Home > Brandenburg, Education, The Ministry > Lowering the Bar for Preachers: They’re Called!

Lowering the Bar for Preachers: They’re Called!

December 13, 2006

I like the name of the lawyer’s entrance requirements:  the bar.  Have you considered that the only realm where we reward lowering the bar is limbo?  In everything else we, um, like the higher standard as a means of evaluation.  Imagine the commentary for high jump at the Reverse Olympics:

They have lowered the bar now to five feet seven inches from the previous height of seven feet six and this high jumper from Albania is beginning his approach to the bar. This Albanian jumper uses his own unorthodox style that looks very similar to runners in the high hurdles.  Oh my  He cleared it with ease and this is a new low in these Olympics!

Why should a restaurant be closed just because of a microscopic e-coli bacteria?  Kind of stiff isn’t it, especially when these wonderful restaurants have received certificates of authentication from special associations designed for this purpose? Food that Kills! As a digression, I remember a certain Smorga-Bobs where upon entering I heard someone declare:  The chicken doesn’t seem done!  I wished I had remembered that statement  I was only able to recall those words as I bowed before our white porcelain household appliance, practicing my own unique brand of limbo.  The filets were even more tender the second time.  And can you imagine these advertisements?

We are proud to announce that our pilots were able to pass their requirements according to our new affirmative action policies.

In light of the difficulty of finding enough surgeons to meet the demands, we are pleased to inform our patients that we were able to fill all of our vacant positions by simply lowering the qualifications this year!  We hope you enjoy your stay!

We keep a garage full of trained mechanics by guaranteeing you at least twelve per cent more engine trouble!

To infiltrate these Islamic cells, we’ve lowered our Arabic requirements to minimal levels.  Come and enjoy a lifetime of service in our new CIA!

In most areas of life, we don’t give out the yellow ribbon for participation.  “I realize that you massacred that root canal, but we’d still like to give you this special token of our appreciation for drilling!”  Not happening.

Well, except for preachers, oh, who have been “called.”  Boys go to Bible college.  They got “called to preach.”  You don’t even need to get that out of a box of cereal or Cracker Jacks.  You just need a testimony.  I can write one up for you if you don’t have it.  And if not, well, google.  At a lot of institutions of higher learning, you have to pass a sophomore check to continue on in your speech or piano minor.  Education majors go through student teaching, and perhaps someone can “not recommend.”  Um, perhaps I shouldn’t go there.  I digress again to say that I have found that a majority of teachers get trained by the Christian school who pays them.  Christian colleges, on the other hand, often get paid in order to give these same people what we call a diploma.  Diplomas cost a lot of money  They will get you a Christian school job where you will then be paid (not much) to be trained.  By the way, if you stop liking teaching, you can always just say that you found out that you weren’t called to do that.

The college shouldn’t subject preachers to a preaching platform because they’ve been called, and who can doubt that?  When I was in college, this was a common conversation in the dormitory:

You taking Greek?

No way.  It’s way too hard, and I don’t need it anyway.

Think you’ll go to grad school?

I don’t think so.  I’ve heard it’s really hard.  I want to just get out and get started in the ministry.  I’m tired of school anyway.

We would sit in homiletics class and listen to one horrible message after another from these called individuals.  As a speech minor, if I had ever done a speech like they preached for my sophomore platform, I would have been looking for a different minor, perhaps something easier so that I could get my diploma faster.  So much more is at stake in the training of a pastor.  Sure, we need more of them, many more of them, but we discredit the office and God when we lower the bar just because they’re called.

Next week, I’ll continue along this train of thought, considering these themes:  Who Is Qualified, Who Qualifies, The Ordination, and Maybe More

  1. December 13, 2006 at 5:41 am

    I get your point and agree in many ways, but in your mentioning the need for evaluation at the college level, Greek, and graduate studies, I wonder how D.L. Moody would fit in there. There have been many men called of God who were great preachers, but did not have much, if any, formal education.

  2. December 13, 2006 at 7:57 am

    It isn’t the formal education part Derek, but the attitude toward preparation, wanting the easy way. I do sort of hit both sides of it when I said that kids often don’t even get it in college. Someone can get a BA or BS diploma and still not be ready. “Called” replaces evidence of “desire,” which would result in a passion for understanding God’s Word.

    D. L. Moody, in a way, would open up that proverbial can of worms, but I get your point. One of my good friends has no formal degree, but he was better prepared through his church than a large majority who went through the college gauntlet, and rightly so, his was a strictly Biblical method. The modern call often lowers expectations, and it should not.

  3. December 13, 2006 at 11:45 am

    yeah, that’s right. The formal training is good if the opportunity affords, etc. But the heart attitude is the main issue. If you have the right heart attitude AND your circumstances allow training, you will want to get the Greek (as best you can) and you will want as much training as you can get.

    I recall a fellow who was my roommate our senior year. He had been intimidated by the attitudes of others concerning Greek especially (and was somewhat academically challenged) so he majored in a degree program that didn’t require Greek. But he stayed afterwards as a post graduate special student – not pursuing a degree, just getting more training. He told me he was inspired by my love of the Greek, and it turned out he got As in his first year Greek. That was hard work on his part, but he did it.

    I wish I had taken my own lesson on Hebrew and taken it earlier. I put it off to my last year and only took one year of it. I have lost most of it now, although I can read the technical commentaries and mostly get what they are saying. (I don’t have enough Hebrew to know if they are right or wrong, though.)

    Anyway, my point is, attitude is everything. If your attitude to whatever training is available to you is to “get all you can”, then you will do well, even if you can’t get a lot.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  4. Juan C. Asmat
    December 14, 2006 at 10:10 am

    I do believe that ATTITUDE has a lot to do toward someone preparing to be a pastor and because of this I think of Matthew 9:37-38 “Then saith he unto his disciples, the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; PRAY ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.” When that man of God has surrender his life then he will by God’s grace have the right attitude toward this desire.

  5. December 14, 2006 at 10:57 am

    I think it is interesting to note that in the old days there were only three professions–medicine, law, and theology. We still expect lawyers and doctors to be professionals, but we’ve lowered the bar for our pastors (theologians).

  6. December 14, 2006 at 11:50 am

    We’ve argued it for a long time. When the day comes for my open-heart surgery, I want to know that the guy with the knife has some training. And I don’t want to hear that his training consisted of running to the doughnut shop for his “mentor.” I want to know that he studied for a long time, practiced for a long time, and that others have recognized his abilities.

    Great surgeons, believe it or not, are not nearly as important to a society as great pastors and preachers. Training is vital. And no, we shouldn’t point out D.L. Moody — for several reasons. Exceptions are not rules. Sometimes, God separates out particular men for particular purposes under extraordinary circumstances. And no, I don’t want 16 year old pastors in most cases. N-O-V-I-C-E. I’m glad Spurgeon did it. Let’s not make that the norm.

  7. December 14, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    So then, what is NT training?

    What makes one a “professional” according to the NT?

  8. December 14, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    Oh, and what is the “bar” for entering the pastorate?

  9. December 14, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    I think that is what we’ve been discussing, though we have focussed more attention on what isn’t the “bar” than on what is. Primarily, the bar must be the recognition of the local church. And the recognition must not be arbitrary (like, “we really like him”). It must be objective – Biblical qualifications met.

    I don’t believe that we are arguing for professionalism so much as for Biblical training. And that Biblical training must focus primarily on training in the Word, since the pastor will be responsible to be ministering the Word.

    That will do for starters.

  10. December 14, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    I think we could say the bar is an ordination council or a pastoral search committee. Either one could easily be compared to a bar that a doctor or lawyer would have to stand before to prove his abilities.

    I think it is imperative that those bodies (ordination council or pastoral search committee) see the importance of their role. They cannot just put their stamp of approval on someone because that person grew up at their church, or they know their father, or they believe correctly on a particular doctrine. On that matter, even most young men who believe “correctly” have not really wrestled through the issue biblically. It is therefore important to know that the “applicant” knows how to study, teach and apply the Bible not just knows how to say the right thing.

  11. December 14, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    Hi Juan, Looking forward to seeing you. I tried to call a few times, but I’m not sure I have the right number in my cell phone. What days are you going to be here? Thanks for your comments here.

    Bobby, I think you ask good questions, and I am planning on dealing with that in my next installment. I would have written more, but I have found people like their blogs in tidbits, serial blogs. I believe the point is: based on what Scripture says about the call, we should not lower expectations for pastors. I am looking forward to my next edition. I think we can flesh out what it is from what Scripture says a pastor is.

  12. December 14, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    This sounds good. I think you all would find our process to be Biblical and of interest to you. Fast-forwarding through it . . . we see ordination as the “graduation” or “bar.”

    I can’t find the “pastoral search committee” in the NT, but I do see the presbytery (local church officers and male members) laying hands on the qualified. I do see the Lord raising up pastors in churches, but not churches seeking a pastor. I don’t know how a flock is to find a shepherd. The NT pattern seems to be that God raises up shepherds in the congregation and the church recognizes them as such and then submits to their leadership.

    Alright I’m rambling.

  13. December 14, 2006 at 10:14 pm

    Bobby, I know that we can grow in our understanding after we’ve come physically to a position. So I’m not trying to be “smart” here. But, were you “raised” in the church you are now pastoring?

    Also, we have to recognize certain elements of the NT pattern that are not available to us today, namely, apostles.

    I’m not trying to put a big defense up for “pastoral shearch committees” but, I would ask how did the presbytery know which man to lay their hands on? At least in our church, you wouldn’t want the church officers and all the male members to be on the “pastoral search committee.”

    I’m rambling too, but it’s late and I can’t sleep and in this disposition I sometimes see the oddball side of things.

  14. December 14, 2006 at 11:20 pm

    PB even in medicine it is called a practice. I keep wondering when those doctors are going to get it right.

  15. December 15, 2006 at 6:28 am


    When I refer to men in the church being raised up by the Lord to serve as leaders I am not necessarily referring to “raised” as in reared up from infancy. I am talking about men being saved, baptized, part of the body, and then the Holy Spirit making it obvious that they are gifted and qualified to serve as elders/bishops/pastors.

    My story is that the Lord sent my Dad to start a church in Laconia, NH. He was sent out of the Valley Baptist Church. As I was in his home I went with him. The church we started was Central Baptist of Laconia. While I ministered there the Lord raised me up as a leader in the church. It was obvious to all.

    Then, my sending church was convinced that they should send my father and me to Brunswick, Maine, to evangelize, baptize, and see another church started. So, I was sent by my church as a helper for my father who was already ordained into the ministry.

    Here in Brunswick, I served in any way that I could. Over a period of a couple of years it became obvious to the entire church that the Lord wanted me to stay and pastor here. The church acknowledged that God had raised me up to be a pastor and I accepted the work of God and the recogition of the church in this regard. I continued serving as a leader in the church along with my father. But, more and more I served as the “buck stops here” guy. In November of 2002 after I was examined and recommended for ordination by the men of the church and some pastors of “like precious faith,” the men of the church laid hands on me and I was ordained a pastor/elder/bishop. This was in the presence of, and in accord with, the will of the entire church.

    So, yes, I was “raised up” by the Lord in the church that I’m now pastoring.

    Scripturally, I see men raised up in the churches to pastor, and I see men sent from churches to start churches that they then pastor. The tradition has become that a pastor dies or resigns and the church sets out to find a pastor from elsewhere. I am convinced that it is the duty of pastors to be preparing men in the assembly to pastor. These men must be qualified, gifted, etc. But, we must be putting the time and energy into them to prepare them for this. 2 Timothy 2:2 certainly comes to mind.

    From what I’ve read of Brother Mallinak’s testimony it seems similar to mine. You also seem to have gone through pretty much the same process. Of course, Brother Brandenburg was the other type–sent out of a church to start and pastor a church.

    You are right that I wouldn’t want all the men to be on a pastoral search committee if you are talking about bringing in an outsider to pastor. However, if you are talking about the church recognizing that God has raised up a man to be the pastor, I have no problem with asking all the men here about that. The ordaining of the first deacons involved “look ye out among you seven men . . .” The Apostles had the church look for the ones that obviously fit the bill. Then, the leadership appointed them in the will of God and in accordance with the will and approval of the church.

    Acts 13 also comes to mind. Of course, 1 Timothy 2, Titus 2 . . . The Holy Spirit, through the written Word, reveals who should be specifically trained and ordained into the work of the church planter or pastor.

    Through all of our studying and conversing concerning the call, we must remember that we pastors MUST be training these men so that they can be ordained.

    Those are my thoughts. Feel free to hammer away. I promise not to cry even though it is Christmas season.

    P.S. I love the Jackhammer Christmas-style logo.

  16. January 4, 2007 at 10:46 pm





    No really. Would five hundred men decide which one man among them will be their next pastor? I’m not trying to be smart. Would they all agree on the same man? There are many preachers being raised up in our church. Which one of them should we pick? Of course, I’m not asking you to tell me, I’m just trying to let you see the size of the “problem,” and how simple it isn’t. This is why I used the term “pastoral search committee.”

    Bobby, do you believe the church can have positions in it that are not seen in the Scriptures? Such as Sunday school teacher, church secretary, nursing home service leader, pastoral search committee member? I’m not saying you have to. There are probably some very good men that don’t. I just want to know where you’re coming from.


  17. January 5, 2007 at 7:46 am


    Short version:

    I believe that the best route is for the current pastor to lead the men of the church in this. In my model the current pastor would teach concerning the call and qualifications. He would then tell the men that he sees that the obvious replacement is Brother _____________. This would be someone that would already be obvious to everyone due to his meeting the qualifications and having the call. The current pastor would then put a lot of time and energy into specifically preparing this man to be the pastor. The current pastor would be willing to talk with the men of the church about any concerns, etc. If a number of men in the church (strong, sound men with years of good testimony) were uneasy with Brother _____________ being the pastor, then that would carry considerable weight in whether or not he would be ordained and made pastor.

    Once the training and ordaining has been completed, the man would serve with the pastor and be ready to be the only pastor in the event of the current pastor’s death or stepping down.

    A modern example of this would be Roy Thompson and Kevin Folger.

    Again, I don’t see where the Lord ever has sheep searching for a shepherd. God has already given this church a shepherd. He needs to lead the sheep in recognizing and following the next one.

    I do believe that there can be other positions in the church. Only two Biblically ordained offices–Pastor/Bishop/Elder and Deacon. But, yes, other positions. These should be appointments made by the Bishop. I have appointed Sunday School teachers, a choir leader, a nursing home ministry leader, a treasurer, a clean-up group, etc.

  18. January 5, 2007 at 10:09 am

    Questions, Questions, Questions…

    Woe unto the man who always comes up with some impossible scenario. But before I came to Utah, I did some time in a church in PA in which the pastor, one Sunday afternoon, up and resigned and left and never came back. The church had about thirty people, none of whom were qualified to pastor. Then, there was little ole’ me (I had been there approximately three months) and a youth pastor (who had been there for just over a year). And the pastor, on his way out the door, told the men that neither one of us were right to pastor the church next.

    To shorten the long story, the sheep were left to find a shepherd.

  19. January 5, 2007 at 10:20 am

    That is sad. So, how did this end? Did the Lord provide a good pastor?

  20. January 5, 2007 at 11:03 am

    For a time. I left when the deacons decided that they were in charge. I don’t know how the church is today, though I do know that the next pastor left it also.

  21. tony bertrand
    June 5, 2007 at 9:05 am

    a college ed is good but the calling of God doesn’t require it but a good student of the Bible and a desire to let God lead and teach is required. The best sermons i heard where from “old farm hands” or country preachers as they also liked to call themselves who may or may not have finished high school but loved God and His word and knew how to say what God led them to say. The d.th and d.d’s are the ones leading the churches into a liberal stance oking the homo agenda and becoming inclusive of other religions since we all want to reach God. So the ed part can be good or bad but not necessary

  22. June 7, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    Tony, what is the calling of God? Could you explain? Use Scripture.

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