The Call to Minister

by Chris Hobeck

Who can become a minister? Many people say that only people that go to seminary and get a degree should be allowed to go out and teach fellow believers. It is my view that this is wholly inaccurate and goes against Scripture.

The Early Church

I have a friend of mine in North Carolina who is currently starting a street ministry. He went out and got "ordained" as a minister through the Universal Life Church (an all-religions-inclusive organization that doesn't require anything) as well as the United Christian Faith Ministries (an evangelical Christian ministry that has you take a series of tests about topics regarding our faith and the gospel we preach). My friend did this almost solely because in some circles you need the "Rev." in front of your name to be accepted as a minister. Well, he went to Internet message boards where some of these people congregate (not just to debate them) and started joining in in the conversation. Well, just accepting that he was "Rev. [his name]" wasn't good enough. They had to ask questions like "What denomination are you?" and "What seminary did you attend?" His responses: He is a Christian, plain and simple (non-denominational, sola scriptura all the way, just like me). He did not go to seminary; this fact made some on these message boards quite upset. His answer: "What seminary did Paul attend?"

I relate this true story to ask those that propagate the "You must go to seminary" idea the same question: "What seminary did Paul attend?" Following their logic, you would have to say that Paul, Jesus' disciples, indeed, every person that preached the Gospel before the fourth century (when Constantine made the Church the official religion in the empire, and set up the ecclesiastical orders of priest, bishop, archbishop, cardinal, and pope), did not have any basis for preaching the gospel. All of Paul's trials and travails, Peter's being crucified upside-down, John's being boiled in oil, and then (when Caesar saw that it didn't work on John) his exile to the Island of Patmos, were all for naught. This also means that the entire New Testament is not divinely inspired; why would the Holy Spirit inspire someone (several someones, in fact) that isn't (aren't) "officially" ordained as a minister to write the Holy Scriptures? I know of no sane Christian Bible teacher that would dispute the divine inspiration of Paul, Luke, Peter, John, etc.

If you believe this doctrine, then it also follows that also no non-minister, including those non-ministers that spread the "you must go to seminary" idea, can teach their fellow believers, or even tell their friends, family, and co-workers about Jesus. If the church (multiple large denominations) as a whole adopted this teaching in practice, then the Body of Christ will become stagnant beyond belief. It also says that all Christians persecuted for preaching the gospel throughout the world (China, Southeast Asia, South America, Africa, the Middle East) have no right to preach this gospel, unless they go to a seminary, either an "illegal" one, or one here in the Western world. Logically, this makes no sense.

The Great Commission

All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
--Jesus, Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My Name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tounges; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

--Jesus, Mark 16:15-18 (NIV)

This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His Name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.

--Jesus, Luke 24:45-49 (NIV)
I don't know about you all, but I certainly don't see anything about having to go to seminary or some special school. China has 65-70 million believers, but yet many of them don't wait and get any special training about evanglism or witnessing; they go right out and tell people about their first experiences with Jesus as their Savior.

Qualifications for being a Minister

Paul helps settle the whole issue in I Timothy. At that point in time, he has sent his assistant Timothy to Ephesus to help out the church there. In this letter, Paul gives Timothy advice about choosing leaders for churches (I've underlined the requirements):
Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer [pastor], he desires a noble taks. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome [given to fighting], not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.

Deacons [sort of like assistant pastors], likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in too much wine [alcoholic], and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Jesus Christ.

Once again, I don't see anything about pastors having to go to seminary. I closest that I see is how deacons "must first be tested;" that would seem to me to indicate their practical day-to-day faith in Christ, not having an expansive knowledge of Bible history, etc. The other one that is closest is that overseers "must not be...recent convert[s]," but the only thing that matures you spiritually is a long, healthy walk with God, not learning a bunch of religious truths while your heart is still not set towards the Lord.

I don't have anything against going to seminary, but I am saying that it isn't absolutely necessary if you want to have any semblence of credentials.

Not Just in the Pulpit

Another thing that I think I should address is that you don't have to be stuck a pulpit in a little church for twenty years to minister to the Body of Christ (literally, what a minister or pastor does). Not that there's anything wrong with that, to quote Mr. Seinfeld, but there are many fine examples of ministering that don't involve that type of work: To sum it up, as my grandmother puts it, "You don't have to be in a pulpit to be a minister."

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