As pastors shape the churches under their care, getting quality pastors is crucial, and becoming a quality pastor takes training. This training should involve all areas of life, but since this blog is about the intellectual side that is what I will focus on.
Before going further it makes sense to talk about Biblical qualifications for ministry. There are two basic offices in the church: pastor and deacon. The common criteria for both is exceptional character. For pastors, a firm grasp of the truth, ability to teach and rebuke false teaching are added. Hence qualification for pastoral office requires intellectual training. But how much is enough?
Qualifications are there to protect the gospel and the Church, and to promote her maturity. Qualifications exclude and this is where the difficulty lies. Becoming exceptional requires resources – time, money, mentoring – that many don’t have. The higher the bar is set, the fewer attain to that level, particularly those from underprivileged backgrounds. If a “high bar” church ministers in a community with lower levels of education, can people in that community ever become leaders or can they only be led by those from outside the community? On the flip side, the lower the bar is set, the more risk there is of churches falling prey to deception. There is no getting around the fact that pastoral ministry requires a firm grasp of sound doctrine.
So how much training is enough? It depends on resources and church structure. The less resources a church has, the less training is possible. That’s just a fact. The important thing is to take training seriously and to keep pushing forward. If there isn’t money for training, use free resources like Third Millennium Ministries to improve leader quality as time permits. If having a team of seminary educated pastors isn’t possible, focus on church structure in the interim. It seems to me that a solid church structure is more likely to safely permit lower levels of pastoral training. If a church is run by a single head pastor with no theological training who has no external oversight things aren’t likely to go well. However, if a church is run by a team of pastors with an equal vote who hold to sound, historical doctrinal statements like the Westminster Confession of Faith or the Baptist Confession of Faith, and are held accountable by an external group of well educated and devout pastors, lower levels of pastoral training are ok. But, again, these pastors need to stay humble, not equating authority with knowledge, and keep learning.