The Pathway to Pastoral Ministry – What About School?

Hiking TrailThanks for listening in as I talk about the steps a young man takes to become a pastor. If you’re just now joining us, you can get the whole picture by starting here.

A major step on the pathway to pastoral ministry is education. You might be overwhelmed thinking about more years of school after you graduate from high school.

Think about it this way. Any meaningful career requires training. If you’re going to be an electrician, you spend years learning the trade. To become an engineer you have to go to four years of college. Becoming a doctor requires college, medical school, and residency. This takes 10 years or more!

Pastors are in a sense doctors of souls. If years of education are necessary for a secular profession, how much more should you be willing to invest time, effort, and even finances to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to be a pastor?

A good Bible education will help you understand the Bible as a whole and in all its parts. Some classes survey the entire Old Testament or New Testament in one semester. Others dig deep into single books of the Bible, such as Genesis, the Psalms, Matthew, Acts, Romans, Ephesians, and Revelation. Each book has a specific message and contains key truths. As you grow in your understanding, you will be able to help others learn and live by the Bible too.

Learning the original languages of the Bible will help you understand it so you can explain it to others. Pastors should at least have a working knowledge of Greek so they can translate from the New Testament. Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, is more challenging, but it helps to have even a basic understanding of how it works.

Classes that focus on pastoral skills will help you learn to preach, to disciple and counsel, and to lead the church effectively. Even general classes such as English, science, math, and history equip you to relate to others and to communicate clearly and accurately.

Let me give you three biblically-based reasons to further your education after high school if you’re going into ministry. The Bible doesn’t specifically say you have to go to college and seminary, but here are some points to consider.

First, you mature a lot between ages 18-25. Your character, understanding of life, and ability to influence people develop during these years. The qualities listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 require time to mature. Challenges and temptations that come with a few years of adult life prove a young man’s character. The time you spend in school learning the Bible and growing in pastoral skills also allows you to mature into a godly man ready to minister to others.

Second, one of the required qualities of a pastor is “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). When you graduate from high school, are you ready to explain to all the members of a church the various truths of the Bible and how they apply to life? Does your depth of Bible knowledge enable you to deliver sermons every week to a congregation made up of children, teens, young adults, and men and women older than you? The years you invest in a Bible-focused education will equip you to preach and teach the Word to the broad spectrum of people in a congregation.

Third, your motivation should be to please God, not yourself. If you’re going into ministry, you can’t shirk hard work because you don’t feel like doing it. Paul instructed Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

The term “do your best” can also be translated, “Be diligent.” In other words, work hard! Why? “To present yourself to God as one approved” – to honor God. This is the ultimate goal of every Christian, and it is the number one reason to go into ministry. We don’t earn God’s favor. He accepts us because we are in Christ. But we do please or displease Him with how we live. According to this verse, we can please Him by being diligent in our work.

The verse goes on to say what kind of work Paul was talking about – “rightly dividing the word of truth.” He challenged Timothy to put in the hard work necessary to handle the Word of God correctly. God’s Word is worthy of all the labor we invest in understanding it. We honor God by our accurate presentation of its truths to others.

This would be a good time to have another conversation with your pastor. Treat him to a cup of coffee. Ask him what he thinks about the best way to pursue education that will prepare you for pastoral ministry. Likely he will have a few suggestions for you.

Education is hard work! But the people you will one day minister to will thank you. And your Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of your best efforts.

Even more important than education is growing in character.

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