23 July 2008

Preparing for Ministry

[S]uch is the depth of the Christian Scriptures that, even if I were attempting to study them and nothing else, from boyhood to decrepit old age, with the umost leisure, the most unwearied zeal, and with talents greater than I possess, I would still be making progress in discovering their treasures. . . . (Augustine, as cited in Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography, p. 263)

Many a nice young man since, as well as before his time, of narrow views and crude knowledge, has rushed into the pastoral office with scarcely any of that furniture which enables the shepherd of souls ‘rightly to divide the word of truth’; but Jonathan Edwards, with a mind of superior grasp and penetration, and with attainments already greater than common, did not think three full years of diligent professional study enough to prepare him for this arduous charge, until, after his collegiate graduation, he had devoted six years to close and appropriate study. (Samuel Miller, commenting on Jonathan Edwards' 1723 decision to return to Yale after a brief New York pastorate [cited in Iain Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, p. 56])

I've preached too much and studied too little. (Billy Graham, in 1970, to a gathering of 600 pastors in London)

If I only had three years to serve the Lord, I would spend two of them studying and preparing. (Donald Grey Barnhouse, as quoted in John Stott, Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life, 55)

Are you an MDiv or MA student preparing for fulltime ministry? I hope you will consider taking a few extra years for a second Master's or a PhD before opening your Bible to teach others. The point is not that intellectual preparation is sufficient. According to Paul, "all knowledge," without the spark of love, is meaningless (1 Cor 13). But the kindling of study is invaluable. A fire needs a spark in order to be lit; but if no kindling exists, no amount of sparks will produce anything.

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