12 December 2022 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
I keep hearing of more preachers who have bypassed theological training (undergraduate and seminary) and have somehow managed to be hired after a few months of an evangelistic training course. Some conferences hire only such candidates, which makes me wonder if there’s a reason—or if we are just really that desperate for pastors?
I don’t see how a short evangelistic training course can take the place of a M.Div., but what do you think, Aunt Sevvy? Should I be more open-minded?
Signed, Education is Important
Aunty comes from a family that greatly values education. Yet she’s had to rethink this topic of how much education Adventist pastors need.
Aunty has met some remarkably successful and talented pastors who didn’t take the traditional route. It is hard to deny a place to someone who clearly has organizational skills, people skills, personal charisma and strong opinions—qualities that aren’t easily taught, which is why seminaries teach mostly theology.
Without in any way denigrating the wonderful job that our colleges and seminaries do, Aunty also wonders (with a bit of sadness) how many Adventist congregations value their pastors having masters’ degrees and doctorates. A few Seventh-day Adventists have been known for challenging scholarship and progressive theology. But what most Adventists seem to appreciate is apologetics and evangelism: giving a convincing Bible study, running an evangelistic series, and generally defending what we’ve always believed. Many congregations want nothing more than reassurance that traditional Seventh-day Adventism is right.
So maybe it’s time to bow to reality. Some of the most well-known and successful evangelists and preachers in the denomination don’t have advanced ministerial training. Doesn’t that tell you that some (not all) of this denomination no longer values unique and challenging scholarship? The fact is that even in relatively prosperous North America, about 2/3 of our congregations have fewer than 50 in attendance on Sabbath morning. Pastors who spend years earning advanced degrees and then land in a district of tiny, petrified churches are understandably frustrated.
(By the way, if they turn out to be excellent pastors, then what? In the Adventist church, that means going to an office somewhere, because Adventist pastors aren’t considered successful unless they leave parish ministry for an office job! Our denomination’s failure to value pastoral ministry, it seems to Aunty, is an even bigger problem than our lack of appreciation for education.)
Perhaps we should take context into account: put educated pastors where they’re needed (institutional churches and a handful of others), and talented amateurs in places they aren’t. We’d save a lot of money on educational subsidies.
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