TGC Asks: What one thing would you change about seminary?

The summer heat continues to swelter, but schools will soon begin their fall semesters with excitement over renewing acquaintances and learning new subjects. Seminaries will brim with students called to serve God with energy and passion according to the unique gifts he has entrusted to them.

But for many new students, seminary won’t be exactly what they expected. Some want more practical guidance, others struggle to grasp new theological terms. Some struggle in the confines of a classroom, others never plan to leave. Meanwhile, sending churches and supportive spouses wonder what to make of the exotic new concepts their beloved student spends so much time researching. In time, everyone develops an opinion about what our seminaries could do differently to train ministers of the gospel. So with a new school year upon us, TGC turned to veteran professors and a president to ask: What one thing you would change about seminary education?

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky:





Albert Mohler

The privilege of teaching and training ministers for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is priceless. As we welcome new and returning students to our campuses, we should feel the glory, the weight, and the joy of this stewardship. There is just nothing like the beginning of a new academic year—everything seems infused with great promise.

But what one thing would I change? I would want to banish forever the idea that the mission of the theological seminary is to turn out newly minted professional ministers. Far too many Christians—and this includes many who should know better—think of the Christian ministry as a profession. Thus, they assume that a theological seminary is directly analogous to a medical school training physicians or a law school teaching those who will be attorneys. The idea that ministry is a profession is disastrous. The very idea of a profession is alien to the minister’s calling. Central to the concept of a profession is the idea that there is an identifiable body of knowledge and a profile of expertise that, once mastered, renders the candidate a professional. But, as the New Testament makes clear, there are persons who can master such knowledge and acquire the skill set and yet never be called nor qualified for the Christian ministry.

There is a body of knowledge to be mastered and a set of ministerial skills and practices to be developed, of course, but these do not a minister make. The ministry is a calling, and the most important qualifications for the Christian ministry are spiritual. We must aim for something far higher than the preparation of professionals, and our real challenge goes far beyond knowledge and skills.

In a similar and equally important vein, I would remind us all that seminaries, even at their very best and most faithful, can only do so much.  The local church is the most important school for ministry and the faithful pastor is the crucial professor. The seminaries that serve best will be those who understand this.

D. A. Carson, president and co-founder, The Gospel Coalition; research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School:

D. A. Carson

I’d make it more integrated.

We do some integration already (e.g., Greek exegesis on book X while taking a homiletics course and preaching from book X; some emphases in the better spiritual formation groups). But I am thinking of other things, some of which are unrealistic, even utopian. To mention three in particular:

(1) an integrated curriculum. We control a bit of that with prerequisites, but if it were not for part-time students—students taking isolated courses here and there to fit into who knows what program—it would be able to develop a highly integrated M.Div. curriculum;

(2) develop faculty who are passionate about an integrated curriculum, where Bible and theology are genuinely at the center. Far too many specialisms are taught by teachers with a rudimentary knowledge of the Bible and theology, so much so they do not even recognize the shortfall. So it could only be addressed by required (and school-sponsored) remedial theology / biblical theology courses.

(3) close integration with an expanding apprenticeship program in our best churches, led by pastors who believe in theological education but who will also train our M.Div. graduates in relationships, spirituality, consistency, hands-on ministry, street smarts.

As I say, utopian.

Jeff Louie, associate professor of theology, Western Seminary extension, San Jose, California:

Jeff Louie

We should teach a course on the understanding and centrality of the gospel to every entering seminarian, then build upon that understanding in the theological, canonical, historical, and practical ministry courses. Too often there is no course on the gospel given in seminary, or it is an elective, or it is a subject relegated to a class on evangelism. This subject should be front and center, and everything else we study should be tied to it and flow from it.

Richard Pratt, founder and president, Third Millennium Ministries; former chair of Old Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary:

Richard Pratt

If I were king and could wave my magical scepter, I would radically change the basic agenda of seminary.

After 22 years of teaching in a seminary, I slowly began to realize something. We were not preparing the kinds of leaders that evangelical churches in North America need. Let’s face it; evangelicalism has seen better days. God is at work in many places and in many ways, but on the whole, the news is not good. Our numbers are dwindling; our theology is unraveling; our zeal for Christ is dissipating. Now more than ever, we need seminaries to give the church leaders who are empowered by the Spirit for radical, sacrificial devotion to Christ and his kingdom. And they’d better do it quickly.

I was recently in China, talking with the president of a house church network of more than 1 million people. He asked me for advice on preparing the next generation of pastors. I looked at him and said, “The only thing I know is what you should not do.” He smiled and asked, “What’s that?” My reply surprised him. “You should not do what we have done in the West. The results of that approach have become clear.”

The agenda of evangelical seminaries is set primarily by scholars. Professors decide how students will spend their time; they determine students’ priorities; they set the pace. And guess what. Scholars’ agenda seldom match the needs of the church.

Can you imagine what kind of soldiers our nation would have if basic training amounted to reading books, listening to lectures, writing papers, and taking exams? We’d have dead soldiers. The first time a bullet wizzed past their heads on the battlefield, they’d panic. The first explosion they saw would send them running. So, what is basic training for the military? Recruits learn the information they need to know, but this is a relatively small part of their preparation. Most of basic training is devoted to supervised battle simulation. Recruits are put through harrowing emotional and physical stress. They crawl under live bullet fire. They practice hand to hand combat.

If I could wave a magic scepter and change seminary today, I’d turn it into a grueling physical and spiritual experience. I’d find ways to reach academic goals more quickly and effectively and then devote most of the curriculum to supervised battle simulation. I’d put students through endless hours of hands-on service to the sick and dying, physically dangerous evangelism, frequent preaching and teaching the Scriptures, and days on end of fasting and prayer. Seminary would either make them or break them.

Do you know what would happen? Very few young men would want to attend. Only those who had been called by God would subject themselves to this kind of seminary. Yet they would be recruits for kingdom service, not mere students. They would be ready for the battle of gospel ministry.

  • Jou Hullan

    WOW!!! Dr. PRATT!!! You hit the nail on the head and you didn’t pull any punches…. Preach it brother….preach it….

  • Louis Love

    Richard Pratt nails it.

  • Vincent Murphy

    I note none of them talk about the incredibly high cost barrier… :-) I love Jeff Louie’s answer – that’s the real underlying problem.

    • Bill Fueller

      Well put my friend. ATS which is the accreditation source for RTS and all the other big name seminaries around the country estimates that seminary cost on average is $72,000. This figure is an hard number as they got it from schools in their (ATS) system. That is a crazy amount of money. We in the West put up a wall around the pulpit and keep good people out. That is why what Pratt is doing at Third Millennium is so important. He is revolutionizing the educational system by creating a donor funded curriculum. The guy is way ahead of his time.

    • Dan


  • H. A.

    Richard, You could not be more correct. A very refreshing and insightful viewpoint.

  • EG

    Dr. Pratt has a point.

    Teenmania ministries is doing that, and they are being scrutinized for being a cult (see

    I think this has to be a calling from God and you can’t just put everyone in the same bucket, the people that feel called to this they will do whatever it takes to preach Christ and Him crucified, and will go to any extent to follow the teachings of the Bible. Some like ( feel they have been emotionally, physically, mentally abused but this ‘intense simulation’ of what TeenMania is teaching.(take a look for yourself)

    Anyways, yes we need people/men to be Christ centered and be in tune with what God wants, not what a scholar thinks or what the culture is directing us, but what God has and what God wants.
    May God help us in being receptive to His voice and obey it!

  • Rev Dr Robert Leroe

    Seminaries train theologians, not pastors. There’s very little practical, real-world instruction offered in the hallowed halls. For instance, after seminary, the first funeral I ever attended, I conducted…and without any preparation, thanks to my seminary. How do we expect future pastors to serve Communion, baptize, conduct weddings and funerals, lead board meetings, and participate in their local communities? Some seminaries enlist local clergy to offer apprenticeships, mentored ministry. More needs to be done to prepare seminarians.

    • JMH

      “Seminaries train theologians, not pastors.” What a stupid thing to say. I was trained to be a pastor at seminary. By pastors.

      Look, if you had a lousy seminary experience, I’m sorry. But I did everything you talk about in the course of my seminary education, and I find it hard to believe that the small seminary I attended is the only decent one in the country.

      • Joseph Louthan

        Go topside and try to get the bigger picture. By God’s grace alone did you have a wonderful seminary experience. But to echo what Dr Pratt said, I encourage you to go and check the statistics of how many seminary graduates actually make it five years into ministry.

        Every pundit here and evangelicalism speaks crystal clear: the way we are training the equippers here in the West is broken and it needs to be fixed or it will implode upon itself.

        Of course, it is easy for this armchair theologian or anybody else to say this, post up in a comment or two and be satisfied. But what am I doing anything about it?

        • JMH

          I certainly agree that the state of seminary education, like the state of evangelicalism at large, is not great. But the statement “seminaries train theologians, not pastors” is like saying “There aren’t any good churches in the States.” Just a stupid generalization.

          We don’t need to start with the assumption that all seminaries have failed; we need to look at the ones that aren’t failing and plant more like them. (With an extra helping of what Pratt describes above.)

          • JMH

            Also, the sorry state of seminary education and the sorry state of evangelicalism at large are very much related. Raise up a bunch of good pastors and good things will start to happen. Which is why we’re having this conversation, of course.

            • chas

              JMH, how is your soul? Why attack a brother in such a harsh manner? It’s one thing to be passionate about your response. It’s another to attack the person and not their comments.

            • JMH

              Actually, if you read my response, I said “What a stupid thing to say.” I didn’t say the person who said it was stupid.

              There are a few reasons I think “Seminaries train theologians, not pastors” is a stupid thing to say. For one thing, in about 10 minutes I could list probably a hundred great pastors I know off the top of my head who were trained at good seminaries. Even ones I have substantial disagreements with.

              But a bigger reason is that I’m friends with some seminary professors, and admins, and several PhD students who want to teach at a seminary one day. (I might like to myself.) These are bright guys who could have done any number of things, but they choose to be in the seminaries because they care about helping to train good pastors for Christ’s church. Most of them are also full-time pastors themselves. It’s not nearly the glamorous– or lucrative– profession you might think.

              It’s an insult to these men to brush off the thing they’ve devoted their lives to, to say it doesn’t exist. And since it’s factually untrue in many, many cases, I think it was a stupid thing to say.

            • Jessie Sistren

              By saying it is stupid you put him down and elevate yourself. You obviously think a lot of your opinion…

            • JMH

              On this matter, yes, I do, for the reasons I just explained. But by leaving this comment, aren’t you putting me down and elevating yourself?

              The arrogant thing is to make a huge broadside attack on thousands of fellow believers. I didn’t do that; the Rev Dr did. Maybe I’m arrogant, but calling something stupid doesn’t prove that.

            • Jimmy

              Perhaps “unreasoned” would have been a more refined word choice. I much prefer it to “stupid.”

        • Talmerius Jones


          • Sam

            I understand where you are coming from JMH. You are right in saying that your comments are not arrogant and that you value your opinion. Jessie: what is the point in one having an opinion if one doesn’t value it? Clearly people form opinions precisely because they do think that there’s is better than others. Your comments reek of political correctness.
            And Jimmy: perhaps Jesus should have said “Your thinking is unreasoned Peter” rather than “Get behind me Satan”.

            • Sam

              sic: theirs

  • Brian – El Paso

    Great answers! I agree with Vince that there is a fantastic COST barrier.

  • Joseph Louthan

    Forgive my brashness but to all the men here especially Dr. Pratt’s beautiful suggestion:

    “Hell yes!”

    I think I just found my calling if only by the grace of God. Pray, fast, teach, work, lead and try to start a seminary that fits into Dr. Pratt’s vision.

    The motto: “You better be quite sure of your calling because seminary would either make you or break you.”

  • Gary Van Dyk

    These are all good coments on what needs to be changed. I wish to add that those schools that call them selfs semiaries but teach a social liberal gospel need to be closed. Also I agree that the gospel needs to be central to the teaching, but with this there need to be a strong teaching of the doctrines of grace. There are so many that come out of school not knowing God or Christ as seen in grace. A deep understanding that salvation is all of God and none of man gives a greater zeal for truth.
    Having pastor traies work in the inner city ministries will also help there perspective on mercy ministries. To see the truly destitude will give them a greater compasion for other congrigations.

  • Karl Dahlfred

    Part of the problem of the pastoral training equation is that local churches often do not think that it is primarily their responsibility to look for, train, and develop the next generation of pastors and church leaders. When a young person believes that they are called to ministry, the church sends them off to seminary, expecting a fully formed pastor to be sent back to them.

    For those who are interested in the role of seminary in relation to preparing for long-term cross cultural missionary service, I recently had a lively discussion with two of my missionary colleagues over the merits & demerits of seminary, and whether it really prepares prospective missionaries for what they will face on the field or not. See comments section on this post: “Do You Need a Bible Degree to be a Long Term Missionary?” (

    • JMH

      This is definitely true. Integrating church and seminary, especially as far as requiring lots of local church involvement during seminary, is really important. My church internship was just as big a deal in my own development as my classroom education. (And my seminary knew that, which is why they required a hefty church internship.)

  • Daniel Viezbicke

    I’m excited about starting seminary education at Bethelehem Seminary; after seeing in many seminaries what has already been described here, I really wanted a more integrated model. BCS seems to provide that… the cohort-based, church-based, and thoroughly academic all at the same time. No doubt there are wrinkles to be ironed out, but it’s the closest thing to a holistic, integrated seminary that I’ve seen.

    I hope and pray it’s the future of seminary education. Seminaries don’t make pastors… churches do!

  • Gary Rogers

    Pratt is so humble. He knows what is talking about too. He has taught for like over 20 years in seminaries all over the world. I wished he would have talked about Third Millennium (more in his article) as they seem to be addressing all the problems he talked about. In that rather than bringing pastors over here to the US to train them third mill provides materials where others can learn in their native lands. Pratt is far to humble to talk about his own ministry. I get that. I will give the guy one thing though. He puts his money where his mouth is. He left the seminary world to help those that can’t afford seminary by starting third millennium Somebody that would give it all up. That is pretty cool in my book and he ranks up there with great like Jim Elliot.

  • Karl Dahlfred

    Many seminary interns are not given much to do at the churches that they intern at. I had positive internships but I wish I was more involved in the church and given more opportunities. If the pastors who were mentoring me had been more intentional in inviting me along when they do things, visit people, lead funerals, go to the hospital, and so forth, that would have been excellent experience.

    Comparing notes with my Korean brothers, I found that they are given lots of experience & responsibility in their church internships during seminary, maybe even to the degree that it was a detriment to their studies at times. But the church did give them a large stipend to match their large responsibilities, so that they didn’t need to do other work put themselves through school.

    The experience of myself and other white American guys at white American churches was that we rarely got to preach, had minimal responsibility, and often got barely enough stipend to pay for gas. If I was studying to be a doctor or lawyer, I could have just taken out lots of loans to pay for my Master’s degree but pastors and missionaries don’t exactly rake in the big bucks to repay those loans. Many mission agencies don’t even accept people with debt. There is a flaw in the system here, seemingly related to Dr. Mohler’s point that many erroneously see seminary in the same category as other secular professional preparation.

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  • trina

    How can the people in the pew evaluate the effectiveness of a seminary’s training when hiring a pastor? Do seminaries keep statistics on how long their graduates survive in the trenches? Is there any way for us to know if the knowledge is limited to the head, or has been applied in the heart and to the will? I am sad to say that my Christian training has happened more from books and at B.S.F. than in my own church. How can we fix this?

  • ATA

    My one question in this discussion is where are the local, surrounding churches of each seminary? Are seminaries soliciting the help of local churches in mentoring seminarians? Its easy to “blame” the seminaries, and I would adamantly argue that I received some great practical training in seminary, but if the design of the seminary is to train Godly servant leaders for the church, then where is the church? Seminaries should implore the surrounding pastors to help out! I’m sure this may create some difficulties with regards to denominations and theological allegiances but it’s not impossible.

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  • JAM

    The aforementioned “cost barrier” is, indeed, a tremendous obstacle to seminary training. No one would deny that a pastor must be equipped with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures and sound doctrine in order to minister effectively. But currently, such training is easily accessible only to the privileged few, with rare exception. (I’m talking about upper-middle-class, white college graduates.) To love and serve those men of every nation, ethnicity, social station, etc. whom God has called to shepherd His people, and to protect and preserve the purity of the Church for the next generation, it is incumbent upon us to improve the system.

    This is why I love what Dr. Pratt and Third Millennium Ministries are doing. I’ve heard Dr. Pratt say that he’s on a mission to make seminary-level training in the Bible and theology accessible to every single person in the world who wants it – no matter where they live, no matter what language they speak, no matter their financial resources. Can you imagine such a thing? By exploiting digital, multimedia technology for Kingdom purposes, Third Mill is already making this happen.

    If much of the academic data of seminary was effectively transferred via multimedia video lessons, professors would have more time to shepherd and mentor students in hands-on ministry “combat” and to demonstrate what living out the Gospel looks like in their own lives. This “apprenticeship” training model, complemented by mediated access to our most gifted theologians and teachers, could make seminary training both more economically accessible than ever before and more integrated with the real-life battle of ministry.

    It’s time to adjust the theological training paradigm to meet the current needs of the Church.

    • Chris Zodrow

      Amen. The brick and mortar tradition is unnecessary. Let the local church watch the men, let the Doctors teach- wherever they may be found.

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  • Matt

    OK, I’m obviously in the minority here, but I tend to disagree with Dr. Pratt, at least partially. I do agree that there is a serious lack of “practical” ministry in a seminary environment, but am I the only one who sees many, many pastors who have tremendous relationship and “hands on” skills who seriously lack in areas of doctrine and the commitment to solid biblical knowledge? Must we bounce from one extreme of “too much head, not enough hands” to the other extreme? It’s interesting that the articles are written by men who have committed their lives to knowledge and doctrine, and now perhaps take such knowledge for granted.

    • JAM

      Are you seriously saying that Richard Pratt is “taking such knowledge for granted”? He is devoting his life to providing Biblical and theological education to pastors all over the world.

      • Matt

        No, I am saying that too often we assume that the knowledge will be there. There is just as much of a problem in churches today with pastors with limited knowledge as there is with pastors with limited “practical” skills. It’s very stylish to bemoan a lack of “hands on” skills. Let’s just not throw the baby out with the bath water.

        Dr. Pratt does make two curious observations though. One, he cites “an unraveling of theology” as one of the plights of the modern church, and two, he gives an example of a soldier in basic training. I would argue that theology would not necessarily re-ravel outside of the classroom. Not being taught the truth is how we become so tolerant of sin in the church- we start to believe that truth takes a back seat to relationship. I would also argue that if the army just threw the recruit into battle without some formal instruction, he would just get his head blown off. How many pastors become discouraged in times of hardship because they jump into ministry without a good understanding of Scripture?

        • Max

          Matt your missing the point. Pratt get’s that. He is a conservative theologian. So that is obvious to him. So he is discussing what is not happening in seminary. Not what is happening. If students want to be weak minded and poor in theology and their preaching skills prove it… then that just says we have the wrong students in seminary. They should be working at Burger King and not be in seminary…Pratt is very clear with this or so I thought that seminary should be strenuous enough in service that we as the church only get only people who are called to be there…not guys a bunch of guys that don’t know what they want to do with their lives so they pick a career instead of a calling….seminaries seem to be full of that or a bunch of arm chair theologians that wouldn’t know the first thing about counseling a couple through a divorce….i digress….i think you missed his point…

        • JAM

          Dr. Pratt makes this statement, “I’d find ways to reach academic goals more quickly and effectively and then devote most of the curriculum to supervised battle simulation.” Given his sacrificial commitment to the theological education of pastors, surely he is not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but rather, he seems to be emphasizing the failure of the current system to prepare pastors for the battlefield.

          • Jimmy

            “I’d find ways to reach academic goals more quickly and effectively” … hummm … Third Mill?

    • RAE

      I agree with Matt. Not to rubbish or dismiss Pratt’e perspectives… but we cannot comprimise at the level of ensuring a solid academic education.
      Having said that- sadly the track record of seminaries is not brilliant in this department either.
      This is why these discussions are good- we will never quite get it right- but we must keep trying.

      • EAA

        The idea that someone like Richard would ‘compromise at the level of ensuring a solid academic education’ is preposterous.

        • Jessie Sistren

          Amen. Pratt is the most conservative of educators that believes in education….

    • ftccpastor

      I went to Bible College and am now in Seminary. I am there to learn things that would be difficult to learn on my own- Biblical Studies, Biblical Languages, Church history. Do we really need someone to teach us how to baptize someone or give communion or pray for a hurting chuch member? Practicle stuff is easy because it comes straight from the transformed Christian heart. We need seminary for the difficult subjects!

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  • Tim Etherington

    I’m a TEDS ’07 MDiv graduate. I was one of the part-timers (actually a barely full-time student working a full-time job to support a family) that Carson seems to lament. He has a point.

    The contrast between Carson and Pratt is… um, interesting? One thing that should be done is to rescue the MDiv from the teaching track. People should be able to pursue a career in theological education without the MDiv. Make that degree strictly for pastors. Less abstract teaching and more practical.

    There are only so many churches in the area surrounding a seminary but there has GOT to be more integration with the local church! The field eds and internships are a glancing blow (at best!) at achieving that. Make them real. Perhaps you can’t go to seminary unless a church has you on staff, even unpaid staff? I’m talking real integration.

    I’m on a church planting team. The pastor and all three “elders” (not official till we get a constitution) on the team are TEDS MDiv grads. We all agree that seminary didn’t really prepare us too much for what we’re doing. Our real education is happening now.

    I don’t want to sound ungrateful for my time at TEDS. It is the finest evangelical seminary in the US and I’m glad to have attended. My rub is with how we do seminary in general.

    The kind of changes being discussed in this thread will pretty dramatically change the American evangelical church. If you get pastors trained like what Pratt is talking about church won’t be comfortable places to sit and talk theology. They won’t be “safe for the whole family” any more, that’s for sure!

    • Louis Love

      Who are you guys consulting with now? Is there a seasoned Church planting pastor helping you?

    • Jimmy

      Aslan’s not safe, but he’s good!

      • Tim Etherington

        Amen! I love that quote.

    • Tim Etherington

      Yes, very much. We’re under the Free Church and there is an oversight team including a TEDS professor. We’re in good hand and thank you very much for asking!

    • Nate

      There are hundreds of churches surrouding seminaries (typically) but most seminarians go to the “seminary” churches. Get into the urban portions of your city and go to the churches you believe to be dead or declining and you will find all the ministry you want. You may not get paid money, but you will learn hands-on.

      • Tim Etherington

        Good point Nate.

        Imagine you a pastor or an elder in an “established” church near a seminary. You see student come and go on a regular basis. They’re in your church, they teach and lead a small group for a few years and then they’re gone. The next one shows up looking for ministry. How do the people feel about this who are not leaving? The people who live in the area and this is their church? They can come to feel like test cases as they see wave after wave of seminary students come and go. Also, how much ministry is available to them in one church? Most of them won’t get to preach a Sunday AM sermon. Unless they dive in to a small group they won’t be doing other “pastor” things.

        Why? Because that church’s biggest need isn’t more temporary leaders. My point about being on staff at a church before being allowed to attend seminar was to address this very issue. I was also an elder at a church near a seminary so I’m speaking from both sides of this experience.

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  • Matt

    Never mind. Dr. Pratt is right. I am wrong. I give up.

    • Tim Etherington

      Matt, I think you made a very good point about not swinging to the other extreme. I don’t think Pratt was going that far but you sound a fair warning. Thanks.

  • Bryan Catherman

    Wow, I think these four guys need to form the founding board of a brand new seminary!

    Thanks for your thoughts and ideas.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Would it be too much to ask to identify all the bad seminaries? To help prospective students know which ones to avoid?

    • Jimmy

      Yes, too much to ask.

    • Tim Etherington

      There aren’t “bad” seminaries, just curriculum that could be better.

      • RAE

        I don’t agree. Some seminaries allow very bad even dangerous instruction which makes them as institutions complicit in the crime.

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  • David Strunk

    Pratt’s comments are inspiring, but I have two cautions:

    1) By overly preparing students for “practical” ministry- even though Pratt mentions spiritual activities- evangelicals could actually lose a lot of effectiveness in the cultural sphere by eschewing Greek, rigorous historical and systematic, theology, etc. For example, I think Brian McLaren’s read the Bible a lot, but he’s repeating the mistakes of the 19th century liberals. Pratt’s not saying this, but one could deduce this danger based on his comments: let’s just do that stuff that REALLY matters. I didn’t love greek, but it really really matters.

    2) That doing pastoral ministry means being called to “the ministry.” Rather, it seems like one can desire to do pastoral ministry without understanding a radical spiritual call to “the ministry.” …..’If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task….’ Again, Pratt’s not saying this, but many in this comment thread have deduced from his comments that seminary should be filled with only those who are unequivocally called to pastoral ministry. Any difference if I set my heart on it? Maybe not.

    Just thought these were two important caveats. Thank you Dr. Pratt.

  • John Thomson

    Keep the Bible, the gospel, theology and real life service in local church closely integrated.

    • Tim Etherington


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  • Eric Redmond

    From one man’s cultural perspective: The crying need of the African American church and pulpit is not men trained in the trenches. We have been doing that since the Slave Church. We need men soaked and covered in the sort of theological training that is analogous to attending Annapolis or West Point. These are men who lead our troops. Our pulpits need the brick-n-mortar, traditional exegetical and theological curricula approach in order to give our pastors rich theological thinking to support their dealings with front-line ministry. African Americans are not asking, “Does the Black Church keep Black women single,” because they need more bullets fired at them in training; they are asking because weak pulpits have not given our people a theology of God, marriage, family, holiness, singlehood, fellowship, love, and contentment that is reflective of the work of God in Christ. I appreciate Dr. Pratt’s thoughts, but in my context, I need men who can think theologically.

    • Louis Love

      I hear what you are saying Eric, but is the current seminary scene the best place for men in your (our) context to be trained to think theologically? I know African American who have gone to seminary and have sent some to seminary and many come back unable to connect. What say you?

    • M. Jay Bennett

      That’s good stuff Eric. In my opinion, this is what all churches need.

    • Talmerius Jones

      Eric. How many of our brothers go to RTS, Covenant, Southern or any of the big named seminaries? One. Two. Three at best. Sure we need more education in the black community, but it ain’t happening through the normal channels brother. And Dr Pratt get’s that. That why he started third millennium for people like me that don’t have opportunity as a black man. Sure we need theology in the black community but the system has to change to meet the needs. The current system is not meeting the need to educate the lower class. In my mind that is what he is saying in this article and what he does in his own ministry in working so hard to integrate non white faces.

  • Mike

    Now if we could only get these guys together to start a new seminary. :-) Thank you gentlemen.

    I think that we need to consider that seminaries serve more than just pastors and missionaries and that’s probably why they don’t work so well for all of their students.

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  • Patrick Morley

    If you are trying to solve the wrong problem, then you can only succeed by accident. I loved my seminary experience. One thing at the top of my list is relevance. As a businessman, I’ve always tried to understand the current environment first, then develop strategies that address the real problems that are solvable given the skills and resources available to me. I think it would be a strong step If every seminary graduate had a clear vision of what they could “actually” accomplish for the kingdom or, in other words, they understood a”real” relevant problem about which they are passionate (felt God’s call) enough to lead a sacrificial life. For example, not many people are leading powerful lives transformed by the gospel. America needs a wholesale spiritual revival and awakening. I’m praying that God will raise up leaders who ache for revival and will spend themselves in such a worthy cause. It would not surprise me if there are today men and women in seminary that God will give visions to get back to the basics of the gospel, raising up a new generation of leaders passionate to “go and make disciples.” Evangelism without discipleship is cruel. It has gutted the church.

    • Cor Chmieleski

      Hey Patrick,
      You mention, “I loved my seminary experience…as a businessman…” Did you enter seminary w/ a plan to bring Christ to the business world? Or was the decision away from ministry a result of your seminary experience? Or something else all together?

  • Charlie Grinn

    Get rid of, I mean RID OF any teacher who is not a bible believing born again christian.PERIOD.
    This is why seminary and scholarship is a joke, and why scholarship has no pull for me.
    I’ll take God ordained men like Martyn Lloyd Jones anyday over some puffed up liberal theologian.(what a misnomer, ‘liberal theologian’- PAGAN would be the proper word, or how about ‘PERISHING theologian’, or even better, ‘perishing theologian who would be better off having a millstone hung around their neck and dropped into the sea’).

    • Scott

      Deeply ignorant post. There are MANY godly men and women serving within the walls of seminaries and bible colleges. They reach young people everyday both on campus and in the local church.

      I can understand questioning the need for a seminary education. But the hostility directed toward seminaries and believing professors is unwarranted. It’s petty and comes across as deeply jealous.

  • Pierre

    Aside from the high cost, I think the time factor is also a barrier.

    Most seminaries require a 4 year Bachelor degree, usually from a secular school. FOR WHAT? I might ask.

    In fact, I DID ask…my OWN PASTOR.

    He replied that such a degree adds nothing to our Scripture knowledge, except that it aids in paper writing for seminary.

    So if I want to go into seminary, I need to essentially waste 4 years of preciuos time and treasure, just to be expected to write papers properly.

    I think we are following the standard of the world when we expect to be like the secular system.

    • Melissa Burns

      Pierre, the seminary my husband attended had an older student who did not have a bachelor’s degree but he felt called to ministry. The seminary allowed him to start the M.Div program on probation, he showed he was able to keep up and do the work at the level required and he graduated with an M.Div three years later.

      • Pierre

        There are some exceptions to what I wrote, but generally, you need a Bachelor degree at least to enter seminary. Be interested to know what school that was, Melissa.


        • Cor Chmieleski

          Hey Pierre,

          I am a pastor at Hope Community Church in Minneapolis, MN (USA) and the Director of a church-based training program WITHIN Hope called Leadership Development Institute (LDI). We’re trying to equip the next generation of leaders (year 1) and church planters and pastors (years 2 and 3). We run all our own classes (about 16 of them), mentoring, character development, and ministry practices (hands on doing and leading) within our church.

          As far as your bachelor degree preceding seminary question goes, it’s a tough one.

          Is the content of an English, engineering, math, or communications degree necessary for seminary or LDI or the pastorate? No.

          But, what can be gained by the undergrad experience? Many times there is development in LIFE – in maturity (hopefully not just getting older but wiser and becoming an adult), decision-making w/o mom and dad, figuring out finances (which is a life need), character of who you are when no one’s looking, the ability to persevere (finish a TOUGH 4-year degree in 5!), the ability to think critically (not like those football players I hung out with…okay, now I’m talking trash!), and getting to know and honor the opposite gender.

          While I don’t look down upon another because of their youth (that’s Bible yo!), I can’t overstate the importance my undergrad years were in my own personal development. So, I think it imperative to invite the cloud of witnesses around you to speak into your life about this, first one to the table is God through his HS.

          My 2 cents (though maybe not worth even that),


          • Michael

            Cor, I know your church well I am just down the street and you guys are doing so great things. I have another perspective of the bachelors degree before seminary. I am turning thirty this year and just finish my bachelors degree this spring. In 2005 I felt a call to be a pastor, I have two other degrees, Automotive technician and HVAC design. These are both two year degrees from tech schools so they were not good enough to get me into seminary. By the time I finished my 4 year degree I had 168 credits. I know that God doesn’t waste time but I could be preaching now instead I am trying to work full time to pay off debt, raise two daughters and afford seminary for another two years. Because of all of this I am actually looking into joining the navy to help with the financial burden of seminary. I have attended many TBI classes and other church seminars but those are not looked at as accredited learning experiences. I have no doubt that God has called me to preach so I will push on but I think that there is a better way.



            • Cor Chmieleski


              Can we chat more? I’d love to grab coffee since you’re in Minneapolis. Your experience is one that demands those training pastors to be adaptable to you, rather than make you adapt to the system (bachelor’s, master’s, then pastorate). We are currently praying through how to make LDI a viable alternative training grounds for pastors and church planters. We do not see in the foreseeable future (ever?) a desire to seek accreditation. But, we do want to strengthen the program, raise up high quality pastors/planters, do so within the local church, and then send these leaders out to lead. Would you have time to chat?


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  • Dan

    We need more of a balance toward apprenticeships instead the balance being tipped toward classroom learning. How were Timothy and Epaphroditus trained? While traveling with Paul. How were the disciples trained? By traveling with Jesus.

    Seminaries must give way to discipleship. We need to abandon the degree mentality and the “ministry as a career” approach to training church leaders.

    This may not seem practical, however, consider Josh Harris and the apprenticeship he had for, what was it, seven years?

    • Cor Chmieleski


      I don’t know you. But, I like you. A lot!


  • Mike Orrison

    Great stuff!

    A closer look at the Scripture is the obvious key to what Drs. Carson and Pratt have stated. When Jesus called (commanded)the disciples to follow Him, they did just that: Educating seminarians is best learned by the sweat of the brow. What’s more, Luke’s account of Peter’s sermon in the books of Acts is a clear indicator of what it looks like when one attends Christ’s Seminary.

    After Peter and John were filled with the Spirit they addressed the Sanhedrin.

    “…[S]eeing their boldness and perceiving them to be uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. Then they realized they had been with Jesus…[S]eeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it’ (Acts 5:13-14,20).

    The point is that there is a common methodology here. Peter and John knew the Scriptures, believed what they were saying to be true, trustworthy, credible and reliable, preached with boldness, were filled with the Spirit, had been with Jesus, and in v.20, ‘could not but speak the things [they] saw and heard’.

    There are a couple of issues that have not been addressed.
    1)The dreaded Pulpit Search Committee! I have many friends who have not met the arbitrary standards of these committees consequently, the cult of personality often usurps the call of the Pastor to a particular church.

    2)The lack of basic Biblical education amongst the laity coalesces in a warped, inordinate list of attributes which end the conversation before it begins.

    There is much to be said on the matter; but suffice it to say that there is great need for an organic, earthy, real world seminary. To not do what is being suggested by Pratt and Carson; would be like eating a Reese’s Peanut butter cup without the peanut butter!

    Perish the thought!

    • Karl Dahlfred

      If the pulpit search committee doesn’t know what they should be looking for in a pastor, that may be a reflection of a unqualified group of elders, i.e. elders who don’t meet up to the qualifications in in 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1. If you have a group of Biblical elders at the helm of the church, it shouldn’t be too difficult to come up with a list of reasonable qualities you are looking for in a pastor because a pastor (i.e. teaching elder) has the same office as any of the other elders, only that he has great responsibility for teaching.

      Also, in a Presbyterian system of church government, you have the Presbytery (i.e. the collected group of pastors and elders from the churches in the area) who help to examine pastoral candidates coming in and have the authority to approve or disapprove a pastoral candidate that a given local church wants to call to be their pastor. In a Presbytery working properly, this is not a bureacratic interfering burden but a great help and safeguard to churches that may not know what to ask of a candidate or what criteria to use in choosing a pastor.

      • Mike Orrison

        Thanks for the input Karl.

        Like you, I also am Presbyterian and would wholeheartedly agree with your summation. However, the issue is not limited to Presbyterians. I’m sure you already know that most Seminaries train folks from all sorts of denominational backgrounds: Folks whose doctrinal distinctives are not necessarily Reformed or Biblical. The problem as I have stated in point 2), has very little to do with Biblical qualifiers but personality traits. I would certainly agree that how people mesh, is vitally important for a healthy congregation. How miserable it would be, if folks were constantly at odds and could not relate to their Pastor.

        By your own statement:
        “In a Presbytery working properly, this is not a bureaucratic interfering burden but a great help and safeguard to churches that may not know what to ask of a candidate or what criteria to use in choosing a pastor”.

        You have implied that there are times when presbyteries don’t work properly. I would agree. Since presbyteries are filled with men like you and I, who make mistakes and are often prone to err; it’s a miracle that the church still functions.

        Nice to have met you.

  • Glenn Lucke

    From my vantage point of running Docent Research Group I wholeheartedly agree with Pratt.

    Here’s a challenge I face each week: we have client churches that care about bringing the Gospel to those who are far from God and to new and immature believers. These churches hard at making the Gospel INTELLIGIBLE to people who are not very well-educated and not intellectually inclined. They hire us to assist them in brokering God’s Word and the Church’s theology to such people.

    But who applies to work for Docent? Highly cognitive seminarians, most of whom were reared in the church. I’ve started asking applicants (i.e. highly cognitive seminarians) if they even have non-Christian friends and if they have experience teaching and training immature believers in how to take steps towards maturity in Christ. Some applicants have good answers to these questions, a lot do not.

    Repeatedly what I find in our applicant pool are Young, Restless, Reformed seminarians who know their Carson, Piper, Mohler, Dever, who read a ton, who know their Reformed systematics backwards and forwards, and can parse with the best of them.

    But connect the fruits of their scholarship to images of God who are Everyday Joe and Everyday Mary? A good number of applicants, when describing their vision of an excellent sermon, write about a sermon that sounds a lot like a seminary classroom lecture. Really? The preaching of the Word in gathered worship is to approximate the download of a seminary lecture?

    The problem that Pratt describes is the problem I face in finding excellent researchers to serve our clients. Were applicants to reflect what Pratt proposes I could not employ them fast enough.

    We have some researchers who embody this– they know their Bibles and the Church’s theology AND they can assist our client-pastors in brokering this knowledge to ordinary images of God. I wish I had more.

    • Cor Chmieleski

      Hey Glenn,

      I don’t doubt your experience in finding highly cognitive seminarians in need of help boiling things down. I once asked a sem prof to boil down what he spent 15 minutes unpacking to a more easily digestable story or illustration. He paused for a moment and then said, “I can’t.” BINGO.

      My question for you is, “do you at Docent see as part of your mission TRAINING these pastors to think more like Everyday Joe?” I see that you help them to relate to others and provide research briefs, illustrations, applications, etc. But, at some point does your help for them result in them being able to help themselves in this area? Do you see these preacher-pastors weening themselves off from you and getting the hang of things? If so, how long is the average pastor-preacher utilize your services before making a go of it for themselves?


      • Glenn Lucke


        Thanks for asking a good question, and for pressing commenters (including me) for clarity, and doing so in a gracious manner.

        You write: “do you at Docent see as part of your mission TRAINING these pastors to think more like Everyday Joe?”

        Our mission is to serve pastors. Short of writing sermons, which we think is unethical, we do just about anything the pastor asks us to do to serve him with research. Our role is a servant’s role. The pastor leads us and we do what we’re asked to do.

        So we don’t see TRAINING as part of our calling. In reality, the pastors implicitly train us and mentor us as we serve them. It’s more of an apprentice relationship.

        What we have that the pastors do not have is TIME. We bring seminary-trained TIME to the relationship, and the pastor directs us how to use that time in a way that is most beneficial to him. A Docent research team does not instruct or coach its pastor-client; rather, the pastor instructs us.

        Consequently, pastors use us to extend their reach and/or to drill down more deeply in a subject… tasks they do themselves but the demands of wearing so many different hats each week mean they run out of time to research all the questions/subjects that they face each week in their study.

        Informally, many of our pastor-clients have told me they spend between 10-20 hours/week in preparation for each sermon, and a minority spend 25 hours/week. They do a lot more research than we do. We don’t replace their work, we extend their work and deepen their work in select areas.

        The work we do is not something we can train them to do– they do the work already, but they utilize us to go farther or deeper than their time limitations permit. In fact, they train us to do the work.

        But their training of us, to be valuable to them, assumes we come to the relationship with a certain amount of skill and experience in connecting God’s truth to Everyday Joe and Mary. And that skill/experience is what too few applicants bring to the table. We’ve some remarkable researchers doing great work for pastors most of the readers of this blog know and respect. But we need more.

        • Cor Chmieleski

          Thank you, Glenn, for the clarity on your role. That helps me to understand. I appreciate you taking the time to get back to me.


    • PD Mayfield


      Your comments add helpful insight to the respective thoughts found in the article. As one who inquired employment at one time with Docent (between classes, part-time work, and my own internship responsibilities, it was not feasible to pursue it further), I find your experiences to be where the rubber meets the pavement.

      Seminarians need to read this article and then your posted comment.

  • Raj Rao

    My first post failed so I will try again.

    Dr. Pratt is right on target. Amen!

    Perhaps, Justin will consider asking pastors who have graduated from seminary (10 yrs +) the same question?

    I would urge seminarians in the US to do any required field work or internships in a 3rd World country. You will get saddlebusted, but it is good training.

    Raj Rao

  • Christopher Raynor

    What to change about seminary? How about getting rid of them?

    Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr. states that ministry leaders that graduate from a seminary are not to be considered professionals. In one sense of the word professional, I would agree a person might not have the aptitude to teach what they have learned. I do understand that Dr. Mohler is trying to make the point that having the aptitude should be a qualification for a ministry leader and I agree with him. However, the notion of the ministry being a profession is fostered by the seminaries themselves. The Bible teaches that learning is to take place through imitating, and teaching through example. The seminary is full of professionals and has taken on highly similar characteristics of secular colleges. I won’t go into details about government accreditation, prerequisites and diplomas here. I will say that the Seminary is glad to take the students or the churches’ money and boast of the quality of education one receives, yet turn around and say to the church, “We didn’t think you would actually make him a leader.” Meanwhile, either the supporting church or the non-supported, possibly out-of-work student are stuck with a significant debt. The seminary has, at the least, helped to create an environment that makes it extremely difficult to enter the ministry without them, charge a lot of money, and say we have no part in failing ministers.

    In Dr. Carson’s first point, am I to understand that he would like to see the elimination of part-time students? Wouldn’t this eliminate a lot of people who can’t afford to go to seminary full time? Combine this with his third point and it seems as though the seminaries are calling the shots on who enters the ministry, and those that can are few. I agree that the criteria for ministry should be high, yet I think that it should also be accessible to as many people as possible. C.J Mahaney does not have a college degree, yet he faithfully ministered to a huge congregation and now equips church leaders. Why doesn’t this open minds to the possibility that many people who would make fine ministers are closed out by the seminary system.

    Richard Pratt starts off his opinion with some very good points. However, he makes a critical mistake by looking to the problem for the solution. All the things that he desires of a seminary are already in a healthy church. Might I add that by having this performed in the church, you are more likely to have a humble leader that grew up with the congregation, instead of having a prideful leader from outside of the congregation. Another crucial item that the church can provide and the seminary lacks is accountability for the aspiring minister.

    If one wants to follow Scripture’s example for raising leaders for the church, then leaders should be raised IN the CHURCH.

    • Lori

      Thank you for this well thought out response I agree.

    • Cor Chmieleski


      I appreciate your perceptive analysis where Pratt points to sem as the solution to the problem of sem. I think there are ways seminaries could be re-tooled.

      But, I think more along your lines of raised IN the church. My opinion is that it’s dang hard to try and reproduce the environment of the local church at a seminary so the student of the seminary can be adequately prepared for the local church. But, what about the reverse? Can strong Bible and theology (which some have said can be inconsistent even at sem) be reproduced within the local church? I think it can. And I think it must.


      • Phil Faris

        Cor, Christopher et al,

        Regarding “in church”: I summarized for a pastor the original blog set of interviews on what to change in seminary as this: The “experts” all said that seminary should be more like a church.

        Interestingly (to me), my pastor and I met at seminary 35 years ago, he went on to be a missionary, then Bible College prof, then pastor. I left seminary stating, “The local church is where this training should occur.” I went on to a career as an Air Force Intelligence Analyst (now retired) while teaching Bible in churches all over the world. Today we are together working to plant a church. Both with frustrations; in neither enviornment do people really want to grow spiritually.

        • Cor Chmieleski

          Hey Phil,

          I’m sorry to hear of your frustration with both environments. While I think it’s possible that people in seminary and churches don’t want to grow spiritually, I can’t say that’s true of my current church. It is filled with MANY zealous young people (we’re about 800+ in size, avg age is 24).

          What’s your counsel? Are you saying that CPing is where it’s at? Would you change anything in how the last 35 years went? What is going to be your approach within your church to raise up leaders and make disciples?


          • Phil Faris

            Regarding the two environments; I was referring to my friend’s life on the mission field and my life in the military. My cryptic remark about people “not wanting to grow spiritually” meant that people encountered on the emission field (in church plants) or in lots of established churches are not very “intentional” about spiritual growth. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t enthusiastic about their faith or about sharing it with others. We have many bible college students at our house for fellowship and training in outreach. They are great–but they are following a program and what they really “want” spiritually isn’t always clear.

            What I’d change about my approach over 35 years would be to take EVERY opportunity to deliver the message (good news) God has entrusted to us instead of just “doing my share”. That is, I’ve been too lazy.

            I can’t spell out here my (too theoretical) views about how we plan to train leaders within our local church. (I’ll put something about it soon in our not very active devotional blog. Click on my name to go there.) But we have “trained” our current elders by having a men’s breakfast bible study going word by word (i.e., very slowly) through the pastoral epistles. And it seems that having the pastor and I “team discuss” (sort of, but not exactly “lead”) these Bible studies is making them more “educational” than ever. But so far all of our attempts to mentor “outreach” skills are falling flat. And we’re abysmal failures at stealing people from other chu… , oops.

  • Dan Sonnenberg

    Dr. Pratt was my favorite seminary professor at RTS Orlando because he constantly challenged us to think “outside the box.” I grew up in the Lutheran Church (ELCA), then worked as a music director for 20 years in the Presbyterian Church (EPC) before attending seminary. So when our practical theology prof told us about some of the “nitty gritty” we would experience in the church I was thankful that I had already experienced much of what he related to us as a church staff member and parent – suicides, hospital visits, death of a child, persons with mental illness in the church, funerals, etc. So my seminary experience was complementary to my previous church experience by providing in-depth biblical, theological, philosophical, etc training. And fortunately, my in-service experience at a small local church near the seminary offered me some even more practical training – through a pastor who actually spent time with me one on one teaching me the skills of preaching preparation and delivery, taking me with him on his (scary!) weekly door to door evangelism outings into new, mostly lower income neighborhoods in Orlando, and allowing me to help with discipleship, youth ministry, music ministry and a host of other tasks.

    I strongly agree that the local church should provide more education, training and experience for those within it who are considering full-time ministry. Perhaps the weakest areas in my current church include: 1)the need for more intentional basic and advanced training, both biblical and practical; and, 2) we have experienced many changes in pastoral leadership over the past two decades, and therefore have not provided consistent long-term mentoring opportunities.

    We are currently addressing #1 above by adding some of the Third Millenium ( in our curriculum. We’ll see in time how well that is received. #2 above is somewhat more difficult to correct, but we trust it is in the Lord’s hands and hope for better days ahead.

    • Cor Chmieleski


      I think you would agree that your sem experience was enhanced by the previous church experience you had. This led to you possessing an informed opinion in classes and appropriately filtering sem discussions. Would it be crazy for seminaries to require of their M.Div. applicants (e.g. 1 year of church experience) something similar to what is required of D.Min. applicants (3 years of church experience)? What do you think?


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  • Gary T. Meadors

    This subject has obviously sparked a lot of interest. The subject and resulting content is not new. It seems that every generation struggles with the relationships of the academy and the church. I was ordained in 1967 and have taught ministry students since 1979. I have watched 2 or 3 cycles of this discussion (cf. Ted Ward, the Pew Foundation, the mega church, etc.).

    I am bothered by the bifurcation of academics and ministry that runs through Pratt and a lot of the follow-up comments. Brain dead soldiers are of no more use that physically dead ones. Mohler and Piper’s “not professionals” jargon can lead to a less-than-professional ministry attitude and training. While we may understand the concerns of these leaders because of some cultural abuse, I don’t want one end of a continuum, I want both. I think the Church deserves both.

    In regard to academics and ministry, Seminary should be both/and, not either/or. Those who do not appreciate the need for a scholarly pastorate that Carson values underestimate the seriousness of perpetuating Christianity as a viable worldview. It was John Stott who said, “Anti-intellectualism is worldliness, not godliness.” (Your Mind Matters)…and who wants to accuse Stott of not caring about ministry? The Church must empower its scholars as well as seminaries must empower witness. I think that Romans 12:1-2, when rightly understood, calls for both/and. To neglect either end of this continuum is to put the Church in peril. The Church and seminaries need to learn how to plug the right people into the right slots rather than function with tunnel vision in the direction of one’s own interest and passion.

    We need both the academy [Note 1] and the ecclesia…they serve each other intellectually and professionally. Many seminaries are trying to find balance, but seminary is not over when you graduate, it is just beginning.

    Note 1: Some might note that the ecclesial academy is a modern invention. Well…so are a lot of our structures, and rightly so since the Church recreates its structures through changing times. I also wonder how many of us could pass an exam made up by Paul! What would it contain? Would it be either/or, or both/and?

    • Ecclesia semper reformanda est

      To suggest that Richard Pratt takes an either/or approach to seminary (vis-a-vis academics and practical ministry training) seems to misrepresent his views and miss his point. He has spent his entire adult life studying in the academy and teaching in the academy. And now, through Third Millennium, he is devoting himself to making “the academy” accessible to literally millions of underserved church leaders all over the world. So we should be careful not to discount the value that Richard Pratt must place on the academic facet of theological education.

      Many may recall that Richard is fond of saying, “Because the deck of life is always shifting, balance can be nothing more than momentary synchronicity.” It seems to me that in this piece, he is merely pointing out that our approach to seminary training is out of balance, and that corrective measures must be taken to keep the ship from taking on water.

      Richard advocates a both/and approach. Consider his military analogy: “So, what is basic training for the military? Recruits learn the information they need to know, but this is a relatively small part of their preparation. Most of basic training is devoted to supervised battle simulation.” His point is clear: “I’d find ways to reach academic goals more quickly and effectively and then devote most of the curriculum to supervised battle simulation.” He stresses BOTH reaching academic goals AND supervised battle simulation.

      It seems that he does wish to adjust the METHOD of reaching academic goals, but that’s not at all the same thing as minimizing or ignoring these goals. He is arguing that our seminaries have often tended to emphasize academics while minimizing practical ministry experience in the trenches. And consequently, many of our best-trained soldiers are not prepared for battle.

      Perhaps it is time to rebalance.

      • Gary T. Meadors

        The role of a seminary is often in the eye of the beholder. The ATS Standards make it clear, however, that a seminary is both/and. ATS has worked hard on the problem of praxis in seminary programs. But the reality is that seminary is still graduate education in the Bible and Christian history. This requires mental soldiers, an imagery fast fading in the American Church. For over 30 years I have watched seminaries downgrade their academic tracks because the culture of ministry students will not go to a school that requires a classical curriculum. So we downshift from 3+ year programs post-baccalaureate to 1 and 2 year programs. Guess which courses have gotten trashed.

        Furthermore, I am not so sure it is the role of seminary to do all the praxis training that it gets criticized for not doing. Ministry methodologies and philosophies are fadish. Seminary needs to focus on critical thinking skills so that ministers can flex with changing times from a biblical worldview. Seminary is boot camp part I. The first five years after seminary is boot camp part II. Some seminary graduates get angry that “the seminary didn’t teach me that.” Perhaps it wasn’t suppose to…but it is now time to learn it. Compare the DMin program in the ATS description: You do an MDiv, go into ministry for 5 years and find out what you didn’t learn, then do the DMin which is suppose to be a crowning ministry training (DMins have nothing to do with preparation for teaching and they write projects not dissertations). Perhaps Pratt should partner with a select group of seminaries rather than wave a magic scepter to change a paradigm into his own image.

        I have observed the false dichotomy between academics and ministry for a long time. It follows the common idea that seminary is cemetery…don’t let study get in the way of your devotional life. Frankly, if a student doesn’t achieve a spiritual high parsing a verb in context, they have missed the point of the academic study of the Bible. Bruce Metzger quoted a Greek patriarch who commented about the value of the original biblical languages, “reading the Bible in English is like kissing your wife through a veil, it is the same woman but it doesn’t have the same smack!”

        What does “reach academic goals more quickly and effectively” mean? By my observation, this is merely a patronizing way of setting aside what some think are irrelevant courses so you can get to the really important stuff.

        So…I appreciate all the ministries represented in this discussion, but I still see serious bifurcation under the flag of praxis.

        • Hal Jacobs

          I was cruising through the blog comments and noticed yours. As a long time follower of third mill I am especially qualified to answer your false claims. So here is the truth:

          1) all of the third millennium videos are done to ATS standards
          2) third mill does have partnerships with other seminaries (you inferred they did not)
          3) there are over 30 professors on the third mill curriculum. So it’s not “in Pratt’s image as you claim.” and third mill has a review board of theologians.

          Since this blog post is about education you would be better off educating yourself before making statements you obviously have no idea about.

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  • Blest

    What one thing would you change about seminary?

    Seems to me the question is about how the seminaries are training today’s pastors and leaders, Or, pastors as leaders, because what they’re doing is not working very well. Interesting to see everyone here knows “The Religious System” of today is broken. My question is; Why are we trying to fix an unbiblical system?

    I haven’t been to seminary, so maybe someone here can help, but, when I search the scriptures, I find no place that says a pastor is a leader. I do find Jesus teaching His disciples not to be called rabbi/teacher and master/leader in Mat 23:8-10. I do find all of His disciples calling themselves, servants, or servants of Christ, and none of His disciples calling themselves, leaders. Why would someone call themselves a leader if none of His disciples did?

    And pastors, now here was an interesting search. As I searched the scriptures about pastors, I had a rude awakening. There wasn’t very much about pastors and what there was, was not very flattering. The word pastor is only nine times in scripture, once in Ephesians, eight times in Jeremiah and six times God is not happy.

    Jeremiah 2:8 …”the pastors” also transgressed against me, and the prophets
    prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.

    Jeremiah 10:21 For “the pastors” are become brutish, ( beastly, carnal )
    and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper,
    and all their flocks shall be scattered.

    Jeremiah 12:10 “Many pastors” have destroyed my vineyard,
    they have trodden my portion under foot…

    Jeremiah 22:22 The wind shall eat up all “thy pastors,”
    and thy lovers shall go into captivity:

    Jeremiah 23:1 Woe be unto “the pastors” that
    destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!

    Jeremiah 23:2 …thus saith the LORD God of Israel “against the pastors”
    that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away,
    and have not visited them:

    Jeremiah 50:6 My people hath been lost sheep:
    “their shepherds” have caused them to go astray…

    I found not one person was called pastor. Not one person had the title pastor. Not one person was ordained a pastor by another man. And not one congregation led by a pastor. I was in a state of shock. How could this be Lord?

    Every place you turned there were Senior pastors, singles pastors, youth pastors, associate pastors and Reverends, and Right Reverends and Most Right Reverends, Doctors, Vicars, Popes, Cardinals, Rectors, and the list goes on.

    These titles were every place you looked. Every place but in the Bible.

    Seems the system we have in place is broken. Maybe, like Jesus, we need to find a few men our religious leaders think are ignorant and unlearned men, but, who like to spend time with Jesus.

    I’m Blest, because I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul. Jesus.

  • David A Booth

    I greatly admire Richard Pratt, yet I would like seminaries to move exactly in the opposite direction from his proposal. The problem with seminary education is not that it is insufficiently practical but that it is that it is insufficiently academic. Three points:

    1. Dr. Pratt’s analogy to military training misses the point. I am a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former commissioned officer in the Marine Corps. Trust me, the military expends a lot of resources training people to run nuclear reactors and to handle all of the complex technical aspects of modern warfare. The military also runs a diverse group of advanced schools and pays for its officers to pursue graduate research in a numerous fields. The real take away from comparing the military with the Church is that the military spends vastly more money on training and retraining its officers than the church does while correspondingly holding them to higher standards (I was appalled at how low the academic standards were at Reformed Seminary when I attended there two decades ago). So why don’t we do this? One of the reasons why we don’t invest more resources in training Church officers is that most lay people have no idea what a sorry job seminaries are currently doing. They assume that graduates are Bible scholars and theologians. This means that real change must start with admitting to the failure of the current system. The other reason for our underivestment in training Church officers is that the Church broadly despises the word of God. That is a bold statement, so let me back it up with a simple illustration: What if one of your children wanted to study German literature and you found out that the Professors at their chosen college had only studied German for one or two years. Wouldn’t you think that such a situation is insane? Then why do we think it somehow becomes acceptable that those ordained to preach and teach Scripture only have 1 to 2 years of Hebrew and Greek? Is German literature more important than God’s word? If we valued God’s word more highly – we would at least expect that our pastors could read and exegete it in the original lanuages.

    2. While pastors are not professionals it is useful to compare the training that pastors receive to that of various professions. Over the past 100 years the academic training expected of almost every field has gone up while the academic standards for seminaries have actually gone down. Princeton, like many seminaries, used to have an entrance exam for Greek. Today the typical seminary graduate can not competently read the Bible in Hebrew and Greek upon graduation. Yet most seminaries continue to offer three year degrees while squeezing in more and more “practical” courses.

    3. While several of the distinguished contributors to this article have offered interesting ideas, seminary education will only be adequately improved by a committment of greater resources from the Church. One model would be to lengthen seminary training to 4 years as Dallas Seminary has done. Another option would be to send pastors back to school for a year after they have been in pastoral ministry for 5 years (and, no, I don’t mean D.Min. programs). The problem is that we cannot simply raise the standards without putting in more money given that paying for seminary is already an excessively high burden for many who aspire to pastoral ministry. If we want our ordained servants to be better trained – we are going to have to pay for it.

    • Bill Fuller

      Churches don’t despise the Word of God. They depise hard nose Hyper-Calvinist with no grace. We all agree Greek and scholarship are important. But that is why there is this back swing from churches against seminaries like Greenville because nobody wants to get the crap kicked out of them by some hard nosed hypercalvinist. So realize isn’t not hating the institution. It’s not hating the study of God’s word and instruction. It’s despising people that are Pharisees and have no grace.

      Sadly enough these seminaries that are like all you need is more Greek attract these kinds of people. Yes the original languages are needed, but there has to be a balance. We have to love God’s word and his people who are sinners.

    • Jimmy

      To my Pulpit Search Committee:

      If a candidate can still competently read the Bible in Hebrew and Greek, please keep searching. Thanks.

      • David A Booth


        Did you really intend to say that you want your congregation to intentionally call a pastor who can’t read the Bible in its original languages?

        • Jimmy


      • Gary T. Meadors

        Jimmy, the point of knowing biblical languages is not an end in itself, it is a means to access and expose the meaning of the only document we have to know God. Everyone will not be equally skilled in languages, but every minister should value their part in the process of exegeting God’s will for the world.

        So, my concern would be not how good you are in biblical languages but in what you value in reference to knowing the Bible in order to know God.

  • Bill Fueller

    Churches don’t despise the Word of God. They depise hard nose Hyper-Calvinist with no grace. We all agree Greek and scholarship are important. But that is why there is this back swing from churches against seminaries like Greenville because nobody wants to get the crap kicked out of them by some hard nosed hypercalvinist. So realize isn’t not hating the institution. It’s not hating the study of God’s word and instruction. It’s despising people that are Pharisees and have no grace.

    Sadly enough these seminaries that are like all you need is more Greek attract these kinds of people. Yes the original languages are needed, but there has to be a balance. We have to love God’s word and his people who are sinners.

    • Reformed Rebel

      Bill, perhaps some other comments were deleted leaving me with a lack of context; are you implying, or stating outright for that matter, that Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is guilty of teaching hyper-Calvinism?

  • David A Booth


    If wanting pastors to be able to read and exegete the Bible makes one a “Pharisee” with “no grace” then your comment simply illustrates my point.

    People really do expect their heart surgeon to be highly technically competent. People really do expect their attorney to be an expert in the law. Yet, somehow, we don’t expect pastors to be experts in the Bible. Why is it wrong to conclude from this that we care more about surgery and legal advise than we do about God’s word?

    Of course ministers must love God, His word, and His people. But I am curious about your use of the term balance. First, I don’t see these three categories as existing in a zero sum relationship with one another. It isn’t as though a person can love God without also loving His people and His word (I’m also not sure how adding a year to seminary education would cause future ministers to love God and/or His people less). Second, given that the vast majority of seminary graduates cannot read the Bible in Hebrew and Greek where do you think that the balance lies in terms of the academic content of seminary training. Are you willing to live with the status quo where pastors can’t read the Bible in its original languages or do you want to change that?

    • Jimmy
      • David A Booth


        I don’t know if you have ever studied any languages, but tools like Bibleworks (which is a great tool) in the hands of someone who doesn’t know the language can be extremely dangerous. Language isn’t simply a code where once you have the correct morphology of a word and a lexicon you can pretty much automatically arrive at a correct translation and interpretation of a passage.

  • Arthur Sido

    Maybe the problem goes deeper and is really that the whole system that tells young men who want to minister to others that the way to do that is to leave the people they know, go into debt to get an expensive education somewhere and then get hired to minister to strangers is unbiblical. Instead of training men to get a job in the clergy, maybe the seminary system could focus on equipping men to minister in their local community where they live and work. I know that borders on blasphemy in many parts of the church (how can you minister to people without a seminary class on ministering?!) but given the state of the western church that is dying and the state of the real explosion in the Gospel in places of the world without a professional clergy and seminary system, we can see something is wrong. The reason is that we have substituted man’s idea of ministry for what the Bible shows us and that has not changed in 1700 years, the Protestant Reformation notwithstanding.

    • David A Booth


      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I have some sympathy with what you are saying. The idea that going to seminary qualifies you to be a pastor the way going to law school qualifies you to be an attorney is really terrible.

      Nevertheless, I am pretty sceptical about the ability of men to be adequately trained solely through mentoring in the local church. There is a history of churches trying to do precisely this and it isn’t that encouraging. Wouldn’t it be a better answer to have someone both receive excellent academic training and meaningful mentoring in the life of a local church?

  • David A Booth

    So far the advocates of “less knowledge = more love” have either implied or directly called me a “Pharisee”, someone with “no grace”, a “hyper-Calvinist”, “a big bone head”, “someone who ruins people’s lives”, a “seminary goob”, “illiterate and full of pooh”, and a man without “humility”. Also, someone decided that it would be “clever” to log in using my name rather than their own.

    Somehow the formula “less knowledge = more love” doesn’t seem to be working out so well.

    • EAA

      Mr. Booth,

      Please don’t prove these accusations true by characterizing all of us who disagree with you by the rantings of two harsh critics and a poser.

      That would be very bone-headed.

      And please note that NO ONE on this blog has advocated “less knowledge = more love”.

  • David A Booth


    Thank you. Please forgive me if my comment seemed like a characterization of everyone who disagreed with me. I didnt’ mean it that way – and I am sorry that I have given offense. I understand that the vast majority of my fellow ministers along with the very distinguished men who were interviewed for this article do in fact disagree with me.

    I do however disagree with you that no-one is arguing that there is a trade off between knowledge and love. What else does it mean to say that we should seek a balance between the two?

    Again I apologize for any offense that I may have caused.

    • EAA

      No worries. I see now that a post by Bill Fueller does call for some sort of balance between learning the original languages and loving God’s Word and His people. But honestly, that post doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

      You are kind to offer an apology, but I am not offended by any of this. Blogs are about as close as we get to the lost art of argument these days, and men should be able to exchange ideas without worrying too much about stepping on toes or getting hurt on the playground. Amen?

      • David A Booth


        BTW – It would be nice for someone to present an actual argument on why they think the academic standards should be higher for teaching German literature than for teaching Micah or 2 Peter. Not only is this our current situation, I believe that it is actually a situation that is getting worse.

        • EAA

          Oh, my! Who gives an orangutan’s arse what the academic standards are for teaching German literature?

          • David A Booth

            It is a simple comparison (that can be extended to numerous other fields):

            None of us would send our children off to study German literature under someone who only had a year or a year and a half of German. Why then do we think it is o.k. to ordain people to teach Micah and 2 Peter who only have one year of Hebrew and a year and a half of Greek?

  • John Carroll

    Richard Pratt is on to something. As a young Christian in the 1960’s I saw the church as ineffective in evangelism and discipleship. I joined the staff of a para-church organization modeled after the Marine Corps. The problem is I was not theologically trained so after 20 years of increasing doubts and confusion I went to seminary to figure out what I believed. So there is a place for both aspects of training. But it is hard to find a way to get them both in one package.

  • Malcolm Webber

    This is a wonderful piece of writing from Richard Pratt!

    Around the world, many Christian leaders and teachers are thinking about and exploring this whole area of transformational design of leader development. For what it’s worth, here’s our contribution:

    • Cor Chmieleski

      Wow, Malcolm! I look at your site. I think the program that I’m leading is tracking with some of your principles.

      Any chance we could connect to chat more?

  • Art

    Integration by D.A. Carson, yes…. looks like more of the eastern view of reality that every thing in the universe is interconnected. Dr. Pratt’s advice to a Chinese pastor is so wise knowwing the shortcomings of Western curriculum if appl…ied to China or non-western context. But unless we, who have a deep culture of patronage which is common in Asia cannot wash away that culture, that is, unlesss Two-thirds worl churchess keeps depending of western contribution to their finances, such coppying of curriculum is difficult to implement.

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  • Dave

    Dr. Pratt is speaking the truth almost nobody in the seminary business (and it is a business) wants to hear. So many independant, effective churches no longer require a seminary degree for staff. The change won’t come till the pathway to ministry without a degree is equal to the pathway with a degree, and by then it will be too late for seminaries.

  • Simon Vibert

    Great article, thanks!

    My mind is on the new student intake at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford where I am Vice Principal. We are the only evangelical college which is part of the University of Oxford.

    How do you go about training Pastor/leaders? Combining academic learning, ministry training and spiritual formation is at the heart of what we seek to do. But, as these brothers righty observe it is so much easier to:

    – train scholars rather than practitioners; and

    – train students to be individualistic and bookish rather that people focused and communally minded.

    The only solution, I think, is to ensure that we spend more time looking to the Church and the needs of the unreached world, than we do looking to the academy.

    • Doug Houlan

      Well said. It amazes me that these people here are all about the academy and don’t care about the unreached world….and these are mostly pastors and seminary students commenting on this blog….yet the Oxford man (you) says go after the unreached….Talk about a true paradox….You have proven the Holy Spirit is alive and well….

      God save the Queen and the unreached….

  • Jay

    I also think Dr. Pratt is onto something with his response.
    However, I would prefer to think of seminary as Officer Commissioning training (ROTC, OCS, West Point, Naval Academy typy thing).

    Basic Training is what all believers ought to have. Those entering the seminary, just as those entering commissioning programs, are not only required to have a working knowledge of the basics upon graduation, but also to have proven themselves capable of leading those under their charge who will be soldiering in the day to day field of battle.

    Great article! We should keep thinking this thru.

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  • Joseph Horevay

    Dr Pratt is my new hero. All too often evangelical seminaries turn out nice bookish men who are not equipped for the ministry. True ministry is warfare. The quote about the Chinese house church leader is priceless.

  • Rob

    Yes, a huge WOW! Dr. Pratt– he couldn’t have said it any better. Nothing like a sucker punch in the face. We need to hear/read this sort of stuff. Thanks for making me think, Dr. Pratt. I needed to read that.

  • Nate Jordan

    As a seminary student, you have a choice to be on the front lines of ministry or to be just a scholar. The same choice that faces every Christian. To be a part of God’s mission or to sit on the sidelines.

    • Cor Chmieleski

      Did anyone else click over to the “Third Millennium” website (Dr. Pratt as Founder and President) and hear about the mission of Third Millennium?

      It states: Our mission is to prepare Christian leaders to lead a transformation of the world into God’s Kingdom by providing Biblical education, for the world, for free. They state, “We are meeting this goal by publishing and globally distributing a free multilingual, multimedia, digital seminary curriculum in English, Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Russian and Spanish…DVD, online streaming, radio, TV broadcast – we do it all.” This is a noble task indeed.

      Questions: Do you feel like Dr. Pratt is decrying Christian, seminary education in the West but then packaging an equivalent form of it for the world? If so, is that disingenuous?

      Or do you feel like he is highlighting a need in the West (e.g. more ministry training) in this article and highlighting a need in the church around the world (e.g. more education) with 3rd Millennium? Thus, he sees the two are separate issues in his mind where no contradiction exists?

      Given his comments for this article, I was surprised. For how holistic (e.g. “battle simulation”) he’s calling pastoral training to be in the West, why would he educate/prepare others overseas via DVD? Can you put people through “endless hours of hands-on service” via a monitor? Wouldn’t “battle simulation” ministry preparation be beneficial globally? I’m not doubting the need for biblical training (which can be transferable through media). I’m doubting that the global church needs ONLY biblical training. Is it just us in the West that need ministerial training? Why not a holistic approach to Third Millennium’s mission? Or am I missing something?

      I’d really love to hear some others on what I perceive to be a gap in Dr. Pratt’s comments here and what he’s advocating within his ministry. Can someone help me to understand?


      • Richard Coker

        Read the previous posts which address Dr. Pratt’s position. I believe it’s been made very clear.
        Richard C

      • Hal Jacobs

        Cor, Pratt is not saying the third mill curriculum is the end all solution. It is just a tool to be used in conjunction with your already community. You have good questions there are too many questions to be addressed here though. Call third mill and chat with them. They are real nice. Ask for a guy named Hardison. 407-830-0222 is the number on their website.

        • Cor Chmieleski

          Thanks, Hal!

  • Cor Chmieleski

    Hey Richard,

    Where are the previous posts that address and make clear Dr. Pratt’s position? Do you mean the comments above by those esteeming Pratt’s comments? Or does Dr. Pratt make clear his position and it’s posted somewhere else?

    I appreciate his comments as I’m a leader of a church-based leadership development program where we’re trying to do more of the “battle simulation.”

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  • Jim Pemberton

    I agree wholeheartedly with the notion that churches should bear more responsibility for raising up ministers. And I’s like to distinguish between pastors as ministers. While it is true that all pastors should be ministers, not all ministers are pastors. I’m often wary when someone who has never done the work of a pastor comes out and says matter-of-factly, “I’m called to be a pastor.” There are gifts that suggest the office and skills to be learned. But the act of raising a pastor up it seems best involves applied testing as a non-pastoral minister under the tutelage or apprenticeship of a pastor.

    The idea that seminaries are for training pastors therefore seems a bit short-sighted. Where we have need for pastors, we have need for other trained ministers as well. The training of these ministers in a seminary should likewise tend toward the training of those in local churches who cannot be in professional ministry. All are to be ministers and many live and work in the otherwise secular sector where they must lend themselves to the business of ministering the gospel in every way in their places of business by word and deed. They must be equipped no less than the ministers who have gone to seminary.

    So, inasmuch as the purpose of any church is to worship, all must worship and some may lead. And inasmuch as the purpose of any church is to evangelize, all must evangelize and some may lead. And inasmuch as the purpose of any church is to teach, all must teach (and all must learn) and some may lead. And inasmuch as the purpose of any church is to disciple believers, all must disciple (and all must submit to discipleship) and some may lead. It is not even that all leaders must be trained in seminary, but that it is helpful for key individuals to have training as a matter of higher education. Many of these also happen to make good leaders in part because of their training.

    So in the paradigm I outline here, the role of the seminary is to provide training for ministers to support the biblical purposes of local churches. Where seminaries tend against this paradigm, they perhaps should change.

  • mroeda

    I find Dr. Pratt’s comments a bit curious– not because I don’t have issues with how seminary education is done or with the state of evangelicalism.

    For one thing, Dr. Pratt assumes that his seminary will determine who’s really called to ministry. He not only limits those called to “men” but “young men.” I wonder if that’s because anyone who’s married and had children would just be irresponsible to attend this seminary.

    • Doug Houlan

      The first thing you learn in seminary is to read the Bible…not to read into the Bible. You are doing that here with this document and reading into Pratt’s comments as opposed to reading them.

      The average seminary student is a white male in his early 20’s. So Pratt is addressing the average American school because he is answering the questions “what would you change?” This makes perfect sense as he addresses the larger audience of schools. He is not saying his personal beliefs. He is addressing “the average.”

      Pratt is all about going where God calls you even if it is to a hostile place. So I think your a little off on your safe comment as the article states he just got back from China where you can get a prison term for loving Jesus.

      As for you last statement about age..Pratt started teaching at RTS when the average age of the student population was mid to late 40’s. (back when I went) People of this age have more life experience because they have lived longer. So I think everybody would agree there is merit in going to seminary later if God calls you.

      • mroeda


        I sense from your response that I didn’t make my point clearly. I’m simply saying that someone going off to seminary to do “physically dangerous evangelism” and “days on end of fasting and prayer” may be irresponsible if that person is married and has children. Pratt suggests that backing out would be an indication that they weren’t called in the first place. I don’t think it’s that simple.

        Let’s stick with Dr. Pratt’s analogy of basic training. There’s a pretty high divorce rate among recently married recruits. I’m just saying that, given the program Dr. Pratt describes, we could assume a similar dynamic would occur.

  • Phil Faris

    Tracking the comments, it seems that how we define what churches should be like influences what we want seminaries to be like. And in between comes our job descriptions for chruch leaders. No real way to come to a concensus–unless, of course, we were to read the pastoral epistles…

  • Chris Zodrow

    It would be great to hear some Biblical exegesis on this. So far, nada.

    Only Dr. Pratt is suggesting and DOING anything near the model of the NT (GPTS is doing the same as well). The others are just talk. Face it, these guys care more about maintaining their institutions than actually training men for the ministry. The cost for attending their schools is astronomical. Apostolic sacrifice is trumped by tenure.

    • Doug Houlan


  • Jake Peterson

    Love the comments on this article…

    I think some of us, however, might be missing the forest through the trees…

    Is it legitimate for a “pastor” to be equipped and built up from within a local church for the work of the ministry? or MUST we send them to Seminary?

    I would argue… along with Dr. Pratt, Cor, and a number of commenting folks here… YES. And possibly even going further to say that in order to be BETTER equipped for the work of equipping others we should favor teaching/training/mentoring that happens in the context of a local church.

    Here is a parallel from time spent in youth ministry in the church (and the education system in our country). For 20 years “youth pastors” told churches and parents, “send your kids to our lock-ins and missions trips and we will disciple them because we are experts in youth culture and know how to connect with them.”

    What do we have to show for it… very little. So… not only are kids STILL leaving the church after high school… but now we’ve told a generation of parents that it is the church’s job to disciple your kids.

    Was that the intent? Absolutely not! Is there some fruit that has come with youth ministry? Absolutely! BUT the unintended consequence was a breaking down of the discipleship process.

    Same for churches and church leaders. For over 100 years we’ve said… if you want to be in ministry… you have to go to X, Y, Z, School and get a degree. THEN you’ll be ready. But perhaps we’ve enabled the local church to neglect the training of leaders because “that’s what seminaries do.”

    Is that false thinking on the part of the local church. YUP. It is false thinking on the part of academic seminary leadership… sometimes… yup.

    That is what I love about Al Mohler’s statements in this article. There is, certainly a high bar for Biblical understanding and the ability to apply, in practice, in a way that is edifying and Gospel-saturated… BUT that is not a standard only held by a “para-church” organization called a seminary… but SHOULD be the bar held by the local church.

    I would argue that you can import the best teaching (History, language, hermeneutics, etc) into local church settings (like LDI @ Hope that Cor was talking about or Antioch School from BILD International) so that you are equipping the mind of the man in the context of the battleground of ministry.

    A good friend and fellow minister said this to me today after we were talking about this article and so I’ll leave it here, “if a local church is unable to adequately equip its people to be qualified Biblical leaders it might not be a church.”

    He might be right…

    • Jim Pemberton

      Well expressed, Jake. There is a correlation between expecting the local church to disciple our children and expecting the seminary to train our pastors. It’s not that the church shouldn’t programmatically be contributing to the discipleship of our children or that the seminaries shouldn’t be contributing to the education of our pastors. But it is the same identical call for parents to disciple children as it is to raise up ministers.

      I would add that we expect too much of institutional education. While it is beneficial, it is not always necessary. The greatest men throughout history have been autodidacts, not eschewing the teaching of others but pursuing diligently the answers demanded by their intellectual passions, not as an end in themselves but as a natural course of discovering new questions to pursue. We miss the fact that possessing knowledge that is true has been considered a virtue until recent times. And it is not knowledge that we worship, but if we value our relationship with God we will vie to carefully learn more of this God we love.

      To this end, we ship off to seminary young men whose goal it is to be pastors rather than to attentively pursue knowledge of God. So they may sit in many classes the knowledge of which atrophies because they pass only crumbs back to the common people who they fear cannot apprehend the wonders they once studied. Rare is the pastor who so inspires his people to exceed his own studies and acts of ministry, yet how vibrant a church he leads.

      • Cor Chmieleski

        Wow. Well said, Jim. Let’s pass the offering plate!

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  • Blest


    Can anyone seminary trained people here tell me

    In the bible; How many “Disciples of Christ” had the title Pastor/Reverend?

  • Blest


    Can anyone seminary trained people here tell me

    In the bible; How many congregations were led by a Pastor/Reverend?

    • Gary T. Meadors

      Hi Blest, it is hard to read the implication of your brief question, but…

      …apart from the singular “a” and the anachronistic “reverend,” according to Ephesians, Timothy and Titus, and Peter, in due time, all NT churches had pastors/elders/bishops (may be equivalent terms and just varied like synonyms). The Apostles were the foundational leaders (Eph 2:20) and they led congregations to appoint leaders (cf. 1 Cor as well). They viewed called-appointed leadership as very important. In fact, calling was not an individual’s private claim, but a congregations recognition (1 Tim 3). All of this may have been somewhat after the model of synagogue organization.

      The NT never says all the members are “the” ministers although all members must minister. The idea of a non-leadership church is an American cultural aberration.

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  • Blest


    You said, “in due time, all NT churches had pastors/elders/bishops (may be equivalent terms and just varied like synonyms).” Can you name one NT church that was led by a someone with the title Pastor? Not an equivalent.

    So, are you really saying, you can find no one in the NT who had the Title Pastor? And suggest that pastor/elder/bishop “may be equivalent?” What does “may be equivalent” actually mean? I take it to mean, you can’t find anyone with the Title Pastor so you make up a scenario where Pastor = elder = bishop. But you have no scripture to prove that, so you say “may be equivalent.” Is it okay to add “maybe’s” to the scriptures? I can find no one in the bible with the title Pastor. Can you name one person with that title? Or, Reverend?

    You also say,”The Apostles were the foundational leaders (Eph 2:20) and they led congregations to appoint leaders (cf. 1 Cor as well).” Eph 2:20, doesn’t say the Apostles were leaders. You added that part. Why? BUT, you left out, the prophets, and Jesus Christ. Won’t Foundations be weak if two thirds of the foundation is missing?

    Seems in Eph 2:15, Paul is talking about “for to make in himself of twain “ONE” new man,” and the foundation of that “ONE” new man is in verse 20, and foundations are important, they are always in the low place, and for the most part foundations are not seen or draw much attention. Eph 2:20, And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

    And where in the bible did congregations appoint leaders? I might have missed it. Where did anyone appoint leaders? Jesus taught His disciples not to be called master-leader in Mat 23:10, For you have one master-leader, even Christ. And none of His disciples called themselves leaders. They all called themselves servants.

    Seminary’s are in a tuff place since they make lot of money training up people to accept the title Pastor and Reverend and there is no one in the bible with the title Pastor or Reverend. And all disciples of Christ called themselves servants. None called themselves leaders. Yet the seminaries tell these young wannabees, who spend a lot of money, they are now leaders in the body of Christ. And 50% won’t last five years. And their families will pay a horrible price. 80% of spouses wish they would choose a different profession.

    I’m Blest, I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul… Jesus.

    • Gary T. Meadors

      Well, Blest, you certainly illustrate Carson’s publication, Exegetical Fallacies. I’ll let you read it on your own.

      A plain reading of Eph 4:11 would expect someone to be called “pastor” just like some were called apostles, some were called prophets, etc. If you want to restrict the nomenclature to the more frequently used elder or bishop that is certainly fine. It might help your understanding of how language works to read the entries on the poie* word group in BDAG and Louw/Nida’s Semantic Field #53.66 to 53.95, especially 53.71 and 72. Your comments above do not reflect a reasonable understanding of language and its function. While the term “leader” is anachronistic, 1 Peter 5:1ff. illustrates pastoral leadership of the first century…and it uses the shepherd metaphor analogically for those elders.

      In terms of the early church appointing individuals to fill slots to manage the believing groups, Titus was appointed by Paul to carry out this work. In light of the role of a congregation in 1 Tim 3 and 1 Cor 5, I don’t think “appoint” was a lone ranger task. There were qualifications that the believers who knew the individuals had to make judgments about. Titus’ work of appointing would have been collegial.

      Well, Blest, there is a whole lot more that can be said, but I’ll let you have the last word since I have to refocus on my immediate work.

    • Phil Faris

      Okay, Blest, I probably understand your point of view and am sympathetic. That is, you seem to see the existing ecclessiastical structures as having “evolved” through clearly false channels. The Popes never were valid, for example, and should have been ignored rather than “reformed”. The Reformation clearly left most of that invalid structure in place. Today’s denominations are a far cry from those absurd extremes, but they emerged out of that mess so why not just “chuck it all”, one might be tempted to conclude.

      I concur. Let’s chuck all denominationalism.

      But Hebrews 13:7 says to “remember your leaders who spoke the Word of God to you.” Too many other direct verses talk about “leadership” (hegemony, in Greek) to say that churches should just be random family-based praise sessions without leaders.

      So, the question of this blog was, what should change about seminaries to produce biblical leaders? (my paraphrase) The answer would be hidden in an exploration of what each seminary student found lacking in his preparation within his local church. The answer would be different in each case. But some common shortcomings have appeared. Original languages, intense Bible study with close mentorship, “practice” in the skills of “doing” hypothetical ministry activities, frank feedback, etc.

      You don’t seem to be interested in seriously considering these things. But if you could be persuaded to explain just how, in pragmatic terms, you “return” to your Chief Shepherd, I think your contribution would be quite valuable.

      Thanks in advance,
      Phil (soon to be author of “Philessiastes”, an exegetical biblical commentary blog)

  • Blest

    Phil – Appreciate the thoughts and I’m familiar with Heb 13, and Leaders.

    I left “The Religious System” over 15 years ago. There was much spiritual abuse by those who had titles such as pastor and reverend, not found in the bible. They were interested in controlling the people and used Heb 13 a lot, and titles. And they acted like those with titles were greater then those who didn’t have a title. They became a special class of christian, clergy class.

    When I searched I couldn’t find anyone with those titles. When I ask about them, even today, I just get the run-a-round that pastor = elder. But, that’s not in the Bible. Jesus said, we’re all brethren, His sheep. These guys with titles go around saying, my sheep, my flock, my people, and they’re not. They belong to Jesus. It is called – the Ekklesia of God, the Church of God, isn’t it?

    Jesus told His disciples not to be called leader. Why isn’t what Jesus said important? Why do these so called leaders ignore Jesus? None of His disciples called themselves leaders. They all called themselves servants. Why isn’t – servant of Christ – good enough?

    And yes I’m familiar with the Greek word hegemony. It’s used 28 times in the NT. Only three times as – have the rule over – or – leader. All in Heb 13. Don’t know if you noticed or not but, pastor/elder/overseer, is not recorded in Heb 13. Hegemony also means – to go before. That’s a different type of leader, a guide. Today, leader means boss. And if you don’t – obey the boss – they find away to get rid of you. They keep the people in fear, to control them. And every one on this post knows the system is not working, it’s broken. People are leaving in droves.

    Ever try asking a – Senior Pastor – Reverend – where his titles are found in the bible? All of a sudden he is no longer watching out for your soul as one who must give account. (Heb 13:17) When you challenge someone who thinks they are – God Ordained Authority – the leader – because they have the title – it can get ugly.

    Hegemony is also – esteem – three times.

    Phlp 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in
    lowliness of mind let each *esteem* other better than themselves.

    Never found one with a title who acted in – lowliness of mind – or was willing to – ESTEEM others better then themselves. They spent a lot of time on Heb 13, but not much time on – not lording it over God’s heritage – submitting one to another – not exercising authority like the gentiles.

    A lot of what goes on today can not be found in the bible. When I ask, they just wanted me to keep quite and obey them. Oh yea, and to put some money in the plate.

    Jer 50:6 My people have been lost sheep
    their shepherds have caused them to go astray…

    I’m Blest, because, I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul.


    • Phil Faris

      You said “Today, leader means boss.” Certainly that’s the watered down version of papal (Jesuitical, rather) authority that still permeates many churches today. But we’re trying to uncover just what “other” kinds of leaders can be cultivated today.

      I think that several of the “experts” interviewed for this blog actually said what you are saying. So the ideas–about not “lording” it over others, etc.–that you highlight are being talked about by many, today.

      If you aren’t seeing “any” pastors following through on this, then maybe just talking about the solution isn’t producing much fruit. But some of us serve in churches where those things aren’t complained about by the sheep. Yet the danger is there–and this blog is partly looking at ideas about how to avoid it.

      You imply that it might help if churches would not have the titles of pastor or leader. Yet John Darby et al taught exactly that point (with a vengeance) 150 years ago and produced one of the most authoritarian movements (exclusive brethren) ever seen. On the plus side, they were scrupulously scriptural and “nice” to a fault–except when denouncing false teachers.

      I’m sorry that so many pastors have reacted badly to an angry stranger accosting them in the foyer after worship services and calling them tyrants. Maybe seminaries should include courses in anger management–how to manage other peoples’ anger. I’m not a pastor but I think most of our elders would just laugh and say that you are probably right.

      But you still haven’t described how you personally have developed this utopian church and how effective it has been in reaching the lost and healing the wounded and growing new servant/leaders to carry the torch.

      I think your goals are sound. It’s the milestones along the way that aren’t clear.


    • PD Mayfield

      Hi Blest. I haven’t read all of your comments and respective replies. I am curious how you understand Paul’s apostleship and other roles such as “elder” or “deacon” or “minister”?

      I appreciate your quickness to remind all of the commentors that the Church is truly led by Christ; it her Bride. Reminders are wonderful, but please do not use those reminders as arrows shot at people as if they disagree with you on that point; I trust most people who read this blog would agree with you. Prayerfully, there are others who have come across this blog who don’t think that way. May they witness our love for each other as a testimony of our Lord’s love towards us.

      Two recommendations on the subject that I have read recently (well, one book read thoroughly, the other skimmed): The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Witmer and The Elder by Cornelis Van Dam both from P&R publishing; showing my cards).

      Also, please do not read my statements as sarcasm, but I think when you keep referring to Jesus not wanting his disciples to be called “leader,” you potentially are misunderstanding our Lord’s point. King Jesus is clearly calling his disciples to be leaders; the difference, however, is how He wants them to exercise their authority.

      Please correct me if I am misrepresenting your understandings and views on the matter.

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  • james t kirk

    Why was Pratt the only one who mentioned EVANGELISM?!?!

  • Curt Guthrie

    I was most impressed with Richard Pratt’s reply.
    The Hebrews 13:12-14 approach. Let us go. like
    Matthew 28:19 the participle: may our lives be carictorised by our going. “…let us go to Him outside the camp and bear the reproach HE endured…” before we claim to be church leaders.

  • Jimmy Justice


    You say”we’re trying to uncover just what “other” kinds of leaders can be cultivated today.

    Have you considered the ant?

    Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having
    no guide,
    or ruler,
    Provideth her meat in the summer,
    and gathereth her food in the harvest.
    Proverbs 6:6-9

    Guide – 07101 qatsiyn from 07096
    KJV – ruler 4, prince 4, captain 3, guide 1
    1- chief, commander, dictator.
    2- ruler (of one in authority)

    Overseer – 07860 shoter {sho-tare’}
    KJV – officers 23, ruler 1, overseer 1; 25
    1- official, officer.

    Ruler – 04910 mashal {maw-shal’}
    KJV – rule 38, ruler 19, reign 8,
    dominion 7, governor 4, 81
    1-to rule, have dominion, reign
    2- to exercise dominion.

    Just about every seminary has in it’s mission statement that they are “training leaders.”
    Why? It’s not working. The number one reason pastors leave the ministry is people won’t follow.

    # 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
    #1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go
    the same direction and goal of the pastor.

    • Phil Faris

      My statements were in response to hypothetical disgruntled ex-church goers. I personally am not trying to uncover anything; the Bible is clear about how to lead congregations to serve the Lord.

      I totally agree that “dominion” has historically been a problem with institutional clergy. But if we throw out all the wrong ways churches have been led, there still is a clear picture of how the Lord wants it to be done. I think your last statement about “people won’t follow” tracks exactly with the picture of a shepherd and his flock of sheep.

      If you suggest that all seminaries are off track from the get go, I don’t have a problem with that. I believe local churches should train their own “servants” (more commonly used word that “leaders” in the Bible).

      But to just complain about the worst examples of pastorhood and not present a successful testimony about how it has been done right, is not very helpful. And quibbling about every stray comment and taking Bible verses out of context and saying there’s no such thing as a “leader” in the Bible is painting a target on your back.

  • Blest


    You say, “the Bible is clear about how to lead congregations to serve the Lord.”

    Where is that located in the Bible? If it’s so clear; How come there are 1,000’s of denominations today all doing something different. No, I don’t think it’s clear at all. If it was, we wouldn’t have this conversation. It’s clear to me that Jesus wants to be the leader and the teacher. NOT a mere human.

    Jesus said in John 6:45, It is written in the prophets, And they shall be “ALL” taught of God.

    “I think your last statement about “people won’t follow” tracks exactly with the picture of a shepherd and his flock of sheep.”

    Jesus is the Shepherd. Aren’t we to follow Jesus? NOT a mere human who takes “the name” of the Lord in vain?

    2Chron 7:14
    If my people, **which are called by my name,** shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

    Isn’t God asking those **which are called by my name,** to humble themselves? Turn from their wicked ways?

    Who is called by God’s name today? Isn’t it today’s pastors/shepherds? Isn’t Jesus the only “ONE” with the “Title” Shepherd in the NT? Isn’t Jesus the good Shepherd? Isn’t jesus the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul? NOT a man?
    Can you name anyone, in the Bible, with the “Title” pastor or shepherd? I can’t find any.

    Who is called by God’s name today? Isn’t it those who call themselves teachers and leaders?

    In Mat 23:8-10, Jesus tells His disciples NOT to call themselves rabbi/teacher and master/leader. And there is an important reason for this. Jesus says, For you have “ONE” teacher/leader, the Christ. If seminaries taught that they would be out of business. So would lot of teachers and leaders. The benefit is Jesus would be the teacher and leader.

    Doesn’t Jesus want to be the leader? For us to follow Him NOT a mere human?

    John 10:1 -27
    …he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
    And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him:
    for they know not the voice of strangers.
    My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear My voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.

    If Not Now, When?

    In His Service. By His Grace

    • Phil Faris


      There’s no polite way to say this, but you should consider going back on your meds. I’m not sure why you rant at me; I’m the one who agrees with your primary point.

      Regarding your exegesis–only a bipolar friend of mine could come up with a better string of false ideas all based on Bible verses.

      So, even though I now think you are crazy, I still think that your advocacy for churches to be full of “followers” of Jesus rather than honorifics-laden-gurus reflects a good set of priorities.

      Try to forget what other churches might be doing and settle down to shining your light where the Lord has put you. The reactionary shouting and demanding that someone TELL you where anyone in the Bible had this or that title is just embarrassing. If you can calm down, I think you will eventually see that top-level, original blog entry had responses from major Bible teachers that often said the same thing that you would like to have said. You aren’t alone. But you are irrational because of your emotional state.
      (unspoken prayer)

  • Blest


    I apologize. Sorry that my comment sounded like a rant at you personally. Wasn’t meant to be. Please forgive me.

    The rant is meant for those who continue to “perpetrate the myth” taught in the seminaries and “local Churches” that these titles and positions, pastors and leaders, are important and positions of authority. And just cause you spend a lot of money, and get a diploma, you’re now a pastor and that automatically makes you a leader with authority. Have seen much spiritual abuse caused by those who said they were God Ordained Authority.

    you write – “and saying there’s no such thing as a “leader” in the Bible is painting a target on your back.” Sorry again. Sounds like I didn’t explain myself properly. Didn’t mean to sound like there are no leaders in the whole Bible.

    All I’m pointing out is what Jesus said to His disciples in Mat 23:8-10, when Jesus told – His disciples – not to be called leader, for you have “ONE” master/leader, the Christ. When I searched the scriptures I found – all disciples of Christ – called themselves servants. Not one called them self a leader. Not one. They all called themselves servants. I guess the question I have is; If none of – His disciples – called them self a leader? Why do we, today, put so much emphasis on that position? I used to want a title and to be a leader. Now my desire is to be a – disciple of Christ. Didn’t Jesus say, in Lu 14:33, So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. I now believe what Jesus said is important. Eventually I ripped up my papers and gave up the title and the position. Doing the best I know how – forsaking all – to be His disciple.

    Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ
    Philp 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2 Pet 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear My voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.

    If Not Now, When?

    In His Service. By His Grace.

    • Phil Faris

      OK, Blest. So the issue seems to be whether or not seminaries make the problem of authoritarian leadership in churches worse. And, does it tie in some way to the “ordination” scheme where titles and degrees are bestowed upon men? I don’t agree that seminaries cause or exacerbate this problem. It occurs with self appointed leaders even more often than with homogenized men of the cloth. And it is still worse among worldly people outside of the church. In seminaries it might linger in this issue of “professionalism” referred to in the blog; i.e., something that many others wish to change about seminaries. I certainly never heard anything promoting such titles at seminary.

      You might be interested, however, in how I translate Romans 1:1. “From Paul. Although I’m just trying to serve Jesus Christ like anyone else,
      I was appointed as a special messenger and selected to deliver God’s good news to the world.” Paul used the words others like to use as “titles” as simple descriptive terms. He seems to only use titles to stress his subordinate position to Jesus. I call this a “translation” becuase I’m using the Greek discourse grammar techniques of evaluating the literary devices that show what the author’s mindset was while writing. Yes, this sounds like mind-reading but a whole group of us spent several days studying these aspects of the Greek language recently and we didn’t think it was as nutty as it sounds. Trust us. We are “scholars”. (joke)

      If we want “change” in regard to this use of titles, I suggest that it would require more Greek and Hebrew and more adroitness in handling the Bible–and this is something that could change in many seminaries. But even fewer (probably) agree with me on this than agree with you on your soapbox. I myself can’t imagine where shephers get the power to feed their congregations without seeing this power in the Bible in the original languages.

      Meet you at Speakers COrner in Hyde Park in London and we’ll see who can draw the biggest crowd with our hobby horses.

  • Blest

    PD Mayfield

    You ask – “I am curious how you understand Paul’s apostleship and other roles such as “elder” or “deacon” or “minister”?”
    And you state – “you potentially are misunderstanding our Lord’s point. King Jesus is clearly calling his disciples to be leaders;”

    As I see it – Both deacon and minister is often the same Gr word “diakoneo” which means – to be a servant, attendant. I also see the role of elder, in the Bible, as a servant. Not a leader, Not one who exercises authority or is the authority. Jesus not only taught – His disciples – not to be called leader He also taught – His disciples – not to exercise lordship and authority like the gentiles.

    Mark 10:42-44 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. 43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: (servant)

    Today’s – pastors and leaders – desire this authority over others. But Jesus told – His disciples – Not to exercise authority.

    Why isn’t what Jesus said important?

    Just a side note – In my experience, I’ve never met anyone, who called them self an elder, who meets the qualifications for elder/overseer. Nope, not one. Most today just ignore the qualifications. Maybe that’s why pastors have so much burnout, depression. They are living a lie. And the seminaries are doing such a poor job. 50% of ministers don’t last five years. 80% of wives want them to choose a different profession. 80% say, ministry is harmful to the family. Those are not good numbers for pastors and their families. But we allow seminaries to exist. With such a failure rate, they should be closed.

    Even Peter exhorts the elders in 1 Peter 5:3, “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” That word lord is – katakurieuo – and means – to bring under one’s power, to subject one’s self, to subdue, master, to be master of, exercise lordship over. Isn’t that what goes on in the broken religious system of today? Those with the titles and position “lord it over God’s heritage.”

    In my experience, when someone today takes the title and position – pastor and leader – they automatically are lording it over God’s heritage. They teach they are the authority – and bring others under their power. Both Jesus and Peter said this was not to happen. That’s why I believe, in the Bible, you can’t find anyone with the title pastor. And all – His disciples – called themselves servants.

    If you take the position, or call yourself a leader, are you – His disciple?

    I believe Jesus showed the way. As God He had every right to exercise His authority. But, as man, Jesus humbled Himself, made Himself of no reputation, and took on the form of a servant. (Phil 2:7-8) Giving us an example. And all – His disciples – followed His example. When you take a title and position like – pastor and leader – you automatically have a reputation whether you want it or not. And many today use worldly methods to enhance their reputation.

    I’m Blest, because, I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul.

    • PD Mayfield

      Hi Blest. I think you took my words out of context. You left off the point of my sentence.

      I said: “King Jesus is clearly calling his disciples to be leaders; the difference, however, is how He wants them to exercise their authority.”

      As this conversation seems to be a tangent from the original blog post, I hope you are well and have blessed day.

  • Blest

    PD Mayfield – Phil

    Don’t know if you ever checked it out but there are many warnings about – shepherds and leaders – in the Bible.

    My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray…
    Jeremiah 50:6

    Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats:
    Zechariah 10:3

    For the leaders of this people cause thee to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.
    Isaiah 9:16

    … O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.
    Isaiah 3:12

    And in 1 Samuel 8, the people wanted a man, a king, to rule over them, and not God. How did that work out for them?

    1 Sam 8:7
    And the LORD said unto Samuel,
    Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee:
    for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me,
    that I should not reign over them.

    And how did having Kings turn out for Isreal?

    1 Sam 8:11
    This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you:
    He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots,
    and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.

    Your King will take your sons.
    Your King will take your daughters.
    Your King will take your fields.
    Your King will take your vineyards.
    Your King will take your oliveyards.
    Your King will take the tenth of your seed.
    Your King will take your menservants.
    Your King will take your maidservants
    Your King will take your asses.
    Your King will take the tenth of your sheep.
    and you shall be the Kings servants…

    1 Sam 8:19
    Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel;
    and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us…

    Having a man, instead of God, rule over you doesn’t look so good now; does it?

    I’m Blest, because, I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul.

    And Jesus refused when they wanted to make Him King.

    John 6:15
    When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force,
    to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

    One definition for “king” in this verse is “leader of the people.”

    A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet. Pro 29:5

    When someone says; “ Hey, I think you’ll make a good leader.” Or, you just think you can be a leader. Run. Run away as fast as you can. the trap, the net, has been set and the test has begun.

    Jesus said, “For you have “ONE” – master/leader – the Christ.

    Why isn’t what Jesus said, and did, important?

    Jesus humbled Himself, made Himself of no reputation, and took on the form of a servant.

    Kind of hard to be humble, and of no reputation, when you’re the king, leader.

    I’m Blest, because, I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul.

    • Phil Faris


      Well, fine; since you seem so interested in using verses out of context how about this one: “The elders who rule well are worthy of double honor.” That means elders who rule poorly are worthy of single honor. Not.

      How long do people have to tell you that they don’t think about “ruling” at all when they think of New Testament leadership? They think about serving. And they are thinking about how seminaries can help people grow into being better servants.

      I think that you might have a heart attack if you ever realize that everyone already agrees with your main point.

      I had a friend who went to seminary and became a pastor in California. His wife then left him and the church abused him and he became obsessed with the “family priesthood” and the idea that “submitting” to any church leader was not only wrong but disobedient to the Lord. So he established a house church environment his “next” family. He raised 3 more wonderful children, he evangelized his clients and neighbors, he served his community well and he lived a life that honored Christ. After he had a stroke and couldn’t walk or talk, he continued to be a happy witness to the grace of God. I’m only asking you if you have done the same thing and how?

      Mayboe other disgruntled and confused people surrounded by lousy churches could learn something from your success.


    • PD Mayfield

      Blest. I see that the comment section is not the appropriate method for having a discussion. Face to face is always better.

      Have a great day.

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  • Michael

    I am not a pastor but I proclaim Christ where ever I go. I am in the military as well and I am the guy in my company who people go to for advice or counsel. The number on thing I get is summed up in this one experience. A guy came up to me and asked me what I thought about he and his live in girl friend having a baby. When I asked aren’t you missing a step? He replied we are not ready for a life time commitment like marriage yet. I asked him if I could show him what the Bible says and we went from there. A month later he told me that they were pregnant but they were planning a wedding. With side conversations and discipleship with in a few more months he and his wife were going to church. The short version of the story is that they are active members in a church and married. I live out many stories like this every year. I don’t have a seminary degree and I am not ordained but I believe God has a calling on my life to preach and teach so that is what I will do. If God’s will is for me to get an academic degree I will. Until then I will proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Bryan Fraser

    Literally, seminary means “nursery garden:” an artificial environment where the seedlings are protected from the stresses of the outside world until they are planted in their permanent location. I’m 26 years out of seminary now. Looking back, I see the critical importance of learning in such an intentionally abstract environment. A pastor has his whole career to build an integrated approach to his ministry, and his view of ministry methods and priorities will continually evolve. But he only has those three years to send his roots down deep into the solid foundations of knowledge he will return to again and again, sometimes resting on them, sometimes reacting against them. I think it is a mistake to expect a seminary education to provide all the hands-on tools a pastor will need in his first appointment after graduation.

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  • Jason Carter

    Standard in every major seminary’s curriculum needs to be a STUDY COURSE IN ISRAEL?

    Students are already paying $50-75k over three years, why is this not mandatory? Every seminary could pull it off for about the cost of tuition for a three hour class. How did I graduate from seminary without visiting the Holy Land?

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  • Joel H. Linton

    Not sure about the “supervised battle simulation” recommended by Dr. Pratt. He does not go far enough with his thinking. I think it is great to do what Paul did in training Timothy — he brought him along… that is you mentor them on-site in churches or on the mission field… the analogy would be taking them into battle to mentor them on the battle field itself — not the best thing for the military, but we have God on our side, so training pastors this way is great. Of course, how do seminary fit into onsite mentoring? I think that was the limiting factor in the way Dr. Pratt approached the problem and hence the analogy of simulation of battlefield. I do not think it would feel right for me to have to go through an artificially constructed spiritual exercise. I would want to be trained in the real world in the actual spiritual battles as I observed my professor/mentor/pastor literally engaging the enemy. So there need to be a systematic conveyance of knowledge (in classes with seminary professors? or some other way?) and that knowledge acquisition should not ever be compromised… but a much larger focus should be mentoring on-site in real situations.

  • Raj Chelvaraj

    I am glad you had the courage to say it like it is….Why are seminaries still doing the same thing over and over again …isn’t this insanity? Raj Chelvaraj from LeaderSource India

  • Ron Dodson

    I’d spend the whole time in seminary teaching 24 year old men how to debate online.

  • Bryan Fraser


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