Truth Matters Newsletter – September 2005 – Vol. 10 Issue 9 – The Need for Educated Pastors – by Rev. Robert S. Liichow
Discernment Ministries International
The Need for Educated Pastors
“I also must be right up front with you about seminaries and Bible colleges, I believe all they do is produce rubber stamp “ministers” and when the ‘ministers’ are done, it seems most take the stance “Ok, I have absolute truth and nothing can change my mind”, and sadly nothing usually does. Peter never had any “formal” training, but yet Jesus decided to build His church with Peter being the Rock. I believe seminaries and bible colleges hinder people from truly being led of the Spirit.” (EMAIL comments from Shirl on 09-05-05). (1)
Every time I mention the need for pastors to obtain a sound seminary education I am met with the shrill email response of “knowledge puffs up. The above quote echoes what almost all the various proponents of biblical ignorance repeat, that being, the charismatic urban legend regarding the Apostles of Jesus being untrained men, thus people do not need any formal biblical education in order to serve as pastors or Bible teachers.
People who hold such views base them on two major premises. First, they have their own favorite teacher/preacher who has no biblical education and they are “blessed” by their ministry, ergo, a seminary education is unnecessary. Secondly, they look at the following many of these charismatic superstars have and assume that the masses of people and multi-millions of dollars they receive and indicative of the blessing of Almighty God upon the work they are doing in His name. “Dr.” Kenneth E. Hagin who constantly referred to seminaries as “cemeteries,” which always drew a cheap laugh from the audience. (2).
There is a great fear among many leaders, especially in the Word of Faith cult and many charismatic sects concerning their members obtaining any formal biblical education. They know that when they do these individuals will leave their movement, as did my wife and myself. Jesus said that if one would continue in His Word he would know the truth and the truth would set him free (read John 8:32) and that is exactly what happens when the Word of God is properly taught…people get set free. Unfortunately, the opposite is equally true. Where the scripture are taken out of context and taught by biblically ignorant teachers, those who swallow-and-follow what these blind guides teach end up in spiritual bondage, which they eventually perpetuate to others.
Their answer to the lack of sound biblical education is to simply establish their own schools. By doing this these leaders accomplish several things. First, it keeps people in the cult by further indoctrinating them and eventually sending them out as “pastors” over their own congregations. This leads to point number two: it is a way to garner in additional financial resources from their graduates/pastors who send their members to the school they came from. Thirdly, it helps give the cult leaders a degree of legitimacy, after all, they are Presidents of Bible Schools! Here are just a few of the “Bible” schools that some blind guides of renown have started: Spirit Life Bible College — “Dr.” Roberts Liardon; Rhema Bible Training Center — “Dr. “Kenneth E. Hagin; New Life Bible College — Norval Hayes; Jerry Savelle Ministries International Correspondence School — “Dr.” Jerry Savell; Word to the World College — “Dr.” Marilyn Hickey; Supernatural Ministries Training Institute — “Dr” Mark Barclay; School of Ministry — John Arnott. None of these schools possesses accepted accreditation and any legitimate college or seminary does not recognize their graduates diplomas or degrees. Please note that many of the founders of these schools always use the title “Dr.” in front of their names. The FACT is that none of them has an earned doctoral degree; in most cases they were given these titles by another fraud, “Dr.” Oral Roberts. They love to use the title without having to do the work to earn it. They use the title to deceive people into thinking they are biblically educated.
It is important to understand that when you see the superstars of charismatic televangelism you are looking at and listening to individuals who have (in the majority of cases) absolutely no biblical training or formal education whatsoever. Let me cite just a few of the more popular preachers one can see daily on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN): Kenneth & Gloria Copeland; Mr. Benny Hinn; Jesse Duplantis; Kim Clement; Jerry Savelle, Joyce Meyer, Charles Capps; Marilyn Hickey; and Joel Osteen. None of these individuals have any biblical education, most of them have not even attended a secular college or earned a college degree, with the exception of Marilyn Hickey who did earn a teaching degree for primary school if memory serves me correctly. Yet these individuals are deemed as possessing divine insights into the Word of God and are seen by multitudes as being some of the greatest biblical exegetes of the Church! Millions of people’s spiritual understanding is solely based on what these blind guides teach.
The Biblical Precedent For Educated Pastors
Contrary to popular charismatic thought the Bible is full of exhortations for God’s people especially those in ministry, to be well educated concerning the Holy Scriptures.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
Study in the Greek means “to exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence” (3) We are to mentally exert ourselves in gaining a proper understanding of the Word of God so that we will not be ashamed before our God, rightly handling the word of truth. This implies it is very easy to wrongly handle God’s Word.
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. James 3:1
When someone stands before the people of God and attempts to teach the Bible they had better know what they are talking about. Pastors who rightly divide the word of truth will be tools of liberation, those who wrongly teach God’s Word become instruments of bondage, often leading God’s people further from the goal of spiritual fruitfulness.
This is nothing new; Peter, regarding some of what the Apostle Paul taught, had to warn his flock of the dangers of being led astray by untrained clergy;
As also in all [his] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest as [they do] also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 2 Peter 3:16
Let me state quite emphatically that no one has a perfect understanding of the Bible in this life. Every pastor is a sinner, each one of us is fallen and sees through a mirror darkly (see 1 Cor. 13:12). Knowing this fact it should drive those of us in public ministry to our knees all the more beseeching our Lord to grant us His mercy in understanding His Word.
If any man speak, [let him speak] as the oracles of God; if any man minister, [let him do it] as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11
We should approach our education with humility and when we stand before God’s people to speak to do so with godly fear and trembling. It is not a light matter to teach God’s Word. That is why it behooves us to get as much solid training as we can before we attempt to stand in the pastoral office.
Wisdom [is] the principal thing; [therefore] get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7
Buy the truth, and sell [it] not; [also] wisdom, and instruction and understanding Proverbs 23:23
With all our getting we are to acquire wisdom, understanding and instruction. When Proverbs 23:23 refers to “buying” it simply means to go acquire truth, wisdom and understanding, and once you have done this, do not let it go (sell I).
Defusing the Myths
“Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” 1 Cor. 8:1
Myth #1 “Brother you are just promoting the teachings of men and we all know that knowledge puff up, but love builds up.”
This charge is often leveled against those of us who expound the value of formal biblical training. The problem with this proof text is that they take it completely out of its context (a little something they would learn not to do if they took a class in hermeneutics). Paul is referring to the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols.
There was evidently difference of opinion on the subject among the Corinthian Christians. Aspects of the matter come forward not touched on in the Jerusalem Conference to which Paul does not here allude, though he does treat it in Ga. 2: 1-10. There was the more enlightened group who acted on the basis of their superior knowledge about the non-existence of the gods represented by the idols. Ye know that we all have knowledge. This may be a quotation from the letter (Moffatt Lit of N.T., p. 112). Since their conversion to Christ, they know the emptiness of idol-worship. Paul admits that all Christians have this knowledge (personal experience, ), but this problem cannot be solved by knowledge. (4)
Paul was not an anti-intellectual by any means! Nor was he suggesting that love was superior to biblical knowledge. In the context of this passage love is the guide in solving social interactions. In fact he wrote his disciple, Timothy to remember to bring with him the books and especially the parchments when he came to Paul (read 2 Tim. 4:13). While testifying of Christ to Festus, even this petty potentate recognized Paul as a learned man. (read Acts 26:24).
By all historical accounts the Apostle Paul was one of the most highly educated men of his time. True he considered all his education to be of no value when compared to the glory of knowing Jesus Christ (read Phil. 3:8), but the fact still remains that God used Paul, a highly educated man to write approximately two-thirds of the New Testament.
Myth #2 “The disciples of Jesus were ignorant and unlearned men; they did not have any formal biblical education and look how God used them!”
That is the basic statement DMI receives, or as Shirl stated in her email “Peter never had any “formal” training, but yet Jesus decided to build His church with Peter being the Rock.” Defusing this myth requires no “formal” training, just a modicum of common sense. The disciples, the twelve specifically, spent three and a half years or around 1,277.5 days with Jesus. They were taught by God the Son personally 7 days a week, no Christmas or Easter breaks. They spent every waking moment with God the Son learning the Word of God from the Living Word! What is more, in preparing His disciples for His departure He gave them a tremendous promise:
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14:28
The disciples were hardly “ignorant and unlearned” men with no formal biblical education. The exact opposite is true. They were personally instructed by two of the three persons of the Trinity. After His resurrection from the dead, a couple of the disciples obtained some more direct instruction in biblical theology.
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all, the scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:27
The only people who call the disciples ignorant and unlearned were the Sadducees and temple priests (read Acts 4:13). This was not a statement of fact because as we have seen the Apostles were in reality the best taught and biblically equipped people of all time!
Myth #3 “God used uneducated people in great ways, you’re just exalting knowledge.
Without a doubt, God does use people without formal biblical training in great ways…but not as effective pastors. I would remind our detractors of a few historical facts. Moses was one of the most highly educated men in all of Egypt and God used him to lead the Israelites, delivered the Law unto them, etc. The Bible says the following of Solomon:
And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. 1 Kings 4:30.
Daniel and his cohorts were proven to be ten times wiser than all the wise men in Cyrus’ empire (read Dan. 1:20), the greatest one of its day. God has always used highly educated men to move His plan forward. I could mention men such as Justin Martyr, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards and a host of other theological luminaries all of whom have added to the Church.
DMI and other Apologetic ministries are not “exalting knowledge,” but we are quick to add that there is no premium on ignorance either! It is really very simple; if you want to become a doctor you have to attend medical school, a veterinarian must go to veterinary school and even your barber (hopefully) attended Barber College. If we demand expertise from our plumbers, electricians, doctors, architects and pilots how much more should those in sacred ministry desire to be as highly trained as they can be? I am truly perplexed over why God’s people do not expect as much from their spiritual leaders as they do from their plumbers.
It is not about gaining “head knowledge” it is about being able to skillfully and accurately teach God’s Word to His people so that they may apply it correctly to their lives and bear fruit that glorifies their heavenly Father.
The reason I am so passionate about the need for good education is because I came from a background where it was not valued at all. As a charismatic extremist I served as a pastor and teacher for fifteen years before I went to seminary. Was my ministry invalid? No, not really, but I was ineffective in sharing God’s Word in its context. I was guilty of teaching heretical doctrines at times, because I was not equipped with the tools/knowledge of how to properly interpret the scripture thus I did not know when I was being fed spiritual garbage by other well intentioned heretics. (Hagin, Copeland, Savelle, Hickey, et al.) so I parroted what my “anointed” mentors taught me.
When my wife and I went to Michigan Theological Seminary our eyes were opened and it was if scales fell from our eyes with each course we took. I readily admit to being far from perfect, nor do I have perfect doctrinal understanding… and because I recognize this it has caused me to become a life long student of God’s Word. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I truly know and the hungrier I get to draw closer and closer to my Lord through His Word.
Not everyone needs to attend seminary in order to serve the Lord, that is a given, but I do encourage all of my brothers and sisters in Christ to avail themselves of every avenue open to them to learn about our Lord through in-depth study of His Word. There may even be a good (orthodox) seminary in your area and you might consider auditing some classes on systematic theology, church history or hermeneutics. Most seminaries charge very little to folks who just want to “sit in” without getting the college credit for the courses. It would be time well spent. Let me close this article out with the words of our Lord Jesus:
Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Mark 15:14 ♦
Copyright © 2005 Robert S. Liichow
1. Shirl emailed DMI to complain about our article on Mr. Joel Osteen in which I mentioned the fact that he had absolutely no biblical education whatsoever and does not see the need to have one.
2. It is amazing that a man who made fun of seminaries and called people with Ph.D’s “Post-Hole-Diggers” would accept and use the title “Dr.” in front of his name and in his later publications. He did not mind being called “Dr. Hagin,” even though it was an honorary degree bestowed by his partner in crime, Mr. Oral Roberts, who have given out fake degrees to almost every major charismatic minister on television today.
3. Obtained from http://www.blueletterbible.org/tmp_dir/words/4/1125927988-3573.html
4. Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures, BibleWorks software ver. 4.0.035