a Theologian’s viewpoint
I glean a lot of life’s experiences from listening to the interviews of great luminaries. Their challenges, victories and pains add a sense of wisdom to my daily life. At least, their successes and failures help me not to quickly repeat certain careless mistakes. Again, I have a deep passion for a variety of academic debate. Topics ranging from leadership at both national and international levels; education, culture/religion, business, government, science and family values are issues of great concern to me. In reality, such an academic discourse stretches one’s mind from the state of inertia to a high earth-shattering momentum.
On Friday, 22nd July, 2022, I witnessed the grand finale of the LuvFM High School Debate held at the Christian Service University College in Kumasi. With over one hundred and seventy-five Senior High schools competing for the final trophy, Kumasi High School and Prempeh College made it to the grand finale. Some of the attractions that came with winning the debate were souvenirs including a trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Kumasi High School spoke for the motion and Prempeh College spoke against the motion, “Academic Qualification should be a requirement for pastoral duties”. With determination, hard work, consistency and unity of purpose, Kumasi High School emerged as the overall winners. Kudos to the consultants, the contestants and the patrons of the Writers and Debaters’ Club of Kumasi High School (KUHIS). As I observed the debaters, I sensed that the ultimate victory of KUHIS was as a result of team effort. The principal speaker, Master Seth Boakye and their supporting speaker, Master Dennis Owusu Adade walked over their opponents with a sense of superiority. Indeed, great success is achieved based on a concerted or collaborative exertion and not necessarily on one person’s effort. That is what every student of leadership should know
I honour the hardworking boys of the second-placed school, Prempeh College for giving their winners a good chase for the trophy. At the end of the day, it was a great academic exercise which calls for a nationwide debate. While listening to these young debaters express their thoughts on the motion, Academic Qualification should be a requirement for pastoral duties, I finally concluded that knowledge is power depending on how it is used and applied. Should pastors acquire an academic qualification before performing their duties effectively or should we trust our destinies into their hands based solely on their divine calling or operating in any of the spiritual gifts? Well, speaking against or for the motion should liberate our minds from uncertainty and places us on the right path of lucidity or rationality.
The purpose of this article is not to denigrate, vilify or malign the pastoral ministry or run-down pastors who do not have the opportunity to attain an academic qualification. However, I choose to focus on the essence on theological training as an additional value to do effective pastoral duties. Knowledge brings clarity. Insight and understanding bring simplicity. Theological training is becoming less relevant to the church, especially the neo-Pentecostals, and that is a worry that should be analyzed if we want to have a sound and healthy society. In much of today’s church culture, strong leadership traits and skills have replaced education and sound theology. Some opine that there is no need for any theological training once, you are divinely called by God. I am totally against that assertion. I belong to the school of thought which upholds sound theological training aside our divine calling.
The truth is, there is a balance that must be achieved, and the answer might be found in higher education. In 1Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, we see the qualifications required of a minister of the gospel and these qualifications can be harnessed by a combination of mentoring and experience, prayer, personal study as well as a form of training. Well, in admonishing his young protégé, and a pastor of a church, Apostle Paul encouraged him to study in showing himself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed but rightly dividing(interpreting) the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
In an era where there is a high surge of technological advancement and the high demand for mastery over one’s field of work or expertise, it cannot be underestimated that the minister of the gospel cannot be an exception. The church is a mixed breed of culture and personality with diverse levels of understanding and maturity and thus, the minister/pastor would require a set of skills that would help him navigate and adapt to all the diversities of personalities on the pews. Gaining a theological education from an accredited institution is a must-have for every minister of the gospel to help deepen the usefulness and significance of his call in advancing the kingdom of God. With this article, I examine the office of the pastor, the work or role of the pastor and the need for knowledge acquisition in the pursuit of their calling.
THE OFFICE OF THE PASTOR
The pastoral office happens to be one of the fivefold ministries as recorded in the Book of Ephesians 4:11. It reads:
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.”
It is therefore clear that the pastoral calling is a divine one. The pastor is more of a modern-day shepherd as in the case of shepherding in animal husbandry. As this shepherd guides, guards and feeds his flock, so does the pastor. The similarity in terms of functions, defines the office of the pastor which equates the enormous work of today’s pastor.
THE WORK OF THE PASTOR
A pastor provides spiritual leadership to members of his congregation. The duties therefore include preparing weekly sermons, preaching, teaching and conducting worship services. It is also the responsibility of the pastor to interpret the scriptures to the congregation. Furthermore, a pastor provides care and counselling to church members and possibly assist them in crises.
In addition, working as a pastor may require you to officiate at special services such as confirmations, baptisms, weddings and funerals. Again, it is the responsibility of the pastor to collaborate with the choir leaders to integrate music into church services. Job hours for the pastor is irregular, because you must divide your time between conducting worship services, attending social events and completing administrative duties.
Additional responsibilities of the pastor may include:
- Assisting in church financial matters. Gaining knowledge in financial management is an added advantage in understanding the balance sheet of the Church. Most pastors without any further knowledge in this area become totally handicapped, especially when any dodgy or dishonest financial head of the church embezzles funds.
- Overseeing management of all areas of the congregation’s ministry. Within the church are various departments such as music, welfare, ushering, technical, protocol, media, social intervention ministry, prayer, follow-up and visitation ministry, and other auxiliaries such as the men, women, youth, and children’s ministry. A deeper knowledge in organizational leadership and management helps the pastor to successfully supervise all these departments.
- Overseeing, supporting and evaluating congregational staff. Every established church has an office with a qualified staff to handle other administrative work. The pastor’s duty is to assess the performance of each person’s assigned role or work through a constant feedback.
- Holding regular staff meetings or board meetings to co-ordinate ministries. Depending on the organogram of the church, the church board members are the official managers, taking important administrative decisions towards the smooth running of the church. With a trained and knowledgeable pastor in-charge of this board, key decisions are taken towards the well-being of the church.
- Ensuring church facilities are functioning. You cannot be a successful pastor of a church, if you lack basic skills or training in taking constant feedbacks from your key leaders over the maintenance of facilities/ gadgets such as musical instruments, fixing broken down pews, buses, making sure the electric power system is fixed, maintaining the church building in consultation with the building committee, etc.
SHOULD THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION BE A REQUIREMENT FOR PASTORAL MINISTRY?
First, we must set the tone that academic qualification here refers to theological training, possibly up to a minimum of bachelor’s degree in theology which focuses on systemic theology (focusing on the doctrines of God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Angels, etc.), exegetical theology, historical theology, dogmatic theology, Biblical theology, pastoral theology among other leadership, management and financial management principles. In the paragraphs below are some relevant submissions on how theological training enhances pastoral duties:
- Knowledge in Biblical Homiletics and Hermeneutics
Homiletics is the art of preaching, teaching or writing sermons for a much practical understanding. Hermeneutics, on the other hand, is the branch of theology that deals with the interpretation of the Bible or a literal text. Without any theological training, how do you interpret scripture in its right context and content? Without any academic background for example in theological training, how do you properly teach or preach for clarity and understanding?
How do you, compare a well-trained pastor with a theological training from an accredited institution with the skills in interpreting scriptures with an uneducated itinerant pastor who lacks the ethics in homiletics and hermeneutics? The difference is astronomical. No matter how you are divinely called to do God’s work, the impact of an untrained personnel cannot be compared with a trained pastor who combines spirituality with an intellectual prowess in his field. Interestingly, most of our uneducated pastors’ style of preaching looks quite polemic. Polemic in the sense that, most uneducated or unqualified pastors or preachers’ level of communication is primarily verbal attack on something, someone or cultural relativism without any facts and figures backing their delivery.
It is obvious that with the impact of Paul’s ministry, his academic inputs took him beyond the level of the uneducated apostles like Peter and John. As an academic, Apostle Paul wrote almost two thirds of the New Testament books. His understanding of the Scripture, according to him came from learning the law of Moses under the feet of Gamaliel, according to Acts 22:3. In fact, Paul’s letters to the churches reveal his craft in explaining the gospel better than most of the uneducated Apostles. Indeed, his background in the school of law became an added advantage to help him explain the gospel properly, even to an ordinary man relative to different social backgrounds. We can conclude on this point that a pastor with an academic background can significantly affect his level of ministry. And therefore, academic qualification should be a requirement.
- Enhances Administrative role: Education provides the leader of a church a solid knowledge/background to church administration (financial, investment management, project, etc.).
- Openness to Social Change: It builds aptitude to manage, change and handle crises in our world. The church operates in a world full of changes and education gives the leader, the ability to know how to manage external factors. A typical example is the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected various institutions including the church. As of now, some pastors haven’t been able to effectively perform their duties because a lack in seasonal changes required to hold church service remotely are blindfolded by misconceptions which could be used to their advantage. The book of Proverbs 2: 10-11 answers it all: “When wisdom enters in your heart, knowledge is pleasant unto the soul. Discretion shall preserve you; understanding shall keep you.’’
- Training enhances leadership skills: A Pastor is automatically seen as a leader by his followers hence needs to be equipped to be an exemplary leader.
- Influence in the Society: Every focused pastor is an opinion leader. Their lifestyle coupled with the services they provide makes them indispensable in the society. Such a form of influence empowers them to make relevant contributions in the area of their study and other issues that require their insight. A pastor with a degree in Religious Studies for example is most likely to be sought after when major decisions about religion are being made in the society.
- Training births Bi–Vocational Ministry: I opine that a pastor with effective training in administration can easily build his/her personal business. Hence, as he is able to manage his own business, he doesn’t totally rely on church funds for his family’s upkeep. Like Paul who had his own business as a tent maker, a serious-minded pastor can also do same without becoming a burden on the congregation he presides over. Paul affirms it in Acts 18: 1-4 and boastfully says that he works for his own benefit. In the present economic challenges across the nation of our world, the pastor cannot be left behind in the area of business, though his primary role is making time for the spiritual needs of the church.
- Appreciable level of wisdom. When a pastor is exposed to knowledge or academia, his ministry is beyond just preaching the gospel. Pastoral duties are embedded primarily in communication. Communicating the gospel requires some level of wisdom, and theological training which is the result of keen observation and intuitive learning. To be able to help your audience understand your message, the skill of communicating the right message is undoubtedly very important. When a minister is not exposed to basic academic practice, how will he be able to communicate effectively?
- Effective Theological Training Also Introduces the Pastor to The Social Sciences such as Anthropology, Sociology, Cultural Communication and Christian Mission.
This form of knowledge helps the pastor to relate with multiple cultures such as science, technology, creative art, etc. He/she will be able to relate with different people and will be equipped to handle issues other than the major call as a pastor. Religion should not be used to abuse the minds of the vulnerable. It shouldn’t be used to negatively coerce people into social vices.
It is interesting to note how some people become susceptible tools in the hands of some quack pastors whose lack of ethical training divide families and create confusion among families. No wonder, Karl Max, the German Sociologist once said, ‘Religion is the opium of the Masses.’ Religion should rather permeate all aspects of human life and liberate the hearts of people from exploitation and ethnocentrism. This understanding of religious tolerance only becomes clearer from a trained pastor. This should therefore indicate the relevance of theological training as a bedrock for pastoral duties.
It should be noted that education transforms the pastor through personal growth and ethics. It gives him the platform to upgrade his effectiveness. In other words, it sharpens his core and positions him at a higher advantage to administer his pastoral duties. Theological training also builds the pastors’ care and counselling skills. It helps him to build mental capacity using analytical thinking skills to solve issues.
Notwithstanding the fact that some pastors have and are still carrying out their duties successfully without any required academic qualification or any theological training, there are countless numbers of pastors who have been problematic to their ministry heads, the church and the society as whole. Their pitfalls emerge from lack of discipline and personal growth. Imagine if these people have sound training, the right mentors to shape their thoughts and practices, and the humility to learn, their impact will continually be phenomenal.
- Owusu, P. (2015), The Impact of leadership styles on church members’ commitment in charismatic churches in Kumasi. A Master of Arts’ dissertation, submitted to the Faculty of Theology at the Christian Service University College/ University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana.
- Schreiner, R. T. (2018), The Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter, https://www.christianbook.com, accessed on March 15, 2022.
- https://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/Clerics more to fulfil qualifications as new law goes into force, accessed on July, 20, 2022.
Grab copies of the writer’s books from Kingdom Bookshop, KNUST, Kumasi and in Accra, contact: Mrs. Justina Asempa (Phoenix Insurance, Ringway Estates, Osu) on 0244 20 88 43 and Pastor Stephen Gyamfi (ICGC, Asylum Down, 054 679 7323). In Sunyani, contact: Miriam on 054 929 89 16.
Email: [email protected]
The writer is an Academic, Visiting Lecturer, Leadership Consultant and a Reverend Minister with the WordSprings City Church, Kumasi-Ghana.