I see evidence of growing anti-intellectualism a prejudice against an educated ministry. . . . Men without any ministerial training are being called to serve as pastors of churches, some with only a high school diploma or a two-year Associate degree from one of our colleges," a pastor wrote to MINISTRY recently.
When men are hired without formal academic training, does this necessarily mean anti-intellectualism? It could, but my experience as a pastor and conference administrator indicates otherwise.
An individual can be overqualified as well as underqualified for a job. It is typical for a new seminary graduate to be placed in a small multichurch district. He usually stays there only as long as it takes to find a more desirable position. Thus the small district has a constant stream of pastors passing through. The solution many administrators are finding is to employ dedicated persons who have not experienced regular ministerial training. They may have a colporteur, teaching, or even business background. These individuals have the fundamental qualifications for ministry—they love the Lord and are filled with the Holy Spirit. And they are usually happy to remain in the small district, bringing about church growth, winning souls, and nurturing the members.
Administrators have a real problem keeping the small districts adequately staffed. Bright, energetic young pastors all too soon receive calls to larger responsibilities—often within the same conference. The president fears that if he does not "promote" the young pastor, another conference will.
Some administrators are tempted to then place in the district a pastor who is over the hill. Few of the members (and probably no influential ones) will com plain.
These are real dilemmas administrators face. What is needed is a whole new philosophy of ministry. Is a call to a larger district or to a single church always a call from the Lord? We addressed some of those issues in the article "The Call" (September, 1985). If leadership is key to church growth, conference leaders must develop attractive incentives that will keep the successful pastor in the small district.
A pastor successful in evangelism in a multichurch district wanted an intern. He was willing to take on an additional two churches, which would combine two districts into one, if he could have some help. Doing it this way would not have cost the conference a penny extra, since they had to staff that district anyway. The answer was No! It would set a precedent.
There is a clue here for keeping experienced pastors in small districts. These pastors would be much more likely to remain in the multichurch district if they had a staff to train. We are kidding ourselves if we say we cannot afford it. Often it can be done simply by combining districts. (There would now be status, as well as extra responsibilities, for only the multichurch pastor would have the intern.) Are we training interns for multichurch ministry when they begin in the traditional setting of the large urban or institutional church with its seemingly inexhaustible supply of money, secretaries, copy machines, and computers?
Interns in large churches rarely get to preach, never act as chairman of the church board, rarely have to deal with crises or difficult problems. When they reach their first district they find themselves unprepared.
But if the young preacher could spend two years working in a multichurch district, preaching, chairing meetings, giving Bible studies, and holding meetings, all under the watchful eye of the senior pastor, he or she could then go to a similar district prepared to meet its challenges.
Yes, men are being hired without academic qualifications, but not because of anti-intellectualism, but because of the real need of staffing small churches with dedicated pastors. This is one solution and a good one. But the one I am proposing would cover much wider ground. If implemented it would keep successful pastors in the multichurch district to help them grow; and in addition, it would give the kind of training to all interns, whether seminary graduates or otherwise, that would make them productive soul winners for Jesus Christ. —J. D. N.