The Capranica

Comments on theology and life

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Location: Hemet, California, United States

Co-Pastor of First Baptist Church of San Jacinto, California

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Balanced Training for Ministry

Steve Camp, a contemporary Christian musician (who I have great respect for and enjoy his music) has posted a thought provoking article on his blog today entitled, "It's the Church . . . Stupid." His contention is that the seminaries have hijacked training for pastoral ministry and the local church is left with the theological error and poor pastors that result from such terrorism. The subject of ministry training is much on my heart. For the first eight and a half years of my serving as a pastor, I had no formal theological training. By God's good providence, I was able to attend The Master's Seminary (TMS) in Los Angeles. Steve speaks highly of TMS in his article and he even served on staff at Grace Community Church (connected with TMS) during my time there. I have been able to live on both sides of the spectrum and see the need for both practical ministry training in the local church and formal theological education. Currently I am pursuing further training at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary while serving full time as a pastor of a local church. Steve's article scratches where I itch. His critique of the majority of formal education is needed. While he seems to lump almost all seminaries into the liberal category (except TMS) for their disconnect from the local church in ministry training, he still hits on a critical issue. Where is the local church in the process of training men for pastoral ministry? In my opinion, Steve offers some good points of critique. What is needed is a practical and effective cooperative effort between formal institutions and solid local churches. I hear the cry of many coming out of seminary that they received no practical training in the realities that strike as a freshly graduated seminarian becomes a rookie pastor. And Steve Camp has hit the other side of the issue: where is the local church in the theological AND practical training of ministers? My contention is that we need both. The local church is the headquarters for equipping the saints. And from my vantage point, saints would include seminarians. TMS is a good model, but it is limited. While the school is housed directly on the campus of a thriving and solid local church, the opportunity and reality for the vast majority of the students to be thoroughly trained by the elders and pastoral staff through significant ministry involvement is simply not realistic. There are not enough elders/pastors and ministry scenarios to include all of the student body of TMS. Even if there were enough, Grace Church is not a realistic model of the kind of church that ninety-nine percent of the students will ever serve. By the way, I am sure that the administration of TMS could give ample testimony of quite a number of TMS students splitting their first congregations, if they even survived. If they cannot, I could provide a few. Let me also say. I value my time and training at TMS immensely. I do not know of another seminary quite like it. The faculty is theologically unified and focused on training men to be faithful expositors of the Word of God. I would recommend any prospective seminary student to look into TMS. TMS, despite their connection to a local church, is still an academic institution. And without significant ministry involvement, most graduates from this institution still lack sufficient education for the practical side of ministry. There must be a balance. The local church cannot assemble, support and house a first rate faculty given to full-time biblical scholarship and gifted in the formal theological education of would-be expositors. Furthermore, woe to the seminary that abandons the traditional training in theology, exegesis, historical theology, the biblical languages, etc., for a more practical approach. Can there be a cooperative balance? We need churches (not merely a single church) directly connected to seminaries in the formal education and evaluation of ministerial students. It is my aim to pursue this balance. In the future I will blog more specifically about it. I am pursuing my Doctor of Ministry project in this very area. I pray that there can be transformation in the way seminaries work with church and churches work with seminaries for the effective equipping of solid pastors.


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