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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Pastoral Recruitment: Quality or Quantity

As the new Director of Admission at CTS-FW, I've been thinking a lot lately about recruiting students to study at the seminary. I've been particularly considering the dual need for both excellent and well-qualified students AND the need to recruit a greater number of students.

It is good for the institution to increase enrollment. Putting it very crassly, larger enrollment translates to more money. No one here is getting rich but more money translates into being able to improve and expand the seminary programs. It means a growing endowment and, hopefully, an ever brighter and solid future.

More than that - and this is the real reason I think of numbers - an increase in enrollment is good for the church. It means more men trained and certified for ordination. It means more preachers to further the divine mission of the church which is to make disciples of all nations.

On the other side, however, the church is very discerning about whom it ordains for pastoral ministry. The biblical requirements are very clear. He must be above reproach, apt to teach, have a stable family life, etc. The requirements for admission to the seminary are, in some ways, more stringent than the most elite Ivy League campus. Can we afford to be so selective? We can't afford not to be.

As I was reading some articles on the Office of the Ministry, I stumbled across this quote from Joseph Stump:

It is the duty of the Church carefully to select and train men for the holy office of the ministry, and she should not set men apart for it without due consideration of their physical, mental and spiritual qualifications. She is to lay hands suddenly on no man (1 Tim. 5:22), but is to see to it that only those are admitted to the office who have the requisite natural gifts, common sense, and Christian faith and piety; and who have received the necessary academic and theological training. Ordinarily this training ought to include a full course in college or university and in a theological seminary. Few exceptions, and those only for the best of reasons, should be made. The demand for quality in the ministry to-day is very great. The Lord not only needs men for the ministry, but He needs gifted and well-trained men. (Joseph Stump)

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The Blog Surfer said...

Pastor Scott,

I couldn't agree more with your analysis.

The only additional question I would suggest (in light of your Ivy League school comparison) is this:

How many of the apostles would have met today's requirements?

If the answer is anything less than "all of them", I think the requirements should be reexamined.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Blog Surfer,
Thanks for the comment.

With respect, I'm afraid I don't agree with you. The Church is not Jesus. The church cannot read men's hearts. The church is not omniscient. What criteria did Jesus use to select the 12? That would be pretty hard for us to discern. However, we do have the writings of St. Paul which give numerous qualifications for the pastoral ministry. I'm confident that the 12 would not have met St. Paul's criteria. Paul would not have Paul's criteria.

Forgive the extensive quote below but it bears reflection.

1Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer,[a] he desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.

8Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

11In the same way, their wives[b] are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. (1 Tim. 3).

What Matthew a lover of money or did he pursue dishonest gain? Was Peter violent and quarrelsome or gentle? And Saul the Pharisee? Was he above reproach? Was he violent? Was he worthy of respect?

I know these are very strict requirements, but they are God's.

The Blog Surfer said...

Pastor Scott,

Thank you for the clarification.

I realize that we can not see into a man's heart. I do believe, however, that it is incumbent upon us to do the best we can in that regard. And, to be careful not to exclude otherwise good, Christian men who do not exactly fill the qualifications.

May God bless you in your calling to qualify the called and to not only call the qualified.

VirginiaLutherans said...

Without the quality the quantity doesn't matter. I think God will provide the right quantity. Just worry about quality.

God's blessings on the searches for new pastors. There are a few who are qualified, and there are fewer who want such a mantle of responsibility.

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