Demanding Clergy Have Degrees is Error
Can I Serve as Clergy Without Degrees
Yes, because I did/do! Before proceeding, I want to encourage you to take the seven (7) or eight (8) minutes required to read this entire post. Your eternal life is on the line as well as those of those you will someday lead. You desire an answer, are here, and I will give it to you "straight."
The fallacies of requiring would-be Shepherds to obtain some form of theological degree is complete non-sense. There are gifts God provides which can never be learned because they come directly from His Throne. Everyone I have ever heard “insist” on these degrees are degree holders themselves, and/or misunderstand God's Word. Those offering the opposing view are typically non-degree recipients. I am a mix of both - I am an advanced degree holder who insists you do not need such “paperwork.” To be more direct: IF God has called you to preach the gospel, there is nothing humankind can do to “enhance” or “degrade” the power of the call.
While advanced education has no value in “the call”, a preacher must develop their writing and presentation ability! We wouldn’t have the scriptures if the opposite were true. For instance, is it a coincidence that Jesus’ most “educated” Apostle (Paul) wrote most of the New Testament (as we know it anyway)? Paul had to explain much more to Gentile converts than Peter did to Jews.
Paul had to "wax eloquent" in certain areas of the Law to explain salvation. Not being a "master of the law" as was Paul, how could Peter have even performed such a feat? Gentiles, unlike Jews, wouldn’t have been familiar with the Law. Certain concepts such as “body”, “nationhood”, and the precursor to “grace” had to be taught to outsiders.
From someone who was right where you are now, if you chose to pursue such degrees, GREAT! However, they will never, ever, make you a more “gifted” or “anointed” preacher. If you desire them to make yourself more “eligible” for hiring, remember: "He can open doors no man can shut and shut doors no man can open." Confused church selection committees cannot stop the Lord’s plan – only YOU can.
Religious Leaders Seeking Degrees Beware
I am both a Church Pastor and have advanced theological education. I begin my PhD thesis soon which will be a “game changer” (in the most literal sense). It will both define and introduce the world to “Multiplicative Theism.” This ecclesiastical education, up to my Masters’ anyway, has done little more than sharpen my writing skills. It isn’t that I am “so smart” either. God forbid! It is simply that Christian educational institutions are under-challenging and even more under-whelming with respect to cognitive demands.
However, I didn’t sacrifice to simply become a better writer, although I knew this would result. I did so because I believed I would learn something, theologically, that I didn’t know prior. Admittedly, I began later in life having been fully formed in the Lord. However, although these institutions demand "work", I received NOTHING, in the way of applicability, to pass on to God's people. Isn't that what the Word is for? What good, for instance, is the ability to "properly exegete" Ephesians 4 when sharing Christ with a lost soul? Has teaching the literary, historical, and cultural context of a passage ever changed someone's life? No, on both counts.
Obviously, I thought more of Christian education than I should have. I am neither discouraging, nor encouraging, the seeking of advanced religious education. I am, however, reminding us that no man, or woman, can bestow on us what God did not, nor take away that which He has ordained. Put more forthrightly: advanced ecclesiastical education is not required to lead God’s people. In fact, I have found it can be a hindrance to dependence on the Holy Spirit.
For instance, the Bible outlines varying gifts which exist in the Body of Christ. One gift, I believed anyway, could be sharpened through advanced education: knowledge. Some years later, having attended a nationally accredited Christian University, I lay claim on having learned NOTHING “life changing”. I do not, however, believe I have wasted my time. God has never allowed me into spaces which later didn’t serve His purpose. If you do follow this path, God will use it at some point but "should He have to"? Meditate on that.
Religious Degrees Have Minimal Benefit
Becoming a Pastor, without a degree, shouldn't be the focus of your desire. What is written in this post comes from someone who has been where you are right now.
Sure, there are “perceived” benefit such as:
1. A deeper understanding of religion and faith: Theological education can help you gain a deeper understanding of your own religion and faith, as well as the beliefs and practices of other faiths. This is not to say a better understanding of what matters most in evangelism: ‘practical application.’ Practical application is not simply a portion of discipleship, it is the ball game! 2. Improved critical thinking skills: Theological education often involves examining and interpreting religious texts and ideas, which can help you develop critical thinking and analytical skills. Critical thinking is what Jesus most often used when dealing with those He witnessed to. Paul was a master at this with the Gentiles as well. However, good old fashion common sense will serve you better than some "philosophical" non-sense taught by a college professor. 3. Personal growth and spiritual development: Theological education can be useful but only when kept in context. Although practical application is almost non-existent, at least at the Liberty University, there is no spiritual growth without this. The growth I received from my experience is understanding what I shared earlier: degrees cannot give what God ordained (or withholds). 4. Preparation for leadership roles: Many people who pursue theological education do so with the goal of becoming religious leaders or serving in other leadership roles within their communities. There is, however, a difference between "leaders" and "bosses." Higher education does not teach you how to lead anyone except yourself (study discipline). The leadership role I speak of here is not with other people, it is how best to lead yourself. 5. Professional advancement: In some cases, theological education can also help advance in your "career." More churches than not require some form of higher education these days. I put this category in the list because there are "secular career minded" people who God did not call reading this. They search for a path to "promotion" without understanding God only "exalts." Those ambitious careerists should meditate on this.
However, which of Jesus’ initial Disciples and Apostles had “Jewish Temple” level education? NONE! Only Paul, who was not of the initial disciples or Apostles, had such education. Even then, Paul said: "I count of of that dung (poop) that I might win Christ Jesus." Preaching Jesus is not a “career path”, it is "destiny."
This does not mean you do not need any form of education, however. Christian education is not an associate’s, bachelors, masters, or even PhD. Christian education is defined as: “Holy Ghost breathed revelation from the mind of God and communicated through the Holy Spirit.” Of course, you will not find that definition on any search engine.
In the Greco Western culture, we have bastardized the process of how a Pastor/Shepherd is selected. This shift has removed the Holy Ghost from the process. Whether me, or other “ordained” Pulpiteers, there is no way of knowing why God chooses whom He does.
Scripture teaches: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and show compassion on whomever I choose.” We don’t even know how God calculates the qualification to preach, let alone if we meet them. Therefore, how can we complete anything He does with religious degree requirements for clergy? That is like going to purchase a set of tools before even being told what needs fixing!
Are You Even Called to Pastor
The question which brought you here is: “how I become a Pastor without a degree”? A better question is: “why do I desire to do so?” That is not a bad desire because according to 1st Timothy chapter 3, you desire a “good thing.” However, let’s move past whether you qualify, or even if you have the desire, to something more fundamental: is such an assignment God’s desire for you?
Where are you, spiritually, at this moment? Your level of maturity is a direct qualification for Pastoring. 1st Timothy 3 speaks about ‘novices’, whom I refer to as spiritual neophytes, not being qualified to lead.
Seek the heart of the Lord on whether you should be leading His people now, or ever.
Signs you may not be ready to Pastor are:
Lack of personal maturity: Being a pastor requires a great deal of emotional and spiritual maturity. If a person struggles with personal issues such as anger, addiction, or gossip, they are not ready to lead a congregation. If you are not married, you become the most dangerous person in the congregation. Remember the first of several qualifications of a Clergy/Pastor? Non married people are not mature and if they are older, and unmarried, something is wrong. Of course, I am not speaking of "widowers." You cannot lead God's House if you cannot lead your own family. Family leadership is preparation for church leadership. Was it a coincidence Paul dealt with the home first as indicated in the text?
Lack of Christian Education: My definition of "education" is serving a Man of God , over a number of years, and being mentored. You will learn everything, theologically anyway, you need to know to win souls for Christ.
Lack of Calling or Passion : Being Clergy is a calling and if someone is not convinced they are called to do it they might not be ready to take the responsibility. Further, someone who is not passionate about preaching and teaching might not be ready as well.
Lack of Leadership Skills: A pastor also should have great leadership skills to lead the congregation. If someone doesn't show the potential for it, they might not be ready to be a lead a congregation.
This is not a regular job where, when found out to have lied on a resume, you are simply terminated with no harm done. Be warned: if God did not call you, the price for acting as if He did are eternally catastrophic for both you and those who follow.
Ministry Mentorship is More Important
It is more important to partner with a mentor than seek degrees. Besides, what do you think Jesus was doing with His Disciples for three (3) years? The Bible never indicates Jesus told them: "head on over to the Jewish Temple, obtain your certification, and come back to follow me."
Mentoring is an important aspect of becoming a Shepherds. It provides guidance and support from experienced Shepherds who can help you to develop the skills and practical.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when seeking a mentor:
Seek out someone with experience: Look for a mentor who has been a pastor for several years. They will be able to offer valuable insights and guidance based on their own experiences. However, their experiences are THEIR experiences and not to be taken as "gospel" where your ministry is concerned. Take what you can and leave the rest. Trust the Holy Spirit to guide.
Look for someone with a similar doctrinal worldview: This has nothing to do with denomination and everything to do with doctrine. This will help ensure that God's Word is taught in a manner befitting the expectation of Jesus Christ. For instance, I would never seek mentorship from the Seventh Day Adventists "church." The selectively follow the Law of Moses where convenient.
Make sure the mentor is a good fit: Mentoring is a personal relationship, so it's important to find someone who you feel comfortable "challenging" you!
Be open and transparent: Be willing to share your hopes, fears, and questions with your mentor. They are there to guide and support you, and they can't do that if you don't open up to them.
Be proactive: Reach out to potential mentors, set up regular meetings and utilize the time you have together. Have specific questions and concerns that you want to address and communicate your goals for your mentorship relationship.
Be willing to learn: Remember that you are the one seeking mentorship, which means that you are the one who needs to learn. A good mentor will expect their mentee to be open and receptive to their guidance.
Mentoring can take many forms, such as observing, learning, and even shadowing them in their duties. As you look for mentorship, consider not just the person but also the type of mentorship that challenges you to grow most. For example, I would never seek a mentor who is super-confrontational like John the Baptist or Paul. That is a gifting Jesus provided me in abundance! He and I would have the same weakness and therefore, what can I learn? I sought a mentor who understands the "fruits of the spirit" better than I. Allow your mentor to be strong where you are weak.
Here is what is most important – remain YOU. By this, I mean it is a great thing to, as the Book of Corinthians says: “do all things descent and in order.” However, this doesn’t mean step outside of who God called you to be!
For instance, my Pastor showed me how to properly format a written sermon. This doesn’t mean I admired him so much I wanted to preach or teach like him. Even in this formatting mentorship, the way I diagram sermon notes is uniquely me. This was long before I received any higher Christian Education. Since I received such, I still haven’t changed my sermon format – not even a little.
Pray, seek the face of God, and be bold enough to ask: "should I be pursuing this path at all Lord"? The answer may surprise most who read this.
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