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J. Frye’s Jesus the Pastor 2

posted by xscot mcknight

John Frye’s excellent, Jesus the Pastor, raises two major issues, the value and role of seminary education and the meaning of “pastoring.” Here’s the question John provoked for me: If you could make one change in a seminary education, what would it be?
Let’s be fair here, and I’ll begin with the “pastoring” issue in this chp: I’m not a pastor in the normal sense of the word. We sometimes tell others that our task in the BTS Dept at North Park is partly academic and partly youth pastor. So, maybe there is a touch of pastoring in what I do. And then I speak in lots of churches, but equating speaking with pastoring is silly (though sometimes one would think seminary profs give that impression).
Nor am I a seminary professor anymore, though I’m in regular contact with seminary professors at North Park. I feel like one lots of the time. (I do miss teaching exegesis.) So, I’m an indirect participant in both pastoring and seminary education.
Which now brings me to the subject of John’s second chp — John argues that we need to learn from Jesus and not just from pastoral conventions where the pastor can be bombarded annually with new techniques and strategies and methods, and without which you’ll just collapse if you don’t adjust… . John argues that Jesus gave us what we really need, if we are attentive.
And then he gets into a peeve of mine: seminary education. Jesus didn’t have one. John doesn’t demean seminary education, saying what he thinks its big values are: a respect for revealed truth, an appreciation for church history, the discipline of personal study, and an exposure to godly leaders. The solution to seminary education is not to junk it. I’m well aware of the many good pastors who don’t have a seminary education, but for my take on this one I think it is of immense value — but it is not without its problem, not the least of which is how much it costs and how far it sometimes gets from church work. And that’s another post. John has two other issues:
He sees two major problems, and I’m sure more could be listed: pride and distancing. Pride from being more competent than others because of education, and distancing from the uneducated. If you need a good book on this, there is a standard: H. Thielicke, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians.
John’s got two good issues in this chp: seminary education and its purpose and what it can do for us, as well as just what pastoring is. In fact, I’d say the latter ought to determine the former. Does it? I’m so glad that Dave Dunbar, out at Biblical Seminary in the rolling hills of Hatfield, PA, is answering the former by re-asking the latter, and that seminary is learning to reshape what it does in light of the emerging situation. And that is why I’ve agreed to teach a course out there next Spring.
Now back to John Frye: his passionate concern to look at Jesus leads him to define pastoring as “bringing God to people by imparting the Word of God out of the reality of his or her life, which is undergoing authentic and continuous Christlike transformation” (48-49).
Now here’s my question: If you could make one change in a seminary education, what would it be?



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Duane Young

posted June 12, 2006 at 6:18 am


Read John’s book?



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Duane Young

posted June 12, 2006 at 6:22 am


Seriously, I suppose I woukd say the intentional focus must be on having seminarians understand that their primary role, for which they are being trained, is go and EQUIP those in their flocks so that h/she ends up with a competent “pastorate of all believers.”



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Peter

posted June 12, 2006 at 6:31 am


As a pastor I would like to see the typical MDiv program structured the way DMin programs are. On onsite class in January and an onsite class in July.
My view is that Pastors ought to train pastors. But pastors in training need to be exposed to the teaching and work of women and men who are called to the minstry of shcolarship and teaching.
With this model in place, I would mentor a team of emerging leaders in both theology and ministry skills between class sessions. Then I would attend and audit classes at seminary with the pastors in training from the church.
I don’t know if this is doable in the real world. But I like to dream about it as a possibility :)



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John Frye

posted June 12, 2006 at 7:32 am


Duane,
I agree with you. The pastors EQUIP a corporate pastorate, the teachers equip for a transformed and transforming community, the evangelists for a Story-telling, Story living community, the *apostles* for an aggressively missional body, and the prophets for a discerning and honest community.



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makeesha

posted June 12, 2006 at 8:31 am


I’m a big “in the field” training person myself. Frankly, I find that almost every pastor I have most admired and learned from is one who has learned by DOING. In fact, almost every minister in any role has been that way. Some of them have an advanced education, many do not.



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seeker

posted June 12, 2006 at 12:18 pm


Well, as a 41 year-old, I am looking to attend seminary so that I can move into my next desired career, that of pastor. Trying to choose a seminary is a bit daunting, mostly because it is so expensive. I have had ministry experience as a worship leader and small group leader, but want to take the next step.
One of the things that bothers me about most churches is that the pastors usually do a poor job of mentoring the small group leaders, who in turn should be pastoring their small groups.
I would hope that seminary, in part, focuses on mentoring/discipleship skills, as well as spiritual formation. I also wish more seminaries would be nice enough to give my wife training as a pastoral counselor and pastor’s wife.



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George

posted June 12, 2006 at 1:27 pm


Displace seminary education with pastoral/theological training within churches. What if seminary education became redundant and unnecessary because pastors and leaders within congregations actively trained and equipped individuals rather than “outsourcing” this duty? So many problems could be overcome such as: the neglect of spiritual formation, the need for mentorship, the challenge of “doing” while learning, having an immediate context/community to work out theological issues and the whole money thing.



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RJS

posted June 12, 2006 at 3:40 pm


“He sees two major problems, and I’m sure more could be listed: pride and distancing. Pride from being more competent than others because of education, and distancing from the uneducated.”
An interesting juxtaposition. I have a couple of comments.
I don’t think formal education is a requirement for effective ministry, including pastoral ministry, but it is useful.
The education level of the general population is increasing and a seminary education is of increasing importance to be able to deal with the secular intellectual worldview that prevents many from taking the gospel seriously. A seminary education may be distancing from the uneducated – but essential for reaching the educated.
The pride issue is interesting – it is a problem in some cases, but the way to deal with it isn’t to avoid education. Reliance on seminary education can work both ways by the way – pride in competence or superiority over the majority – and a reluctance to interact with those who might challenge that competence or superiority. I sometimes think that this plays a role in the reluctance of many churches (pastors) in University communities to truly embrace the University apart from the undergraduate student population as an important mission field.



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Kerry Doyal

posted June 12, 2006 at 9:15 pm


Seeker wrote: “I would hope that seminary, in part, focuses on mentoring/discipleship skills, as well as spiritual formation.”
YES!



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Ted Gossard

posted June 12, 2006 at 11:12 pm


Somehow get rid of all the laborious, heavy reading, which easily can give one, I think, a false sense of intellectual superiority. Be strong in what matters- be it heart, mind, soul. Keep it burning and simple, and down to earth, where people (and we) live!



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Ted Gossard

posted June 12, 2006 at 11:16 pm


And make it, above all, as much as possible, an encounter with God. But with that a strong sense of community with each other. And hands on. Doing it.
All this requires, I think, surely some cutting back from the huge demands academically. And all the more true, as many of these students (like myself) work, even full time, with a family hopefully not getting lost in the process!



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Ted Gossard

posted June 12, 2006 at 11:18 pm


…at least MOST of the heavy, laborious reading.



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seeker

posted June 13, 2006 at 12:08 pm


Somehow get rid of all the laborious, heavy reading, which easily can give one, I think, a false sense of intellectual superiority. Be strong in what matters- be it heart, mind, soul. Keep it burning and simple, and down to earth, where people (and we) live!
I agree. That’s why I’ve considered places like Christian Leadership University, which is not a traditional seminary, but I like their emphasis. However, since they are entirely by correspondence, and unacredited, I wonder how that could hurt my chances of actually getting a job.
I mean, I know I could just “trust God,” but I would like the assurance of getting to sit under accomplished men and women of God.
However, the main seminaries I am consdiring are Gordon Conwell, and Pat Robertson’s Regent Univ. Despite Pat’s controversial reputation as a “televangelist”, I think his seminary is top notch in it’s curriculum, professors, and emphases. What do you think? I have also considered Fuller and Dallas Theological Seminary. Also, in my current location, we have Golden Gate Baptist Seminary.
I am not baptist, but rather, post-charismatic neo-calivinist ;). But the Baptists are still OK in my book.



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seeker

posted June 13, 2006 at 1:59 pm


I totally agree that we should make it easier for those of us who are working regular jobs, but we should also have some intellectual chops to help answer the questions around biblical integrity, church history, and doctrine.
What do you guys think of the programs I am considering?
Gordon Conwell
Regent University
Fuller Theological



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Terry Rayburn

posted June 13, 2006 at 2:13 pm


I don’t think John was being at all disingenuous or pandering when he wrote his kudos to seminary, and I never met a seminary graduate who regretted, for example, learning Greek.
But I would be curious if John would still speak as highly today of the value of seminary.
Even his very reasons involve things somewhat attainable outside the seminary box (at least they *should* be):
1. a respect for revealed truth (sitting under John’s teaching would as well accomplish that, theoretically)
2. an appreciation for church history (again local church teaching, and personal reading have done the same for many, without the institutional biases)
3. the discipline of personal study (somewhat the case, admittedly, but haven’t we all found soul/Spirit-led study to be better and more throughly grasped, and more appreciated? Even our homeschooled son learns faster and better when allowed some self-inclined direction)
4. and an exposure to godly leaders (true, and sadly too often, one needs a more “dedicated” environment to have a good Jesus/Bible conversation)
Anyway, one can love the concept of seminary and still see it’s downsides. It was Howard Hendricks that John later quotes as telling his students at Dallas something like, “You will have four years of seminary, and it will take you eight years to get over it.” [or something like that]
If one is following this thread and still hasn’t read John’s book, it’s terrific.



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Terry Rayburn

posted June 13, 2006 at 2:17 pm


By the way, my favorite Howard Hendricks quote is as follows:
“Jesus was never in a hurry and He always did the Father’s will. I find that I’m always in a hurry and often don’t do the Father’s will.”
Isn’t that great?



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Terry Rayburn

posted June 13, 2006 at 2:19 pm


By the way, my favorite Howard Hendricks quote is as follows:
“Jesus was never in a hurry, and always did the Father’s will. I find that I’m always in a hurry, and often don’t do the Father’s will.”
Isn’t that great?



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Scot McKnight

posted June 13, 2006 at 4:57 pm


Terry,
Well, I’m in a spot because I usually don’t choose between seminaries. It depends on what you want from a seminary.



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jason allen

posted June 15, 2006 at 7:48 am


I think it would be to have more cohort-like mentoring relationships with students and professors. This would put a bit more strain on profs to spend time with students outside of courses but the life on life mentoring/teaching would be invaluable I think. I would have loved to have that.



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