I’m running a little series here on why if Jesus was alive today he probably wouldn’t be allowed to be a pastor at your church. Let’s take a look!
I’m afraid to say that for most of our churches Jesus would not have the necessary formal education to be a pastor. In the American Church at large, intellectual knowledge is king. It’s clear from Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem as a child where he stayed in the temple and wowed the religious experts with his knowledge that Jesus knew his stuff. I’m afraid that would not have been enough today. He would need to have the necessary certificates and degrees to prove his knowledge. Let me be clear here, I’m not saying that seminary education is a bad thing. I believe it is incredibly important, and has been very formative and helpful for my own personal growth and preparation for ministry. I just think we’re missing a piece of the puzzle.
I believe that the educational system in most seminaries elevates certain types of knowledge and learning above others. It places a great emphasis on one’s ability to memorize and regurgitate information. Truly, should this be the most significant qualifier of whether or not people should be allowed to be pastors? Jesus was clearly a master of the Hebrew Scriptures, and this knowledge played a critical role in his ministry, so knowledge is important. But what if there was more to the picture?
Using the language of one of my favorite professors, Dr. Sunquist, “the goal of seminary should be to create spiritual masters.” What does this mean? It means that to be a spiritual leader your whole being has to be transformed. This requires much more effort than memorizing facts. It is not something that just happens by sitting in a classroom taking notes. It takes the application of information, the cultivation of spiritual practices and disciplines. It is at its core relational and experiential. It means submitting to the will of the Father and learning to listen and obey. It’s holistic and much more messy and difficult than getting A’s on your report card.
You know when you are in the presence of a spiritual master. They do not put on heirs of false humility or overflow with vanity as they love to listen to their own voice. Jesus was a spiritual master, but the type of education and discipline and knowledge that he spent his life pursuing as he lived in intimate relationship with God is no longer the primary criteria by which we judge our pastors today. Jesus with all of his wisdom would not have been welcome.
I know that I’m walking on controversial ground, but I think it’s really important to ask what is it that fundamentally qualifies pastors to lead their congregations? Why do you listen to your pastor when he or she preaches on the Word of God? Why do you ask him or her to bury your dead and baptize your children? At the end of the day, do you want an intellectual elite or someone who has an intimate vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ to be leading your spiritually? Think about it and let me know.