Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Church -- God's "Seminary"

This blog post is really unfinished, but I posting it as is. Maybe we can flesh it out later.


1. The Inspiration of Scripture - all scripture is given by God and is therefore the place we find our instructions.
2. The Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 is a command to be fulfilled by local assemblies of believers (i.e., local Baptist churches).
3. The local church is by definition and purpose a gathering of baptized saints committed to carrying out the work of Christ.
4. New Testament examples - consistent examples are authoritative.


1. That the churches are not fully equipped to train their ministers.
2. That an education based on secular patterns and learning styles is preferable to “being educated at church.”
3. That one having an accredited degree is more qualified to teach God’s people than one having only a spiritual gift.
4. Training for “the ministry” is of greater importance than training for “ministry”.

We should have at least a right to question a system that was non-existent in the apostolic age.

The same body that evangelizes and baptizes should also teach.

Religious education is by the church and for the church (Matt 28:18-20).
The purpose of religious education is maturation of the saints that they might engage in ministry, be built up as a body with the goal of unity of the faith and knowledge of Christ (Eph. 4:7-16).

Studying the scriptures exhibits nobility (Acts 17:11) and approves us unto God (II Tim. 2:15).

The church as God’s “seminary” recognizes the giftedness of the entire church body rather than somehow implying an exclusivity of the eldership.
The church as God’s “seminary” recognizes their authorization to teach by Christ and uses the body He authorized.

Are college professors or pastors best qualified to train pastors?
Pastoral ministry should not be equated as a profession as the legal or medical professions.

1. What studies are really necessary for pastors?
2. Where does the example of plurality of elders fit?
3. Why must a religious education cost so much?
4. Should potential pastors been taken out of the life and concerns of their local church?
5. Why do we need the classroom setting? examinations? degrees?

If seminaries are sincere, let them work themselves out of a job by equipping churches to become able to educate their own people, rather than keeping churches dependent upon them as a constant source for education and preachers.

In the local church, we never finish our education and never receive a degree.
In addition to theology, hermeneutics, in the church we learn necessary lessons of interdependence, inter-relatedness, self-denial, longsuffering, meekness, kindness, and love.

“Every church was then a seminary, in which provision and preparation was made, not only for the continuation of Gospel preaching, but for the calling and gathering, and teaching of our churches.” John Owen, Commentary on Hebrews, Vol. 3, p. 568.


Anonymous said...

In England, when a young man considered the trades, he first had to entry an apprenticeship.

I firmly believe, the best place to learn about ministry and the application of theology, is under the tuteledge of a senior pastor.

This is said, when I spent 25 years teaching in a university divinity school, training future ministers. I needed the degrees to get that position, but it was my pastoral experience that answered the most questions from students.

I think Spurgeon's school was ideal. It was intended for pastors to train pastors. My first seminary was modelled after Spurgeon's school. I had a student ministry all through seminary. The best training I could ever get.

I not only learned the abc's of theology, but I also learned practical theology in the field. When I left seminary, I had all the answers. My first day in the field, I found more questions.

I think we can get hyper-spiritual with the pet phrases; "God is my tutor"; "the Holy SPirit is my teacher"; "I have the Bible, as the sole authority." My friends, these may well be true, but they don't wash for the novice. He needs to stand under the umbrella of field experience if he is to be effective for God in ministry.



amity said...

Jim, never personally having had anything in the least to do with the training of ministers, I would tend to agree with what you say, but just do not understand why it should take place in a seminary. Can't the older ministers train the young ones? and isn't that more the scriptural example?

Anonymous said...


The fact is, one can learn twice as much in a seminary atmosphere as is possible in a busy church ministry. The student is also exposed, or should be, to all the educational possibilities. For example, I exposed students, not only to the scriptural truths, as we know them, but also to the objections to those viewpoints.

What we learn in a pastoral setting is the application of the truths we learned in seminary. These can't be taught in seminary. The academics of situations can be taught, but it is not really learned until one is in the field.

I think we must take advantage of modernity. We no longer read under gas lamps and most ministers do not have 30,000 volume libraries. Have you ever seen a photo of Spurgeon's library? Compare that with the average pastor's library.

On the otherhand, in my early days, often men went out into the field with 3 years of Bible College and a diploma in Bible, not a degree. They were hard working pastors and became the mentors of future ministers in later years. The D.D. degree ws granted years ago to give these men some status in later seminaries. My first professor of systematic theology had only a D.D....I wouldn't have traded him for all the Dth's in the world.

We have entered a new academic world, whether for good or not, and degrees have become the order of the day, and the more degrees the better, or so we think. Look at all the churches looking for a pastor...earned degrees are a must, and they must post them everywhere.

All the years I pastored, I never allowed a church to post my degrees. Even at the university, I encouraged my students to call me Jim.

Spurgeon learned from the masters (books), but we are not all Spurgeons.



clinch64 said...

I am sure Spurgeon had his priorities in order. It's so easy to get off track in our world of hustle and bustle today.


Anonymous said...

Those who pastored churches when I started out in 1945, did just that, pastored churches.

To-day, they are administrators, business managers, people pushers and by the way, preach. I often wondered if we should get a business degree first!

In Canada, the deacons took responsibility for all church business. I handled all the pastoral duties and simply sat on board meetings ex officio. It was great, so far as I was concerned.



R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks for the responses. Since the blog was sort of sparse and unfinished, I'll add a little more clarification to what I believe.

My position is that the local assembly of gathered believers is the primary and best educational institution for BELIEVERS in spiritual and religious matters. I believe the home is also a primary educational institution. But it differs in not being solely for believers, but for all persons.

I believe in "church-based" education because it utilizes the institution Jesus built and follows the example of the apostles. In New Testament times, elders received training in and by the local church, the apostles came to the local church, and elders traveled with the apostles and assisted them (Acts 11:22-26; 13:1ff.; 14:21-23; 18:2,5,18; 19:8-10; II Tim 4:20; Heb. 6:1,2). All of these examples relate more to mentoring, apprenticeship, or on-the-job training models than an institutional model.

I believe in "church-based" education because it best recognizes the giftedness of ALL the body. Some models of education are designed with preachers (that is, ministers as professionals) in mind. Yet the New Testament teaches that all of the body should be trained and equipped for ministry, and that all the body has gifts for ministry. Training for "the ministry" is not of greater importance than training for "ministry". A sincere effort to equip all the body begins and ends on the local church level.

I believe in "church-based" education because it offers the best system of "integrated" education with the Lord's basic institution –- the home. In the church, discipleship, ministry experience, and scholarship are integrated -- not only with one another, but with marriage, home life, child rearing, teaching children -- and in a body that is vitally consumed (or at least should be) with the minister as a whole person (man, husband, father) and not just as a preacher.

I believe in "church-based" education because it does not remove the gift of the "preacher-in-training" from benefitting his church, and it does not remove the church from blessing the "preacher-in-training". The young elder/novice remains involved with the congregation and families where God has placed him. Further, with plural eldership he is not thrown into pastoring alone without the skills to do so, and he is not expected to be THE ONE MAN who knows all and does all.

I believe in "church-based" education because the New Testament indicates the churches are equipped to train their ministers.

According to R. Paul Stevens (I don't know who he is, but I like what he says), "The best structure for equipping every Christian is already in place. It predates the seminary and the weekend seminar and will outlast both. In the New Testament no other nurturing and equipping is offered than the local church. In the New Testament church, as in the ministry of Jesus, people learned in the furnace of life, in a relational, living, working and ministering context."

Also, is interpreting the Bible, ministering, teaching, etc. for preachers only? If we send our preachers to seminary to train them to properly interpret their Bibles without training the laity to do so, have we not de facto created little popes to whom the people must go for proper interpretation of the Bible, etc.?

clinch64 said...

I agree with Jim. It seems that churches sometimes resemble corporations. As for expansion projects, is it out of necessity or "keeping up with the Joneses."


Anonymous said...

I always consider my role in the local church was to preach and teach myself out of a job.

In other words, teach the word, and teach the people to advance the word of God in community........then I could move on to the next challenge. I did not want to be the "boss", the dictator in any church, but simply to do that which Christ commissioned me to do; preach the word, be instant in season and out of season, and always faithful to the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit.

My training in seminaries and Bible colleges enabled me to be that man.