Building Better Preachers Part 2: The Local Church is the Best Training Ground

Joe BuchananThis is the second post in my series about “How to Build Better Preachers.”  Today, I want to talk about how we can get the local church involved in the training of new Pastors.  It is my conviction that the local church is the single most important entity in reaching the world with the gospel and it is also the best place to build and train new preachers.  Over the past twenty years of ministry I have seen many young men who felt called to the ministry and who were on fire for God be ruined by going off to seminary.  

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not against seminaries nor education.  An important part of my ministry has been in teaching at the Bible college.  However, I have observed a problem in the approach that we often take in the Bible college and seminary — we don’t connect enough to the local church.  What ends up happening is that we have young men who go off and spend four to seven years in the monastic environment of the university where they never get a true understanding of what it means to serve in the local church.  What happens when they come out is often disastrous. 

Idealistic Preachers Blow Up Churches

Too many young ministers come out of the seminary with an idealized and unrealistic vision of what the ministry is going to be like.  They quickly learn that the ministry is not about parsing verbs and arguing the nuances of systematic theology but working with real people who have real-life problems.  The ministry can be messy and it requires a certain set of skills to succeed and be effective in preaching the gospel.  These skills are learned more through experience than case studies in the seminary.  When young preachers meet these real-life issues they often approach them in ways that only makes matters worse.  What ends up happening is they often blow up the church by trying to deal with problems in a textbook, legalistic, boneheaded way.  The key is not adding another class into the curriculum but getting the seminary and the local church to move closer together in the training of new Pastors.

Move the Seminary to the Local Church

What I would like to suggest is that we move the seminary to the local church.  We live in a day and age where world-class education is literally a mouse click away for anyone in the world.  Through digital courses offered on the internet or strategically placed extension centers across the countries, seminaries can now offer educational opportunities to Pastors while they stay in their ministry context.  But I would like to suggest we go even one step further.  

If we really want the local church to become a training ground for new Pastors we need to involved the leaders and members of the church in the process.  In my mind I see the training of a new Pastor as a combination of three elements.  First, there is the academic aspect which is provided by the seminary.  Second, there is the experiential part of training where the young Pastor is given the opportunity to use and hone his skills.  Finally, there is the mentoring relationship with a more experienced Pastor.  

When I look back at my ministry all three of these elements were present but  rarely at the same time.  What I would like to suggest is that we intentionally bring these three elements together to build better preachers. Come back tomorrow and we will explore how to effectively combine these three elements. 


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