A friend posed this question on Twitter: “Whose responsibility is it to train pastors: seminaries or local churches?”
My answer is “yes.” I firmly believe in raising up leaders within a local church; however, I also firmly believe that seminary plays a key role in developing pastors.
I firmly believe in raising up leaders within a local church.
You have a huge challenge in hiring the right person when looking outside of your church. It’s like deciding to marry someone after only a few dates. Of course, you’re both on your best behavior. Of course, you say what the other person wants to hear. Of course, you gloss over things that you don’t like.
My pastor says at every wedding, “Dating brings out the best. Marriage brings out the rest.”
Once you hire that person, you really see who they are. Sometimes you hit the jackpot and have a strong leader who fits the team well and loves the church. Sometimes it becomes apparent that they just don’t fit well. Sometimes they don’t fit with the church, the staff, or the job requirements. God forbid you find that they have character gaps and what they say doesn’t fit who they actually are.
When the local church takes responsibility for developing leaders, you can see all along the way who you are getting. They know what they’re getting, too. Sure, it takes a significant amount of time to raise up leaders and pastors, but it is well worth it.
However, I also firmly believe that seminary plays a key role in developing pastors.
People love to knock seminary these days. They love to question its usefulness. I am on the tail end of my seminary career, three classes away from graduating. It seems I ought to defend all of the time, energy, and money spent getting a seminary education.
Truthfully, going through seminary has been one of the most important steps I’ve taken on my spiritual walk. I learned things that I never would have learned in a church setting. I’ve had to wrestle with different points of view about matters of theology, ministry, and life. More importantly, I’ve had to express what I believe about theology, ministry, and life.
Aside from that, seminary demonstrates and tests a commitment to ministry. Many people feel called to ministry, but do little to test and commit to that calling. Spending the time and money to finish seminary demonstrates that a person takes his/her calling serious enough to learn as much as s/he can from a variety of sources. I have to question the commitment of someone who isn’t willing to attend any kind of formal schooling for ministry (whether undergraduate or seminary level). Would someone who wanted to be a doctor, engineer, psychologist, or many other fields really expect to simply pick everything up on the job?
Back to my friend’s original question: “Whose responsibility is it to train pastors: seminaries or local churches?”
I want a pastor with the real life experience s/he gets in a local church. They have to know how to navigate the messiness of ministry and won’t learn that entirely in a classroom. I also want a pastor with an education because everything we do is based in what we believe. I want him/her to be committed to growing in every way possible, including intellectually.