Terms for Pastor-Teacher; 3 John 1
The concept of preparation for the ministry: what is needed to prepare a man for the ministry?
We live in a world where we are so used to instant gratification in everything that we forget that some things take a long time. You can't make certain things happen over night. It takes years for quality, integrity and character to develop in an individual; it takes years for real maturation to take place; it takes years for maturity in the spiritual life to take place. Certain things take just as long today as they did not the first century and just as long as they did 2000 years before Christ. The same thing is true in terms of preparation for the ministry, and we have lost that understanding. Principle: In a growing, advancing civilisation people are always pursuing excellence and quality and they constantly re-evaluate everything they are doing in terms of excellence and quality. But once a civilisation begins to decline people accept the status quo, they begin to do things the way they always did things, they are no longer on the cutting edge, no longer innovating, they are just glad to get by on what has been accomplished in the past. This is unfortunately what is happening in too many churches today. We think that because of certain technology that is available today for Bible study that we don't need to do the same old fashioned hard work that was required in years past in terms of going to seminary, studying the original languages—Hebrew of the Old Testament and Greek of the New Testament, and spending years studying theology and understanding the Bible. This is what prepares a pastor to pastor. What happens in a declining civilisation is that people tend to settle not only for the status quo but also minimum requirements and minimum expectation—what is the least amount I have to do in order to accomplish the job.
- A man has to have a spiritual gift of pastor-teacher, and the possession of the spiritual gift of pastor-teacher and the vocation of pastor-teacher is the highest calling a man can receive. It is the pastor-teacher who provides the spiritual nourishment for the congregation. It is the pastor who teaches how to have a relationship with God. Nothing is more important than that function and operation. The individual cannot get out of the Bible everything he needs for spiritual growth. He can read the Bible, be reminded of many promises, and learn many basic concepts but without someone who has the gift of pastor-teacher he cannot grow out of spiritual infancy. It is the pastor-teacher who protects the congregation from the incursions of false doctrine and false thinking. It is the pastor-teacher who challenges us to refrain from destructive patterns that will bring divine discipline and self-induced misery. It is the pastor-teacher who brings us the Word of God that refreshes our souls, renovates our thinking, reminds us of the truth, restores our vision and reinforces our hope. This is why the gift and the calling of pastor-teacher is the highest calling that there is in life.
- Therefore, having the gift of pastor-teacher requires the greatest preparation of any function in life. In other professions society rightly expects and requires usually two things before putting someone in a position of serious responsibility and authority. First it requires a specific course of training. Many pastors today do not have the standard of education and training that they should have.
- Preparation for the pastor-teacher ministry involves two broad areas, the general and the specific. There is general personal preparation which focuses on the development of the individual in terms of his personal discipline and habits which are necessary for a lifetime of study. He needs to be a self-starter and a self-motivator. To function as a pastor he needs to have a well developed sense of responsibility so that he can function in the process of studying and teaching. The gift of pastor-teacher demands that this person be a lifetime student of the Word of God. A pastor-teacher should go through group academics, formal academics, and go to a seminary because that is what teaches him how to think. Doing a correspondence course doesn't expose a person to other ideas and opinions. He needs to learn how to answer and to change his views. He needs to learn how to think so that he is not dependent on someone else to do his thinking for him. In terms of spiritual preparation the pastor-teacher must prepare for the ministry through his own personal advance. He needs to be a person who disciplines himself to study the Word under a pastor-teacher who can teach him.
- Preparation, then, relates to the principle that God uses prepared men. It is not just a matter of getting under a pastor-teacher and learning to regurgitate what he says, you have to learn to think on your own. No pastor is infallible. Every one of us makes mistakes and every one of us learns from the mistakes of our predecessors and builds on that. That is the whole history of the church age. One generation builds on the learning and advances of the previous generation. It is prepared men who are going to fill the vacuum in our world today because there are very few pastors coming out of seminaries today who are trained to teach the Word.
- Qualification in terms of ordination. Some churches ordain a person if he just thinks he has the gift of pastor-teacher and leave it up to God to handle the situation. That isn't how it used to be. Those people don't want a quality leader, they just want somebody to make them feel comfortable. The issue isn't whether he has the gift of pastor-teacher, the issue is whether he has trained himself and gone through the rigorous qualifications necessary to use his gift. Ordination exams should include three areas: a) written exams that evaluate a man's ability to exegete from the original languages; b) he should be given a written exam in relationship to doctrine to make sure he at least understands doctrine; c) an oral exam to determine what he understands and what he believes, to see if he can think on his feet, to give him the opportunity to verbally express himself before an audience so that it can be seen that he really does have the gift of pastor-teacher. As part of the process he should be required to submit one or two tapes where he has been teaching a group so that those who are evaluating him for ordination can see that he actually has the ability to teach the Word. These should be the standards to keep the standard high for ordination.