Search this blog

Matt Chandler, in his chapel address, quoted the following from Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity (pp. 7-8):

For a long time, I have been convinced that I could take a person with a high school education, give him or her a six-month trade school training, and provide a pastor who would be satisfactory to any discriminating American congregation. The curriculum would consist of four courses.

Course I: Creative Plagiarism. I would put you in touch with a wide range of excellent and inspirational talks, show you how to alter them just enough to obscure their origins, and get you a reputation for wit and wisdom.

Course II: Voice Control for Prayer and Counseling. We would develop your own distinct style of Holy Joe intonation, acquiring the skill in resonance and modulation that conveys and unmistakable aura of sanctity.

Course III: Efficient Office Management. There is nothing that parishioners admire more in their pastors than the capacity to run a tight ship administratively. If we return all phone calls within twenty-four hours, answer all the letters within a week, distributing enough carbons to key people so that they know we are on top of things, and have just the right amount of clutter on our desk--not too much, or we appear inefficient, not too little or we appear underemployed--we quickly get the reputation for efficiency that is far more important than anything that we actually do.

Course IV: Image Projection. Here we would master the half-dozen well-known and easily implemented devices that that create the impression that we are terrifically busy and widely sought after for counsel by influential people in the community. A one-week refresher course each year would introduce new phrases that would convince our parishioners that we are bold innovators on the cutting edge of the megatrends and at the same time solidly rooted in all the traditional values of our sainted ancestors.

(I have been laughing for several years over this trade school training with which I plan to make my fortune. Recently, though, the joke has backfired on me. I keep seeing advertisements for institutes and workshops all over the country that invite pastors to sign up for this exact curriculum. The advertised course offerings are not quite as honestly labeled as mine, but the content appears to be identical--a curriculum that trains pastors to satisfy the current consumer tastes in religion. I’m not laughing anymore.)

View Comments


34 thoughts on “How to Make a “Successful” Pastor with a Six-Month Curriculum”

  1. David Axberg says:

    Eugene must be teaching this to alot of Pastor’s. I have met a bunch here in the Boston area so there must be many more.

  2. Joel Wood says:

    Excellent insight from Peterson, via Chandler. Undershepherd is the title of the task… not CEO, not talking head, not “Cultural Architect”. May true pastoral ministry be rediscovered in our generation. I’m fortunate to shepherd a flock that, I believe, GETS pastoral ministry. And I’m a new-comer to this flock, so I can’t take credit! If only 4-Course Pastoral Training were all it took… go to Seminary, Sam!

  3. J says:

    I’m just going to throw this out there…if pastors are making disciples should we need seminaries? Actually, if Christians were making disciples would we need seminaries? Would we need all these seminars, conferences, books, etc?
    Don’t get me wrong on this, I definitely see the value of seminary but think there is a much bigger picture we are missing.

  4. Kern Pegues says:

    FYI, Matt Chandler never finished seminary. Tried it twice but gave up and never went back.

  5. chris says:

    So, Kern, that kind of proves the point. Get to seminary and stay there. No Hebrew, no Greek — many, many errors.

  6. Hayden says:


    I went to seminary and studied Hebrew and Greek and then went and worked under a man that had preached for over 40 years. He was an amazing Pastor and he never went to seminary. How could that be? If you want to listen to him go to:

    Seminary does not make a man a pastor. It may give him some tools, but the professionalism of ministry is appalling. (read Bothers We are not professionals by John Piper)

    You can know both Greek and Hebrew and make many mistakes in preaching!

    1. chris says:

      There are exceptions — but how do you measure “amazing”? True, seminary does not make a man a pastor, but neither does neglect of seminary equate deep spirituality. It may just say “lazy” and “arrogant”.

    2. chris says:

      Piper has three or four degrees, has taught seminary and is currently opening one. So, I am not convinced that his book was written with the intent of deconstructing a seminary education.

  7. chris says:

    By the way, all the great men of church history had a Liberal Arts education, not just Bible. All of them, almost without exception. Don’t neglect the hard work, you will regret it. It will come back to haunt you.

  8. Kern Pegues says:


    I do not believe Matt quit seminary because of how tough it was, why he quit. I think it was because of what they were teaching. If you listen to Matt, I think you will pick up that he is not your typical baptist pastor. But for the correct reason, email him and ask him.

  9. J says:

    “all the great men of church history” is kind of hard to define isn’t it? I’m pretty sure the 11 disciples didn’t have a Liberal Arts degree but they did live with Jesus for 3 years…while they were being discipled by him.
    Just like most good things in America, education has been turned into a business and seminary is no exception. While seminary does help men and women grow in knowledge and depth of insight into theology, history, language, etc…many times it does not allow for making disciples which is what Jesus called his disciples to do. Jesus didn’t just educate his disciples, he taught them a way of life.

    1. chris says:

      That’s true, about the disciples. But they had Jesus for three years, which was schooling of the kind we can only imagine. So, seminary is a way of mirroring that, of getting men with other men who have walked the path, thought through the issues, and have some scars on their backs.

      J, you should be careful about the “way of life” v. education thing. They are not necessarily at odds with one another. There are men who said the same thing in the past, but they are the minority and many of them tended toward a kind of gnosis that was not spiritually healthy or sound.

      I agree with you, we need to make disciples. But intelligent people want to know: “disciples of who and to what end?” Intelligent believers ask hard questions and wrestle with difficult issues. That is why we acknowledge the deep and lasting work of men like Augustine and John Calvin. They were disciples too, and they used their gifts to serve the church — which meant time in hard study and writing. Both men were deeply educated in the classical literature of Greece and Rome, of the philosophies and thought patterns of the age. They could quote verbatim from the Patristic literature in debate and discussion. They were prepared.

      So, get an education. Find a crazy professor who will make you read Foucalt and Kant. Find a school where they still read Homer, Aeschylus and Sophocles. I would go so far as to encourage men to go to the New School in NY and study under Christopher Hitchens. Then get yourself a divinity degree at a solid, reformed, presbyterian seminary – and dig in.

      If you can’t handle all this, then you probably can’t handle the pastorate — not in any real and lasting sense.

      We keep talking about Reform, but it is still a long way off.

      1. J says:

        I think that we both are seeing the same thing with qualified pastors…just from different perspectives. You’re right on the fact about them being with Jesus, but that’s what they were noticed for (Acts 4:13). Shouldn’t that be something that marks each of us?
        Jesus taught his disciples through multiple ways but the most significant way he taught them was through constant interaction with them. They were around him in everyday life occurences. The way that our culture is, we hardly spend 4 hours in a day with our own family. Most of us spend about 2-4 hours a week with fellow believers through church services. This is where I see the great value of seminary. It allows for discussion and growth of knowledge…as you said “getting men with other men who have walked the path, thought through the issues, and have some scars on their backs.”
        What I meant about the way of life was that it was naturally part of the teachings of Jesus. I don’t think Jesus was giving his disciples a how to of knowledge but they did see how he lived his life in all areas. What Jesus believed he exmplified before his disciples. Just like we must do in our own lives. We can increase in our education but it may never be exemplified in life other than verbal or written expression. Paul told us to watch our life and doctrine closely…they go hand in hand.
        Do you know why Augustine and Calvin could quote so well? Do you know why western societies today struggle with memorization? Understanding both Augustine and Calvin in their historical context reveals to us our dependence upon technology and how it has decreased our need for memorization. Granted Augustine and Calvin were both dedictated to their studies…I would submit that it was because their passion for knowing Christ is what drove them.

        I would rather spend time reading and studying the Scriptures then Foucault and Kant or the classics…we need to know Christ deeper not how to better respond to the skeptics.

        1. chris says:

          I agree, I agree and, I agree.

          But, I disagree about the classics thing. Here is why. We need to engage with those around us; we need to spread the gospel to the world. The liberal arts expose us to the thoughts and questions that are more or less the universal possession of mankind. Sophocles is not esoteric. He describes the life we live in literary compaction. How do I face down tyranny? Ask Sophocles and see what he said. Shakespeare is not esoteric. He brings in front of your eyes the whole gamut of humanity. No New York TImes journalist could better describe the wars of the Whitehouse than he. You want politics in compaction? Go to the Bard. Dante is not esoteric. He is making moral statements about politicians, philosophers, poets, and popes. Want a poetic take on economics? Ask Dante.

          All of this can only enhance the ability to speak deeply to a world that is awash in nihilism and despair.

          Ever consider how much pornography is available to the web-surfer today? Who are all those girls and where are their dads? Where is their family? Literally, hundreds of thousands of teenagers are getting involved in the porn industry. Why? No context, no meaning, no culture of ritual, no identity- just a vacuum.

          We are going to need to be heavy-weights, and so we need to do the heavy lifting.

          God bless you bro.

          1. J says:

            I understand your point better now. Sometimes I get a little nervous when we begin to emphasize secular knowledge so much. I guess my issue with looking to classics is that we can neglect looking to Scripture first. If we want to understand mankind then we search Scripture and find the same things the stoics and philosphers wrote about. We are told the role of governments from Samuel when Israel demands a king. If we want to understand humanity we look to Solomon in his writings in Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. If we want to understand our world we find sin as the root cause…total deparavity. Anyhow, that’s my perspective on it.

            I think one of the greatest issues that we deal with or will deal with is that people have stopped asking questions. Jesus continually asked his disciples questions probing them, to get them to think for themselves. Most people don’t think deeply…here I am using one of your classics :) “An unexamined life is not worth living.” There are so many issues to deal with in our society that we must know Scripture, be wise about our culture, and compassionate about our societal ills.

            This has been a good discussion…thanks for all you have written. Iron sharpening iron causes friction and sparks but results in sharper blades.

            Grace and peace.

  10. Seminary does not make a man a pastor; not going to seminary does not make a pastor. God makes a pastor in his own way. It takes a lot of prayer and guidance to discern whether God is calling a man to go to seminary. Sometimes God will equip them in other ways.

  11. Chuck Beem says:

    Seminary does not always equal education, either. People can squeak by with a degree and know squat. Others can never go and have a wide breadth of education. Look at Spurgeon:self-educated.

    For what it’s worth, I have an historical theology and am about to finish up my first semester of seminary. In between I worked a factory job for several years and was very active in a church under a fantastic pastor- and I learned more from my pastor than my whole undergrad. And some of the things I’m learning in masters level classes I was introduced to in adult Bible study at my old church.

    You can’t generalize education, and you can never underestimate the influence and worth of a faithful pastor.

  12. Chuck Beem says:

    Whoops. I posted all that as part of the thread and forgot to actually comment on the post. I have to admit I’ve never been much of a Eugene Peterson fan, but these are helpful thoughts passed along by Chandler.

  13. Israel says:

    So funny and sad becuase it is true.

  14. chris says:

    I am not arguing for or against seminary, per se, but for an educated ministry. Chandler might be “successful” but he is wooly in his thinking. His now famous “Jesus wants the Rose” talk was a demonstration in semiotic confusion.

    Also, too many men call themselves to the pastorate, without the sending power of the church. This latter issue is, in my mind, the actual problem — no real accountability, and too many “encouraging” people who are not willing to tell a guy that he does not have what it takes. Seminaries are full of men who should not be there, and pulpits are too. I am a presbyterian so this probably sounds incredibly anal, but I think there is sound biblical support for ordination and a procedure that makes men open to critique — as painful as that might be.

  15. John says:

    Actually, Don Carson wrote a pretty interesting article proposing a new seminary model. Google it and I think it is free on bnet or some such sight. Seminaries really began (like most of academia, actually) because there were only a few really learned men who had the time to teach. Take the Southern Baptist seminaries. The churches pool their resources and theoretically send their pastors off to get educated. Everyone agrees that pastors need to be educated in the faith. The question is, are our methods the best way to do this (where “best” naturally includes the presuppostions of the inquirer, i.e. substitute “Biblical”, “efficient”, etc.). Don Carson says not really. I think Dever egrees with him.

    PS, Good insights Chris! I am a Baptist, and I see this problem all the time.

    1. J says:


      I tried finding that and this is the only thing that I could find on or close to seminary…it’s about the pastor as scholar.

      1. John says:

        Its called “Proposal on a new seminary model”, and was a paper I believe delivered to ETS, but I am not sure.

  16. Chris says:

    As Albert Mohler has said many times, seminary exists because Biblical discipleship and teaching in the local church does not. Most solid seminaries don’t let persons in wily nily. You need solid references as well as a written essay explaining your calling. Obviously, this does not filter out all those who are not called, but this is not he fault of the seminary.

    1. chris says:

      I agree with Mohler’s sentiment, but it is hard to take coming from the President of a major seminary. He is loathing his own life, like a Soviet socialist stuck in a system he can’t break? He is in bed with the whore who he seeks to reform? Yes, that sounds harsh, but either put up or shut up.

      John Frame has done the same, so have a number of other men, but they never propose or work for a model that makes the radical shift they suggest. They seem unwilling to make the actual sacrifice that would bring about the change they are suggesting.

      It matters neither here nor there to me as I am all for a seminary system — as a kind of school of the prophets. But please, stop with the self-refutation as it seems disingenuous. At least Sidhartha actually gave up his princely robes in order to teach. When guys start talking like a Buddha who stays in the palace they lose me.

  17. Chris H. says:

    Chris (the one with the icon beside your name),

    Have you actually listened to Al’s words on the matter before shooting off here about them? Because from what you’ve said, I highly doubt it.

    I think it was the first panel discussion at T4G ’06 ( where he explained a lot of this, including the statement that his goal as seminary president is to “work himself out of a job.”

    Given all the talk about education and stuff, maybe you should actually visit the source material at least once before opining too strongly.

    By the way, that’s probably the first time Al Mohler has been compared to Buddha. Congratulations.

    Chris H

    1. chris says:

      Chris H.,
      Let me get this straight: eventually they are going to close the doors of SBTS? What is the deadline and how will they know when they have hit it? Is this realistic?

      Like I said, I am all for a seminary education and do not want any professors or presidents to work their way out of a job.

      I always try and be original. And, by the way, analogies are not identities. My words were illustrative.

      Frankly it would be nice if people would simply share their own thoughts instead of regularly quoting from the Big 3: Mohler, Piper and Keller.


  18. James Smith says:

    So glad you posted this! After listening to Chandler’s message, first myself, then with my wife, I knew I would want to reference this quote. Thanks JT.

Comments are closed.

Search this blog


Justin Taylor photo

Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

Justin Taylor's Books