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The Qualifications of a Pastor July 2, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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 In many contemporary churches, particularly the established ones, it is needful for an individual who wants to become a pastor to attend a seminary, at the recommendation of their church. After completing seminary education the individual may then have the right to append the estimable title of “Reverend” to their name and he or she may then seek appointment to a “local” church. This usual involves them being interviewed by the deaconate and approved by the members. The question which needs to be asked however is whether attending seminary automatically qualifies an individual to “pastor a church”? We could equally ask whether it is biblically correct to have a single individual as the “pastor” of any particular church. Indeed this is what has become the norm in churches today but the biblical efficacy of this needs to be tested.

 In order to answer the questions aforementioned perhaps it is useful to first understand what the term “pastor” denotes. The term is used to refer to a “shepherd” and in different translations of the Bible the word “pastor” is sometimes replaced by “shepherd” so the two words are interchangeable. A shepherd or pastor therefore is someone who tended the sheep and this is symbolic of God’s people being the sheep of His pasture and those who tend to them are seen as shepherds or pastors. In the Old Testament for example, God appointed pastors to tend to the flock of Israel:

 Jer 3

15And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

 The role of the pastors here were that of “feeding” the sheep with knowledge and understanding. The role of the pastors here are somewhat similar to the role of pastors in the New Testament. Under the New Covenant it is God who gives the gift of “pasturing” in the church:

 Eph 4

11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

 It should be said here that although the role of the pastor contributes to the “edifying (knowledge and understanding) of the body of Christ” this is not their role exclusively and we can see this from verse 11.  It stands to reason therefore that the body cannot be fully edified without the apostles, prophets and teachers who together with the pastors play the role of enablers in the perfecting of the saints till we all come into the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. But in our churches today we see a system where a single individual, the pastor, who supposedly fulfills all these other roles. In a similar vein, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to different individuals in the church and all these different gifts were meant to be working together for the edification of the whole church (1 Cor 12). But again in most churches today these gifts are recognized in the pastor alone, and he alone his treated as being able to manifest these gifts. But we can discern clearly from scripture that this is not what the Lord intended for His church. However, it would seem that a certain level of confidence is invested in a person who has attended seminary in that only he or she is regarded as having the “competence” to operate in the spiritual gifts. For example, only the pastor is viewed as having the “ability” or sufficient skill to demonstrate or impart the word of knowledge (or wisdom), a skill derived from his/her seminary education. But the result of this is to quench the Spirit to the detriment of the church.

 If we should look at the early church, instead of one man (or woman) standing at the head and preaching a sermon on Sunday we instead see a church which edified one another through hymns and psalms:

 Col 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

 This of course is not to say that sermons from men holding Theological qualifications isn’t relevant but it should not replace what Christ already laid down for the church in how it should operate. Attending seminary doesn’t automatically qualifies one to be a pastor as this is the gift of God although it could be beneficial in aiding one’s understanding of scriptures. The implication here however is that the ordinary Christian who has not attended seminary will not be able to understand the scriptures and this is clearly not true since wisdom and understanding comes from God alone. Another very important consideration here is that if an individual can attend seminary in order to be “qualified” as a pastor, based on Eph 4:11 above, what school does the apostle, prophet, evangelist, or teacher attend in order that they may be equipped to fulfill their roles? Evidently this lack of scholastic competence on their part increases the pastors’ profile as the only ones having the competence to officiate in spiritual matters.

 If we should however look at the original disciples/apostles we note from scripture that they were not learned yet the Lord chose them as the first apostles. We note that the Holy Spirit worked mightily through them to establish the gospel throughout the world as this was the commission given to them. The Holy Spirit is therefore more than capable of working through an individual without the need for formally attending a seminary and this should never be overlooked. The scripture says we should not quench the Spirit but this is exactly what the church has done by a displaced confidence in those who attended seminary vs those who have not. The only qualification that one needs therefore in order to operate in his/her gift is the qualification by the Holy Spirit. May the church return to this essential truth.

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Comments»

1. glasseyedave - July 2, 2010

Sadly you are right, an the church doesn’t care!

2. Henry - July 3, 2010

Glasseyedave,
It is true they don’t care. Who am I to speak. Afterall I am not a “pastor”. I have not attended seminary and gained a Master of Divinity. But truth doesn’t come from seminary it comes from the Word of God which is available to all.

Here is a blog by a semiarian who has highlighted some concerns by his fellow seminarians who were seeking churches after graduation.
http://firescloudsandwanderings.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/theological-training/#comment-253

I found his musings quite interesting and below is my response to him:

Hi there,
Your blog came up on my blog as I had written an article on “The Qualifications of a Pastor”. You can view it here: https://spiritofdiscernment.wordpress.com/2010/07/02/the-qualifications-of-a-pastor/#comment-407

Maybe your fellow seminarians do not feel able to be become “senior pastors” yet because they are not yet mature Christians? Just a thought.

Again you use the words “trusting in your training”? Is that really what a pastor is supposed to do? Perhaps you should be trusting instead in the power of God through the Holy Spirit the enabler by faith! The gift of pastoring is essentially a gift of God (Eph 4:11, Jer 3:15) and is not a “skill” that you develop simply by undertaking training. The role of a pastor is essentially to feed the sheep with the knowledge and understanding which comes from God alone. Please consider these thoughts from a humble “layman”. Thanks.


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