Ministry preparation is as old as the church itself. The apostle Paul had received formal Jewish instruction at the feet of Gamaliel before receiving personal instruction from Christ Himself. Bringing this concept full circle, Paul exhorted Timothy to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a worker who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Additionally, in 2 Timothy, Paul encouraged Timothy to “entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). The apostle’s exhortations ring through the ages, challenging every generation of gospel ministers to be maximally prepared for ministry service. And, by the way, Timothy knew Greek, was ministerially incubated in the apostolic age, and enjoyed Paul as his personal mentor. Think about that carefully. If Timothy needed to be intentional about ministry preparation, so do you!
What’s more, the defining qualification of those called to ministry is the ability to teach the Word. In fact, a close look at the qualifications for elders versus the qualifications for deacons reveals only one distinction between the two offices. The character and lifestyle qualifications are remarkably similar, but only the elder must be able to teach.
And teach the elder does. To pastor is to live in a never-ending cycle of sermon preparation and delivery. More broadly, to minister to God’s people is to continually study the Word in order to preach, teach, and counsel. A call to ministry is a call to minister the Word. Thus, a call to ministry is a call to prepare to minister the Word.
You cannot be an effective minister without effectively ministering the Word, nor can you be a faithful minister without faithfully ministering the Word. And, at the end of the day, you’ll be unable to effectively and faithfully minister the Word unless you’ve been effectively and faithfully taught it. And that, at least in our current cultural setting, typically happens at seminary.
For some inexplicable reason there has often been an inconsistency between evangelicals’ high view of Scripture, of the church, of gospel ministry – and our approach to ministry preparation. We take the Bible and the gospel seriously, but we’re often too casual when it comes to presenting it well. Some of this tension is understandable. (Do I delay my ministry for several years of preparation, or do I go preach Jesus now?)
At the same time, I challenge you to treat your ministry, and the requisite preparation, with the seriousness they deserve. We apply this logic to every other area of life; why wouldn’t we apply it to this most ultimate area of life?
For example, when God call me to Midwestern Seminary in 2012 and our family relocated to Kansas City, one of our first tasks was to find a new pediatrician for our five young children. We didn’t look for someone who dabbled in pediatrics. We wanted a children’s doctor with appropriate training, sufficient experience, and a good reputation – among other things.
We insist on knowledge, training, suitable experience, and a successful track record in every meaningful area of life. The church should expect no less from its ministers. We who would minister to the church should expect no less from ourselves. And a faithful seminary will help you toward these ends.
Excerpted from Succeeding at Seminary: 12 Keys to Getting the Most Out of Your Theological Education by Jason K. Allen (© 2021). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.
DR. JASON ALLEN is the fifth and youngest president of Midwestern Baptist Seminary. He currently serves the church more broadly through writing and preaching ministries, including his own website www.jasonkallen.com.