Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What is the importance of seminary training?

The big question: Is it necessary for a pastor to have seminary training in order to lead a church? It may surprise you that some of the "greats" of the past did not have formal training. Perhaps most notably, C.H. Spurgeon. 

Read on to see what some of today's best know evangelical leaders  have to say on the subject.

John MacArthur:

When a man about his life and the impact he wants to have in ministry, he needs to ask himself questions like, “As a minister of the gospel, what is going to take me to the highest level of excellence and effectiveness? As an ambassador for Christ, what will help me be most effective for His kingdom? As a workman who does not want to be ashamed, how can I be best equipped to teach the Scripture?” The answer is to acquire the best and highest level of training that you can. That is what makes seminary so valuable.
The primary goal of a seminary is to train men to handle the Word of God with passion and precision. The church today—and in any age—needs men who are committed to preach the Word, in season and out of season. If pastors are going to be faithful to their calling, they must faithfully teach His Word to His people through the power of His Spirit and for His glory. A man trained at a seminary that is committed to these convictions will be an effective minister of the gospel.

Al Mohler:

There is no real mystery to the value of seminary training. Seminary education is not a substitute for a call to ministry, nor is it more important than character and conviction. The man of God is not made by theological education, and there have been phenomenally faithful and powerful preachers who lacked formal theological education. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine how a man can be satisfied with less theological and biblical education than is available to him. In other words, seminary is not the answer to every need for theological education, but where a faithful seminary education is available, the question clearly shifts to this: Why would I not pursue the most intensive and faithful program of preparation in order that I may faithfully and accurately teach the Word of God? Charles Spurgeon never attended seminary, but he grew up on the Puritan classics and serious works of biblical and systematic theology from the time he was able to read. In his case, the exception proved the rule, for one of his major concerns in ministry was the formation of a pastors college that would train men to do what he so faithfully did week after week—preaching and teaching the Bible to God’s people. My advice to a pastor who is not seminary trained is to gain the greatest level of theological and biblical education that is available to him in his context of life and ministry. Thankfully, this is where the technological revolution has given us some new advantages and opportunities. In reality, there is no one who is outside the reach of truly faithful theological education, whether by Internet, residential study, or other means.

Steve Lawson:

The importance of seminary training can hardly be overstated. It is through such concentrated study of God’s Word that men are trained for the preaching and teaching ministry to which they are called. The study of the original languages, systematic theology, biblical theology, church history, biblical exegesis, Bible exposition, preaching, counseling, and other areas are indispensible for any man in ministry. These academic disciplines are necessary for a lifetime of successful ministry. Certainly, history reveals extraordinary ministers who were self- taught and who never had formal training in a seminary, such as Charles Haddon Spurgeon. But such men are an exception to the norm. Without a formal education, one would need the genius of Spurgeon in order to be self-taught, a gift that few have. To be sure, for the masses, the best way to be best equipped for the ministry is by thorough training in a doctrinally-sound seminary.

Rick Holland:

This is a tough question. If given the opportunity I would encourage any man to go to seminary. It’s not an overstatement to say that my seminary years were the most important years of my life. Nothing duplicates the depth and intensity of study in seminary. I’m not sure that Greek, Hebrew, Theology, and Exegesis can be learned any better than by giving three or four years of your life to them. Having said this, the history of the church is a living testimony to the fact that seminary is not a requirement for successful ministry. Any survey of church history will identify men, very successful in ministry, who never had formal theological education.