There’s nothing terribly wrong with the system, unless, of course, by wrong we mean unbiblical or, at the very least, extrabiblical. To the degree that any seminary circumvents and ignores the very body for which Christ died, forgetting that it exists to serve churches, that seminary has become unbiblical and will produce men and women more committed to a denomination or to a theological persuasion than to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Dry orthodoxy disconnected from local churches leads to death as certainly as a liberal denial of the veracity of the Scriptures.
Since the seminary is an academic institution and not a church, it cannot really observe the student adequately to know if he demonstrates a true sense of calling, and most definitely does not have the right to declare him a God-called minister. That calling will be found at the intersection of desire, gifting, opportunity and the testimony of the church. I can certainly gauge the gifting and, to a large degree, the desire of a student to fulfill a call to preach, for example, but in the three hours a week he spends with me I will not know anything about the opportunities that he seeks or that the Lord provides for him, and still less will I have the daily opportunity to observe his steadfast perseverance, the “fire in his bones” that testifies of his calling. I cannot gauge his true effectiveness in real life situations. I do not know how he treats his wife, or parents his children, or how generous he is with his resources, or whether or not he struggles with pride or lust. Only a church can do that and only over a significant period of time.
That is why ordination, taken seriously and done rightly, should mean much more than any seminary degree. When a church ordains a man for ministry, the members are testifying that they have observed his calling and they have found evidence of its reality. He has consistently and persistently expressed the desire to fulfill that calling and has also shown that God has provided him the basic skills to do it. In all candor, God is not going to call someone to do something that he just can’t cut no matter how long he persists nor how hard he tries. With the calling comes an enabling, and only the church can observe him closely enough to verify that God has provided what the young minister needs to fulfill the calling he claims.
In addition, the church can provide opportunities in order to bear witness whether or not the young minister will avail himself of and perform those with a seriousness that testifies of his calling. I can make assignments in my class and force him to preach or to perform certain ministries because I hold the power of a grade over him. When he has done those assignments, even if he has done them well, I cannot be sure that he would take the same care and careful deliberation if he were not needing a grade. The church, on the other hand, sees the novice minister in real-life situations and can much more realistically determine his genuine level of commitment.
This article originally appeared here.