I read an interesting blog post yesterday about Bible colleges. That post got me thinking about how we’re preparing people to serve as followers of Jesus. I graduated from a Bible college ten years ago. It was a great experience. I made a lot of friends there with whom I still keep in touch. I got a good Bible education. Best of all, I met my wife there. One of my professors, however, uttered one sentence that has stuck with me for ten years.
“95 percent of what you need to learn about the ministry won’t be learned in the classroom.”
I’m grateful for my four years of Bible college, but they did not help prepare me for the everyday rigors of “professional ministry.” Yeah, I learned how to parse Greek verbs. But how does that help a woman who just lost her husband in a tragic accident? I learned all about the pseudopigrapha, but how does that help a brand new Christian battle an addiction? I could go on, but hopefully you see the point: Bible colleges are great for Bible education, but most are terrible for practical ministry (even though there are degrees in practical ministry).
I’m wondering why we insist on sending guys who want to be preachers and church planters off to Bible college and seminary for four years (or more). Would it not be more beneficial for a guy to be mentored and coached by the staff of his local church? He could learn the ins and outs of ministry on the field instead of in the abstract theories of the classroom. And he wouldn’t amass a huge amount of college debt that will take him at least a decade to pay off… and the chances are high that he’ll be out of “professional ministry” a few years before he gets his education paid for.
Some of us would object, “But our preachers need good theological training.” True… and so does every other Christian. There are tremendous resources available to any person who wants a basic theological education, and even those who want to “go deeper.” Not only that, but a theology that isn’t practical isn’t really theology. God is not abstract. He is not a theory. He is alive and well, working among His people to transform the world with the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What are your thoughts–especially those of you in “professional ministry” who read this blog?