Ruth Bell Graham once said many wives are frustrated from expecting their husbands to be to them what only Jesus Christ can be.
That same principle works on so many directions.
Many a pastor is disappointed in his Bible college or seminary education as a result of unrealistic expectations. Those theological schools buy into this error by periodic polling of their alums to ask, “What do you wish we had taught you? What subjects should we have included? What skills did you need for which you were unprepared?” Soon, the provosts and deans assemble a new package of courses and give it its own name–“Masters of Divinity with Specialty in Whatever”–and life goes on.
I guarantee you that the next generation of preachers will also produce a list of subjects their school should have taught. It’s the nature of the beast since life is always moving forward, cultures change, people are never static, and one more big reason. Maybe the biggest of all.
No seminary can compensate for a lazy or unmotivated preacher who will not do the hard work of educating himself. A seminary can do only so much.
A good seminary will equip its students/graduates with the tools for going into the world to minister. But no seminary can teach them all they should know, give them all the skills they will need, prepare them for every eventuality. Nor should it.
Pastors–and by this we mean all ministers, whether denominational leaders or missionaries or church staff or workers with parachurch ministries–should understand from the start that they will need to do the hard work of prayer/study/research/thinking on their own in order to find a proper understanding of:
- The Scriptures. Are they inspired? Infallible? What about the “problems”? What about the areas of life today not addressed in Scripture?
- God. How do you know He exists? How can you help someone to believe in Him? Is the Bible’s Yahweh the same as the Muslim’s Allah?
- The Trinity. The word is not found in Scripture, so where did it come from and why do we have this concept of God? How can you preach something no one adequately understands?
- Salvation by grace through faith. What is the place of good works?
- The security of the believer. Can a saved person ever be lost? And if so, what do you do about all those “I give them eternal life” promises? But if not, how do you explain apostasy?
- Jesus Christ. Was Jesus God or just “God, Junior”?
- The missionary journeys of Paul. Studying Acts and the epistles with the maps before him, a faithful student will strengthen his future ministry by having this clear in mind.
- Current moral issues: Homosexuality. Transgenderism. Abortion.
- What about the millions who die without ever hearing the gospel? What is their fate?
- What about the suffering in the world? If God is love, wouldn’t He take away all suffering? Or is something else going on here?
- The church. Jesus said it was His (Matthew 16:18) and He threatened to remove Ephesus’ franchise (Revelation 2:5), so how does this play out in today’s world?
The list is endless, of course. A faithful minister is a lifelong student. He/she will forever be learning and growing. And along the way, many will be writing and publishing the fruits of their study/thought/learning in order to assist those coming behind them.
But you will not be able to do anyone else’s thought and prayer and study for them. Some work has to be done by the individual.
No one else can chew my food, parent my children, love my wife, or think through my assignments. This is my work and I gladly accept it.
“Father, help me be a diligent student. For Jesus’ sake.”
Agreed. Excellent observations. I would add that self-education is the secret to any minister fulfilling the call of God and being “successful’ in God’s eyes.