Is a formal Bible education necessary for a pastor?
Some church traditions include formal requirements regarding Bible education for those who serve as a pastor. Is this biblical?
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Many biblical principles are involved in answering this question. First, the person who serves as a pastor-teacher is someone called to ministry. Education is certainly helpful, but a pastor is one who is called and gifted. Ephesians 4:11-12 states, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ."
Second, there are many forms of Bible education, but not all training is formal training. For example, in many parts of the world, the majority of people in a village may be illiterate. Bible training in this context is still important, but may take a much different form than in a culture with a high level of formal education. Instead of writing papers and reading books, the focus is often on memorizing Scripture, biblical sermons, and interaction with other church leaders.
Third, not every person has the opportunity for formal Bible education. Some very gifted pastors have no formal Bible education, yet are very effective due to a combination of God's gifting, diligent self-study, and informal education. The renowned British pastor Charles Spurgeon lacked formal Bible education, yet read six books each week in addition to constantly reading the Bible. God used him to lead one of the largest churches of the nineteenth century in London despite his lack of formal Bible education.
While formal Bible education is not possible for every person and does not fit those in every culture or context, there are many reasons Bible education is important. First, a formal Bible education allows an increased focus on Scripture and its applications for ministry.
Second, formal Bible education allows a student to gain from the learning and experiences of more mature Christian leaders. Professors often provide a wealth of wisdom and ministry experience that are invaluable to younger, growing leaders.
Third, formal Bible education provides a basis of strong Christian relationships. These include friendships with other students as well as mentoring relationships with faculty members.
Again, while formal Bible education is not always possible, growing in biblical wisdom should be a high priority for every church leader and encouraged whenever possible for those who seek to lead in Christian ministry.
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