seminary and pastoral work

Christianity Today has a section on their website called “Seminary Grad School” and recently an article on the benefits of a seminary education in preparation for pastoral ministry was posted.

Is Seminary Education Always Necessary for Pastoral Ministry? How formal education can help build the church.

I think it provides much to ponder and ruminate upon.  It think its a beneficial discussion.

Here is an excerpt:

But again, must this exercise for the mind take place in the context of formal seminary education? Tarris D. Rosell, assistant professor of pastoral care and practice of ministry at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, observes that those who demonstrate competency in ministry first had to have received an education from somewhere. Perhaps, says Rosell, it was the proverbial “school of hard knocks.” Or maybe ministry competency emerged from on-the-job training or was the result of good mentoring or self-motivated study and reading. The salient question, according to Rosell, is not education or the lack of it, for no pastor can be effective without education. The true question is, “Does training for ministry have to be a formal seminary education?”

In response, Rosell believes it is possible for sufficient theological education to result from “ad hoc means,” that is, sources other than an accredited seminary. But, he adds, “the ‘ad hoc’ approach is problematic in that it cannot be counted on to be available in any particular case, it involves no defined community standards, and it likely involves more ‘trial and error’ learning than is necessary given the prevalence of many excellent institutional alternatives.”

To put it another way, few would deny that it is possible to acquire the theological knowledge and the required ministry skills in places other than theological seminaries. As noted, it is possible to earn a seminary degree without acquiring the knowledge and skills prerequisite to effective pastoral ministry. But without doubt, going to seminary increases one’s odds and does so incalculably.

There’s lots of good stuff to read and ponder.  🙂

QTOD: on PhD’s in the Pulpit

From Mike Birds blog:

country churchIn the latest issue of ExpT there is a very good article by Gerald Hiestand on A Taxonomy of the Pastor-Theologian: Why PhD Students Should Consider the Pastorate as the Context for Their Theological Scholarship. The blurb reads:

The bifurcation of theological scholarship from pastoral ministry has led to a twofold problem in contemporary church/academy relations: the theological anemia of the church, and the ecclesial anemia of theology. This essay explores these twin problems and suggests that the way forward in bridging the gap between academy and church is to reunite the pastoral vocation with the vocation of the theologian. Toward this end, the essay offers a taxonomy of three contemporary models of the pastor-theologian, examining the strengths and limitations of each. Ultimately, the paper calls for a resurrection of an all but extinct, yet historically rooted model of the pastorate—the pastor as ecclesial theologian, and challenges the emerging generations of theologians to consider the pastorate as a viable context for their future theological scholarship.

Now you know why I have been wanting to subscribe to the Expository TImes for a while now.  🙂

Bird goes on to say:

When theology moved out from the church to the academy, the result was that “the theological water level within the pastoral community … fell considerably.” But not only that, the church became theologically anemic and theology itself became ecclesially anemic.  Hiestand argues that we need more capable theologian-types in our churches. “More theologians in our pulpits will deepen the theological integrity of our churches, while at the same time add an ecclesial voice to evangelical theology.”  He maintains that the theological integrity of the gospel in the Christian community will never rise above the level of her pastors and ecclesial theologians are best situated to produce ecclesially sensible, field-tested, theological work that deepens the faith and depth of the church.

I think this is exactly right, and I think it is also sorely needed in Pentecostal churches – all too many Pentecostal churches are in dire need of “contextual pastoral theologians” (as the program at Northern Seminary describes it).  Our movement is still young and developing.  By way and support of the Holy Spirit we need the help of trained theologians to guide Pentecostalism along the way, to prevent “theological anemia” in Pentecostal theology and praxis.

Now, here is what I want to say – this obviously is not for everyone.  This is not saying all pastors need to do this, but there is need for more.  Not all would be able to anyways, nor should they feel obligated to it or be made to feel lessor for a lack of it.  Instead, we need to do better to recognize the giftings of all and the contributions all can bring to the church, the body of Christ.   In many a Pentecostal church, even a basic MA is WAY TOO MUCH education.  But as I see it, it shouldn’t matter.  There can be equality without having to have everyone at the same educational level.  This is where things get weird.   What might be normal in other circles is an oddity in Pentecostal circles.  But I think times are a changin’.  Younger folks see the value of theological education and are going for it.  I think we’ll start to see things mature and develop theologically in Pentecostalism as more young people are getting good theological education in preparation for ministry.

So this is not mean to say all need to do this, or many more should, but I do think there is need for it!


on promoting theological education

theological famineIF you need an example of how NOT to do it – read this.   I find this approach not one that I could recommend.  I think maybe it has noble intentions as there is great need in the world for better resources for pastors and teachers in less developed areas of the world and especially in the global south where the church is growing faster then it can keep up with.   At the same time I think it somewhat misrepresents what theological education and “training for the ministry” is supposed to be about.  And perhaps unwittingly devalues the staunch realities and problems AND pain of true famines from which real people suffer.  It basically turns its back on the poor, the suffering, the oppressed.

As I see it, it is based on false juxtapositon of physical hunger and spiritual hunger.  They are not mirrors of each other.  They are worlds apart.  Many in the Western world are a far cry from true physical hunger and yet ALL human beings, rich or poor, free or slave, white or non-white are spiritually depraved and in desperate need of a SAVIOR.  It trivializes real hunger, real poverty, real suffering.

I think it reveals some ignorance (either they just don’t understand don’t know or are just not paying attention to it) of larger missiological contextual issues that are face in cross-cultural work.  It is a imposition of Western values on to other cultures which is a big big no-no in cross-cultural missions.  It reveals ignorance of the changing role of Westerners in world missions and or evangelization.  While there are plenty of places where westerns can be and are quite effective in evangelizing the lost where the national might be less effective (for a whole host of issues and reasons) the increasing responsibility of the Western Missionary is that of PARTNERSHIP, a coming along side nationals to reach the lost and to teach, tran, equip men and women for teaching/preaching roles in their own contexts.  The end goal of mission is not transference of one set of cultural values to another, it is TRANSFORMATION of the target culture to the glory of God.  I think it is not a good way to go about it and in my personal opinion, it would be best not to support this movement either financially, emotionally or any other sort.

It is true, there is a DERTH of theological and or ministerial resources for pastors, teachers, and leaders in the now dominant Christian world.  They are really truly asking for and desiring materials for them to tach and train folks in the Word to be sure the Bible is being well understood and followed  and adhered to in their own contexts.  But see even that raises issues as to the idea that they are looking to us for resources because (and I happen to have just enough world experience to know) they see us as successful and good and blessed by God so they want to learn from us and to emulate us.

Instead I think it would be good to help the best we can but not from the point of view of “theological famine” necessarily but in partnership in obedience to the great co-mission.  Partnering with them to teach and train their own people and maybe even from their own cultural perspectives – seems to me like a kind of theological colonialism to think we should go there and train them from our view so we know they are getting it right.

This is why I am a HUGE advocate for promoting Inductive Bible Study and that in a community context much like what we see in Mike and Tim’s book: People of the Book: Inviting Communities into Biblical Interpretation (Wipf and Stock).  That way we are working best to not IMPOSE our theology on them, but instead EQUIPPING them to study the Bible and draw their own conclusions in a way that is faithful to the Bibilcal text.  That way, we could learn something too!  🙂

Well I think that is enough of that!


Pope Francis I on ‘the Cross of Christ’

via Pastor Dan’s blog:

From Pope Francis I’s first homily:

Pope Francis praying at Rome's Santa Maria Maggiore basilica“We must always walk in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, always trying to live in an irreprehensible way,” he said in a heartfelt homily of a parish priest, loaded with biblical references and simple imagery.

“When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we proclaim Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly,” he said.

“We may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, all of this, but we are not disciples of the Lord,” he said.

He said those who build on worldly values instead of spiritual values were like children building sand castles on a beach. “Then everything comes crashing down,” he said.

More HERE.

Sounds like things are already off to a GREAT start!

Book Review: Christ and the Desert Tabernacle

It’s with thanks to Shaun Tabatt owner of Cross Focused Media, LLC, which serves the Christian publishing community providing social media and literary publicity services, such as book reviews and blog tours, for the opportunity to review J.V. Fesko’s Christ and the Desert Tabernacle (EP Books, 2012) .

Christ-and-the-desert-tabernacleI admit it.  I like reading and seeing the Scriptures from the perspective of redemptive history.  I do.  I know there are those who do not and feel it violates the purpose and intention of the Old Testament writers and that it is in the realm of theology and not bilical studies.  They feel the Old Testament needs to be left to speak for itself and on its own terms.  I understand why folks feel this way.

But (there is always a “but” in there somewhere right?) in light of the life of Christ, I think it is near impossible not to do that.  For even the New Testament authors themselves at times utilized a redemptive historical approach in interpreting the person and work of Jesus Christ.  You could say they may have even done a tinsy winsy bit scripture twisting to get their interpretations across.  The simple fact of the matter is, once Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, everything anyone in that time knew or understood about the Hebrew Scriptures, changed.  I just don’t see a way around it.

In light of this, in reading Fesko’s Christ and the Desert Tabernacle we are able to see the meaning of nearly every aspect of the Tabernacle in the light of Christ, that in fact, each piece is a shadow in some way of the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Fesko does not use the term “redemptive historical” or say that that is the approach he is using but really it is.  In this book he hopes

to be able to show readers, young and old alike, that far from being boring or uninteresting, the Old Testament tabernacle, and later the Temple in Solomon’s day, is a shadowy picture of Christ and the church…. the Old Testament tabernacle is literally an entire world of references, allusions, and foreshadows of Christ and the church.  One not need go very far to uncover the connections between Jesus and the Old Testament tabernacle  – the New Testament reveals them to us (12).

From the first chapter on building materials, to the ark of the covenant, to the bread of presence and the lampstand and oil, to the priestly garments and consecration of the priests, to the altar of incense you will see and learn, and hopefully be ministered to by the ministry of the work of Christ.

We see the Letter to the Hebrews (written by Paul right Dr Dave?  😉 ) chapters 8-9, the ministry of Christ in the true tabernacle made by God, everything we see in the Old Testement account of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25-31).  The Old Testament Tabernacle was a shadow of the things to come, a type of the heavenly temple.

Hebrews 8:8

Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent[a] that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent,[b] was warned, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 

Hebrews 9:

11 But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come,[h] then through the greater and perfect[i] tent[j] (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), 12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

So, there is good biblical support for looking at things from a point of view of redemptive history and I think Fesko did well with is book and I think it would be a good resource for when preaching through the book of Exodus or on the Tabernacle.

Good book!  Get it.  Read it.  Digest it!  🙂


on the pastoral ministry

Mark has a post responding to Brian LePort about academics in the church.  Well, Mark linked to an online interview with Eugene Peterson where he talks alot about his experiences as a pastor.  There is so much important and really good stuff there for small church pastors to be thinking about and that, really, should be an encouragement.

One really strong point about Eugene Peterson’s work is how so much of what he is says applies to pastoral ministry in general  irrespective of denominational affiliation.   If you are a pastor you are a pastor.  It is a vocation, a calling.  I don’t know if it really matters what denomination you associate with in effort to pursue your vocation (though I grant that some groups might make that a little easier than some others and some are a better fit for some than others, and it is even sadder that we’ve come to a place where many can no longer appreciate diversity in the body such as one’s Pentecostal friend or one’s Methodist friend or Presbyterian or Lutheran, Catholic etc.).  Pastors are people whom God has called to feed his sheep, to oversee the spiritual welfare of his people in their respective communities of faith.  They are pastors in their communities as well (towns and cities).  It really is a way of life and not just a job.  It’s a vocation.

Well anyways…

Here are some snippets:

I remain convinced that if you are called to it, being a pastor is the best life there is. But any life can be the best life if you’re called to it.

on how he became a pastor:

I think I was attracted to the intense relational and personal quality of this life. At the time I decided to become a pastor, I was assistant professor at a seminary. I loved the teaching, but when I compared it with what I was doing as an associate pastor, there was no comparison. It was the difference between being a coach in the locker room, working out plays on the chalkboard, and being one of the players on the field. I wanted to be one of the players on the field, playing my part as the life of Christ was becoming incarnate again in my community.

This is a good quote too:

We’re not a market-driven church, and the ministry is not a market-driven vocation. We’re not selling anything, and we’re not providing goods and services. If a pastor is not discerning and discriminating about the claims of his or her vocation and about the claims of a congregation, then the demands or the desires of the congregation can dominate what he or she is doing — and that creates the conditions for nonpastoral work.

Here is a segment that could go towards support for blogging:

I think the primary reason for wanting to leave was boredom. After one episode of boredom, I realized that the boredom was my fault. I wasn’t paying attention to things. It was like I was walking through a field of wildflowers and not seeing any of them because I’d seen them 500 times before. So I learned to start looking. For me, writing helped me see what I was missing. My writing became a partial cure for the boredom, because it made me look more closely.

Well, read on and be blessed!

on being a staff pastor

Rod Decker asserts the following:

I suspect that more seminarians these days are expecting and looking for a “staff position” (though it may have “pastor” in the title) rather than a pastoral ministry in which they will be preaching on a regular basis. That may be where some will function best, but I fear that many are underestimating what God could do through them in not aspiring to pastoral pulpit ministry. In most cases I would rather see a seminary graduate take a smaller church as “the pastor” rather than joining the staff of a large church. There is a place for “staff” roles, especially for those who may not have a solid local church background—perhaps having come to Christ during their university days and then come directly to seminary. Some of these staff positions may become life-long ministries (and that is legitimate in some cases); others may be for a few years to gain some experience. I would like to think, however, that these would be the exceptions rather than the usual pattern; unfortunately (I think) they have become the norm. A seminary grad will learn far more about ministry, about preaching, about the Bible and theology in two years of such ministry in the smaller church than they are likely to learn in twice that time as an assistant. Yes, they will make some mistakes—and learn from them. But hopefully their seminary training will have helped them avoid the worst missteps, and remember that seminary can never teach everything an aspiring pastor needs to know; it can never give them all the answers. But a good seminary program can give them the tools and teach them how to think and how to approach ministry. There is an excellent essay on this topic by Kevin Bauder, “It’s the Theology!” posted at <;.

I can say without hesitation, that this is true.  We learned a lot when we pastored at the Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim).  Sure, we made some mistakes but we learned from them and we moved on.  Rod isn’t knocking staff pastor positions, but I think more folk need to think about stepping out and taking thchurhces congregations, or planting them… That can be when can really take on all that is involved in the  pastoral vocation, especially the sacred talks of preaching, which is the topic of the article from which thesis quote is taken.

Spiritual Ministries

Here is a post from Dec 9, 2005 (while I was still at AGTS):

Heard something new the other day at my professor’s house.  Spiritual gifts should not be called “gifts” but instead “ministries.”  The term spiritual gifts no longer seems to be appropriate because of widespread misuse of the gifts.  Too often they are used for selfish means instead of the benefit of others.  Well, perhaps they may be called gifts but their function in the body of Christ is ministerial.  The Spirit of God “gifts” us to minister to the body and to individuals, but even then, the “gift” is really to the body or the individual who receives the ministry more than the person who mediated the ministry.  Make sense?  God is the giver and the gift of encouragement is give to the person who received the encouragement, not necessarily the one who said the encouraging words.  So, the purpose of the “gifts” is the edification of the body of Christ, not the glorification of the individual.  Amazing stuff huh?  What do y’all think?

On seminary training

This article should make every seminarian be very careful to be sure they are on a good path to some level of self support. Consider the example of the fellow who went to Bible school, did well, then went to seminary and did well there too, then got a chance to speak and saw all that work go down the tubes…. And now he either works low level jobs or is chronically unemployed. While this may not be the case for all or most seminary grads, it happens to more that many might be willing to consider, and this is why I am not a big supporter of anyone getting a Bible college degree.

This article also does another one of two things, it either supports the reason for taking more than one preaching class in seminary if not making expository preaching the focus of the MDiv degree or…. It confronts the need to re-think the nature and purpose of church life altogether.

Either way, BIG BIG problems lie ahead for seminarians and those “called” to “the ministry,” at least, here in the US.  I don’t think it necessarily negates the need for seminaries or for theological training just that I think seminarians are going to need to put on their creative thinking caps and put their heads together about how they are going to utilize their theological training to pursue God’s Kingdom to the ends of the earth.

Being out of work and out of ministry, and time talking with friends about how to move forward has given me time to think about things and has forced me to confront different issues.  One of the questions is, do I want to get back into a more traditional pastoral ministry position or is there another way, a different way that I need to think about?  Would that be a good way to go or not?

As I see it, the church in America and the way we go about doing church life in general seems to be not going in a good direction.  Right now the church at large in the US is on the decline.  People are opting out of church – and many of them are Christians.  Can you imagine that?  Christians being among the “unchurched” or “dechurched” in America?

I don’t have any answers or even any suggestions.  I just sense a bit of scrambling and a sense of hurried-ness among many in church leadership as to what to do about the decline in the American church, and that isn’t a good thing.   I guess one thing I do know is that we can’t just go on doing the same thing we’ve always done because, then we’ll just go on being frustrated by the results, which is to get what we have always got.  Keep doing what you have always done and you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got!   Perhaps the Emergent church got a lot of hard knocks for its theology, but I think they saw the situation of a declining church and things that aren’t working anymore and were attempting to provide some solutions.  Did they fail?  I guess so.  Better to have tried and failed than to have never tried right?   Who else is trying?  What other solutions are being put forth and found to be working?  So many questions with few if any answers and lots of suggestions.

So, take this to heart and let me know what you think.

still around

just not always with stable internet connection and still in a bit of a wondering phase since when we left the Canyon.  We did just that, we up and left – we did not have time to plan our “exodus” (does anybody in these kinds of situations?) – been keeping up on the blogs when I can and we are still figuring a way forward and have yet to land in Phoenix.  It’s pretty rough and tumble for sure.

One thought I’ve reflecting on is the connection between the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the missio dei.  They are connected you know, and interrelated – the incarnation and resurrection were/are the impetus of the missio dei – they are what make it possible if not necessary.  Resurrection leads to Mission.  A Resurrection life in Jesus leads to a missional life in Jesus.  In fact, Mission flows out of the Resurrection life of Jesus, which is also in us (as Paul tells us in Romans, that Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead lives in us).  The fact that Jesus rose from the dead should compel us to pursue God’s salvation to the ends of the earth.  Why wouldn’t it?  Do we think the benefits of the resurrection are for us alone?  They are not.  Instead, they are to be shared, not only in community and care for one another, but also in proclamation and in care for others that they too may know and experience the risen life of Jesus in them as well.

all for now.