the students being taught.
  • Decentralize: That is too broadly put for my taste. I see value in centralization in that decentralization implies getting trained by one man (or a very small group of men). However, Schaal does say "seminary education and local church discipleship can work hand-in-hand" because of online education. Here I think is what can solve the personalization issue above for online education. Seminaries (especially online focused) need to set up active communication with a few (unrelated) people local to the student, and have some type of regular meetings between those people and the student and those people and the seminary to evaluate the "personal" walk of the student from a local perspective. Exactly how this could be and best be done, I'm not sure, but this would help decentralize the personal aspect in our online world, while maintaining a generally centralized place of growing knowledge in the seminaries.
  • Continuing Education: I just agree. Some type of continued certifications in either advanced studies in areas already covered, or introductory studies in knowledge and skills missed in earlier education should be set up (and affordable).

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Don Johnson's picture

I agree that there is need for improvement, no human system is without flaws.

However, I have some questions about continuing education. First, most continuing education I have seen is imposed by apparatchiks on the professions "for their own good" but does little to actually enhance their professionalism or actually contribute much of value to their actual field of work. This is of course an "anecdotal objection," but for continuing education to be of value it needs to have value. Who gets to decide what this is?

Second, how does one require continuing education without drastically changing our ecclesiology? Will we move to a denominational model? I doubt Kevin would suggest that given our shared commitment to the FBFI. Is the local church to become the authority to whom the preacher is accountable? If yes, how then is he a "pastor" and not just a "hired preacher?" I think more needs to be discussed here before I would accept this kind of standard.

As for Paul Scharf's suggestion of Financial Peace University, I have long advocated for preachers to have a bit of a clue about how money works, but I think Dave Ramsay is self-serving and legalistic. I would think wisdom can be gained from many other sources rather than pointing anyone in his direction.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Second, how does one require continuing education without drastically changing our ecclesiology? Will we move to a denominational model?

Probably the only way would be for individual pastors and/or churches to voluntarily commit to it as part of some kind of certification/other credential program.

What if there was an entity sort of like the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors but with the aim of overall pastoral excellence rather than a focus on a particular skill set (counseling)? 

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Aaron, Great idea! I love it.

Don, Am I missing something, or is the local church not already "the authority to whom the preacher is accountable"—at least on some level? They are, after all, paying his salary, are they not?

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Don Johnson's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Second, how does one require continuing education without drastically changing our ecclesiology? Will we move to a denominational model?

Probably the only way would be for individual pastors and/or churches to voluntarily commit to it as part of some kind of certification/other credential program.

What if there was an entity sort of like the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors but with the aim of overall pastoral excellence rather than a focus on a particular skill set (counseling)? 

So would this Association have any clout if the pastor missed his class? What if he didn't pass the exam/test? If it has clout, it seems the local church relinquishes some authority, if it has no clout, what is the point?

In any case, like I said, it would involve a change in ecclesiology, which would meet with resistance by many.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

Paul J. Scharf wrote:

Aaron, Great idea! I love it.

Don, Am I missing something, or is the local church not already "the authority to whom the preacher is accountable"—at least on some level? They are, after all, paying his salary, are they not?

No, the pastor is under the authority of Christ. He serves the congregation within parameters set down by Scripture. Granted, the local church can dismiss the pastor, but not without cause. However, that power is not exactly the same as accountability.

I have the impression that many churches view the pastor as a hireling. I think that is an unbiblical ecclesiology. A church calls a pastor, it doesn't hire a preacher. There is a huge difference between the two phrases.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

apward's picture

I don't think you need to add a bunch of discipleship classes or decrease other requirements in order to get an effective balance. Eat lunch with your profs, chat with the librarian, do a research project with a prof for a journal article. Meet and talk with people outside of class. Those things used to be a given with graduate school, but have fallen by the wayside. Students, faculty, and staff can make current programs effective by doing those things rather than tinkering with the curriculum. 

I was blessed with faculty and staff in seminary who were happy to talk and spent time with me outside of class. And I think most seminaries are full of people like that, but most students don't take advantage of the opportunity. If you are taking online classes you need to find local people to talk to. And it doesn't take hours on end, just half an hour to an hour every once in a while.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

So would this Association have any clout if the pastor missed his class? What if he didn't pass the exam/test? If it has clout, it seems the local church relinquishes some authority, if it has no clout, what is the point?

In any case, like I said, it would involve a change in ecclesiology, which would meet with resistance by many.

It could work just like ACBC and other certifying bodies do: the only clout is that you lose your certification or perhaps become "inactive." (I'm not sure what you have to do to lose ACBC certification, if you even can -- maybe someone familiar can fill in that gap.) Given that we're talking about independent Baptist and similar baptistic groups, it would have to be very respectful of both individual liberty and local church liberty.

But it really wouldn't have to threaten autonomy any more than, say, GARBC or FBFI or IFCA do. You can get kicked out of these groups if you stray -- from their point of view -- in certain ways.

The idea first came to me a few weeks ago reflecting on the problem of church leaders who don't handle reported abuse properly. This is, as we all know, a separate topic, but to the extent that we have that problem in independent Baptist/baptistic ministries, it seems to me that a big part of it is a faulty understanding of pastoral leadership and/or ignorance of how to properly comply with state and federal law.

Then you have all the other ethics problems like embezzlement, unilateral discipline, etc. So a certifying body that focuses on these gaps and tries to ensure that trainees embrace biblical servant-leadership, transparent and accountable (to the congregation) financial practices, handling of reported domestic and sexual abuse, etc., might be able to help mitigate some of these problems. Churches could look for certified men to be their pastors. Seminaries could, to some extent, provide some of the curriculum. Some schools might want to dive in fully and produce certified graduates.

I'm a realist though. If it was actually possible to prevent 100% of ministerial malfeasance by any method, it would have been done a long, long time ago. You can't control the choices humans (sinners) make in moments of temptation. It's just an idea to help do something constructive about these problems (vs. making social media noise and calling that doing something).

So, to clarify: I agree with Don (and Paul also on this point, I'm pretty sure) that the pastor is accountable to the local congregation. He isn't a hired preacher: he's part of the body. What a certifying body could do is help with educational (some of which are totally theological) gaps, helping make both pastors and churches be more aware of certain things. The ongoing education part of it is organic to that, really, because we all need to keep growing and keep certain principles front-of-mind.

(Edit to add: If I was retired and/or financially independent, I'd be seriously inclined to start organizing this as a nonprofit. As it is, I can't drop everything and do that... not for several years at the very least. But maybe someone can.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Don Johnson's picture

Well, I understand why you suggest it. It just won't wash with independent Baptists. There is a reason for our ecclesiastical position, and we won't cede that authority to anyone outside our congregations.

BTW, there is a difference between the GARBC and the FBFI. The GARBC is a fellowship of churches, the FBFI of individuals. No church is accountable to the FBFI, whereas there is some church accountability to the GARBC.

That difference illustrates why I say to create a body as you suggest would either require a change in ecclesiology or would be toothless and meaningless.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

With Scott S., I am a huge proponent of language and logic study, but I would concede that this alone does not ensure an accountable pastorate.  How could I argue otherwise after learning of the old European practice of sending the otherwise intelligent but lazy sons of elite families to theology school to gain a sinecure?  They were all university educated in the ancient languages, logic, and the like, after all.

What might do a lot of good--and of course the implementation is easier said than done--would be if pastors would make a point of teaching their congregations, and key men in their congregations, how to think theologically and not just what to think theologically.  In other words, if a pastor sees it as important to train men to think for themselves, a great portion of the potential for pastoral abuse diminishes.

Or, to be even more blunt about the matter, I would dare guess that when a pastor even starts to try to teach congregants how to theologically, competently or otherwise, a huge portion of the potential for abuse diminishes.  The simple act of trying tells people "it's OK to disagree on certain things."

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

BTW, there is a difference between the GARBC and the FBFI. The GARBC is a fellowship of churches, the FBFI of individuals. No church is accountable to the FBFI, whereas there is some church accountability to the GARBC.

That difference illustrates why I say to create a body as you suggest would either require a change in ecclesiology or would be toothless and meaningless.

I'm not seeing why that would be the case. There are many professional organizations that function as I have described without any violation of the autonomy of the businesses involved. Using ACBC again as a ministry-oriented reference model, is it toothless and meaningless?

I do think this certification would make more sense as an individual "membership" rather than church membership, though I also don't see why a church version couldn't also exist for any congregations that would opt to participate. Like any of the gazillion independent church fellowships, churches could withdraw any time they like.

Does participation in these fellowships require a reworked ecclesiology? 

 

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Aaron, you're right - it wouldn't require anything of the sort. For example, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners is a voluntary association that offers training and credentials to fraud investigators. Nobody assumes that, if a fraud investigator decides to join and obtain this credential and maintain it with CE requirements, he's abdicating some measure of autonomy. Neither is the agency he works for. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Don Johnson's picture

well, I guess we will just keep talking past each other. So suppose a pastor decides to be certified as you suggest. What happens then? Suppose he:

  1. decides to let the certification lapse. Is it reported? To whom? What are the consequences?
  2. fails at some continuing education class? Same questions
  3. maintains the certification but breaches the code of ethics in some way? Who polices the breaches? How?

we could go on, but maybe that will help you see what I am saying

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Researching what other certifying groups do would be informative, I'm sure. I don't know what ACBC's procedures are, but I'll bet they have answers for all those questions, as far as how they handle them -- which I'm sure differs from organization to organization.

Worst case scenario, the guy loses his certification. This might seem like nothing, but the way these organizations work is that over time (if they do things right) they become respected and the credential is meaningful to those who respect the organization. In addition, someone who pursues certification in the first place, does it because either he saw some value in it or an organization "hiring" him saw value in it, or both. So losing it has at least as much importance as gaining it did in the first place.

I don't have time at the moment, but maybe I'll do some digging at ACBC and found out how they do things. But it could be instructive, too, to look at outfits like AICPA, which maintains a Certified Forensic Accountant credential, among other things (at first blush it's much more academic than what I'm thinking... lots of exams). ... And also cert's like the one Tyler mentioned. But the point is that all these organizations have their procedures for dealing with lapses, failures, etc. There would not be any need to reinvent the wheel, just customize it for the aims of a biblical pastoral certification meant to serve independent churches and ministries.

I would be interested in knowing, though, Don, if you believe church participation in fellowships of churches fits in with your understanding of NT ecclesiology. ... and if you see certifications like ACBC as a problem for ecclesiology. The theological objection seemed to be at the core of your feeling the idea can't work, but I still don't know what your thinking is on how sound ecclesiology would be a barrier.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me that we already have, in effect, a number of accrediting agencies out there.  They don't go by that name, but if you have a man who's a member of the FBFI, or T4G, or is a BJU or Maranatha (Maranatha Ruleth, said it for you Tyler) grad, you've got a good hunch about where they're coming from.  For that matter, if a man speaks intelligently about the Fundamentals or the Solas or the creeds, you've got another good hint, no?

Now if you formalize it beyond the current level, Don has a point.  I've been a member of accrediting organizations in my field, and you've got to get a consensus among employers that the "stamp of approval" is worthwhile in hiring and retention.  I think that's a step that many churches will need to be persuaded to take, and that would constitute at least a minor modification of their ecclesiology.

That noted, the $64000 question is really what would be in that accreditation, and what would not.  As I see things, each of us fits imperfectly into one or more of the "orbits" of fundamentalism, and hence when we hire/promote/teach/etc.., we get a number of known things as well as a number of things which are flying below the radar.  I tend to support this kind of notion--and for children's ministries as well as for pastors--but the trick is in what you're delivering.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Whatever a seminary does, it shouldn't ever drop the language requirements. I'm preaching from Mt 26:26-30 on the Lord's Supper this coming Sunday, and just finished translating the passage. I never appreciated the significance of the adverb καινὸν in Mt 26:29 before:

  • Is it a temporal adverb ["in a new era"]
  • or an adverb of manner ["in a new way"]?).
  • If it is temporal, should the preposition ἐν be translated to reflect a temporal meaning ("during my Father's Kingdom") rather than a spatial sense ("in my Father's Kingdom")?

These are things you'd never notice in English! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ron Bean's picture

I'm seeing some seminary grads whose expositional sermons are doctrinally sound and the product of sound study but are often as dry as a bucket of dust. (They are an improvement over the birdbath sermons that are 3 feet wide and 1 inch deep.) I'm also seeing seminary grads who are lacking people skills and are preachers but not pastors. Finally I'm seeing pastors who consider themselves "professionals", strong on administration and academic production but delegating pastoral work to others.   

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

Editor

It all falls on the local churches that ordain ministers, and the kind of mentorship these new pastors are given at those churches. One corollary of autonomy is that you'll always have a quality control problem. Local churches have big responsibilities. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

CAWatson's picture

If you are going to go the route of "certification," you would want to list out what you are certifying in terms of KSAE - Knoweldge, Skills, Abilities, Experiences. 

What level of knowledge would you demand that someone certified in your organization had? And would you demand that they keep that knowledge (i.e. Hebrew)? 

What skills would someone certified need? 

What abilities? 

What experiences? 

How would you move, as an organization, to set up training centers where those KSAE could be gained/learned/earned? 

Don Johnson's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I would be interested in knowing, though, Don, if you believe church participation in fellowships of churches fits in with your understanding of NT ecclesiology. ... and if you see certifications like ACBC as a problem for ecclesiology. The theological objection seemed to be at the core of your feeling the idea can't work, but I still don't know what your thinking is on how sound ecclesiology would be a barrier.

I am not familiar with ACBC, so my comments are more on generic lines in response. As a counseling certification, it seems to me that it is more oriented to the outside world than to internal church policies and practices. I don't know of any churches that would forbid their pastors giving counsel, whether they have the certification or not. But I don't particularly know much about it, as I said.

If certification created an organization that had any authority over the local church, giving any directives, etc, I would find that problematic. Even if the organization didn't directly impact the church, but had some clout over the pastor certified, I would find that a problem. If certification was merely recognition that person X has taken the required courses/education to maintain his certified status, I guess that might be acceptable. It would be somewhat toothless, however, as anyone can take courses.

I think the main point of Kevin's article is that we need to do better in our seminaries. I think that is true, and I'm open to innovations to the process, though I think the 96 hour MDiv is a pretty well essential program, with the caveat that I don't think a pastor MUST have it. If a young man is going into the ministry and has the wherewithal and academic ability, he would be foolish not to take it, in my opinion.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

T Howard's picture

TylerR wrote:

Whatever a seminary does, it shouldn't ever drop the language requirements. I'm preaching from Mt 26:26-30 on the Lord's Supper this coming Sunday, and just finished translating the passage. I never appreciated the significance of the adverb καινὸν in Mt 26:29 before:

  • Is it a temporal adverb ["in a new era"]
  • or an adverb of manner ["in a new way"]?).
  • If it is temporal, should the preposition ἐν be translated to reflect a temporal meaning ("during my Father's Kingdom") rather than a spatial sense ("in my Father's Kingdom")?

These are things you'd never notice in English! 

YES!  That was my point in another thread. There is tremendous benefit of translation as part of the exegetical process. Many (most?) pastors neglect this, but it makes the pastor slow down and really look at the passage they are preaching. It also allows the pastor to better understand how the author writes and communicates nuance and emphasis. Even referencing multiple English translations doesn't provide the clarity that you get from translating some passages on your own.

T Howard's picture

TylerR wrote:

It all falls on the local churches that ordain ministers, and the kind of mentorship these new pastors are given at those churches. One corollary of autonomy is that you'll always have a quality control problem. Local churches have big responsibilities. 

In my experience, most people in independent baptist churches (as well as bible churches) don't know the difference between an M.A., MDiv, or a ThM. Although there is a significant difference in the quality and quantity of education received with each degree, most congregations view them as equivalent master degrees. The same is true for the DMin and PhD. All the congregation knows is that they are doctorate degrees, and the guy can be called Dr. So-and-So. If there is going to be a certain standard of pastoral quality, it will have to be taught and reinforced by the pastor himself so that the congregation will know what to look for when he steps down / retires. There are also books available to help congregations find quality candidates. When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search: Biblical Principles & Practices to Guide Your Search by Chris Brauns is a good one.

CAWatson's picture

As I mentioned in a different thread, I'll be candidating next week at a different church, in a different state. In my initial visit, I was asked by the strongest KJV person in the church (he probably isn't KJV-only, but KJV-preferred) which translation I would be preaching from. My answer was, "My own, but I'll be reading from the ESV. I didn't go to seminary for a decade to do otherwise." He actually seemed satisfied with the answer. 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Aaron,  I agree that an MDiv is highly desirable.  I wish I had done this.  At the time I was at BJU, they didn't offer this program.  I considered going elsewhere, but ended up accepting the appeal from a small group of Christians in North Carolina to lead them in establishing a new church.  After finishing an MA at BJ, I was ready for a break in academics, and eager to get into ministry.  I now understand the value of the MDiv, and wish I had taken the time to acquire one.  However, after forty-five years in the pastorate, my training days are over.  I would urge all young men preparing for pastoral ministry to acquire an MDiv.  You will be glad you did!

G. N. Barkman