Results tagged “pastoral qualifications” from Reformation21 Blog

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This week Donald John Maclean contributes part 3 of his series on "James Durham on Ministerial Qualifications." We share the post in its entirety below. It includes links to his earlier posts if you would like to get up to speed.


James Durham on Ministerial Qualifications (3)
 by Donald John Maclean

In our first and second posts on James Durham's essay, "Concerning Ministerial Qualifications," we saw that the prerequisites "for the complete qualifying of a Minster" were "Gifts, Learning, and Grace." And we spent some time looking at Durham's understanding of ministerial gifts. This short series continues with Durham's thoughts on the necessity of an educated ministry. In our age of the self-appointed and self-taught internet "theologian," Durham's words are so relevant.
 
What is Learning and Why Does it Matter?
Durham defined learning as an "acquaintance with Scripture and with the divine and heavenly things in it." And by "acquaintance with Scripture" he meant Scripture in its original languages. Unpacking this Durham noted this learning entails "a fitness to reason for Truth and against error, to draw conclusions from premises, to open hard places, to reconcile seemingly contradictory places, and to answer objections etc." Durham also said ministers should be widely and broadly learned, not just in relation to the scriptures and theology.
 
Sufficient learning to "reason against gainsayers and to open the mysteries of the gospel" is, Durham noted, "required in all ministers." Aptness to teach, and the learning that necessitates, is a non-negotiable (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9). But why is learning necessary? Well, one great purpose of the ministry is to explain those things in Scripture which "are hard and not easily understood, which the unlearned and ignorant are ready to pervert to their destruction" (2 Peter 3:16). So, the ministry has to help the congregation understand difficult and hard things in Scripture. But without learning this will not be possible. Unless ministers themselves have studied these "difficult" and "hard" things they will not be able to help their congregation understand the scriptures and so grow in grace.
 
But, as well as for the congregation, learning is also important for the minister himself. The minister as a "teacher of the law" has to "understand what he is saying" (1 Tim. 1:7). The minister has to "hold fast ... the pattern of sound words" that they have been taught (2 Tim. 1:13). And to do this they need to be learned. But why? Well, yes, so they can help their congregation. Yes, so they can convince doubters. But Durham also noted it is also important so that ministers themselves can avoid "being turned aside foolish unlearned questions" which will only bring "strife" (2 Tim. 2:23). It is by giving heed to doctrine or teaching that the minister saves himself as well as his hearers (1 Tim. 4:16). It is no act of kindness to the minister himself, as well as no act of kindness to the congregation, to allow an uneducated ministry.
 
How is Learning Acquired?
So learning is good. An educated ministry is necessary for the minister himself, and for his congregation. But how do we get a learned ministry? Well, there has to be a basic level of intellectual gifts, there has to be the raw materials given by God to work with.
 
But the duty of the man of God is to "stir up the gift that is in them" (2 Tim. 1:6). Natural gifts have to be cultivated. Hard work has to be put in. A learned ministry does not happen overnight by some "immediate" gifting of God--as Durham noted, the age of the charismata is over. Rather we get a learned ministry by "the way of studying, by reading, and by being brought up by others in knowledge." This may not be glamorous, it may not be in step with the "I want it now" spirit of our age. But if we want a ministry that will build up the church we cannot neglect learning. A few years have to be devoted to the hard yards of intensive study or many years of trouble may follow. As Durham notes, "the many sad fruits of ignorance, error and confusion, which flow from this neglect of study, show the necessity of this."
 
Conclusion
So we need an educated ministry. And therefore we need places that educate ministers. But it is one of the remarkable things in church history that seminaries or universities have so often been the breeding ground for error in the church. As the devil knows their importance, so he has so often attacked them, and brought ruin into the church. So let me ask you to pray for the many seminaries that seek to cultivate a "learned ministry." Pray that they would be kept faithful, and pray that through their work a generation of men would be raised up who would be genuinely "learned" in the Scriptures.

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On pastoral (dis)qualification and other things

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This is not about Mark Driscoll, though it is prompted by a few notes being sounded (not by him, as far as I am aware) with regard to his resignation letter, and the circumstances surrounding it.

First, pastoral qualification is never merely a matter of apparent giftedness and effectiveness. It has at its root a question of character. I thankfully acknowledge that, mercifully, and to the best of our knowledge, Mark has not been guilty of "immorality, illegality and heresy." Nevertheless, I protest that this is not the issue in the matter of pastoral qualification and disqualification. The presence of scandalous and often public sin would certainly disqualify any man from ministry at that point in time and very possibly perpetually. Its mere absence, though, is not the same as being qualified for ministry. There are a set of very specific and detailed qualifications that are necessary - not optional - for any man who would be an under-shepherd of any flock of God. For the sake of completeness, here they are, with some emphasised elements, some relating to present and some to past issues:
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behaviour, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1Tim 3:1-7)

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you--if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. (Ti 1:5-9)
Many moons ago, a few of us worked briefly through these issues, some relevant ones being here. Any man - however prominent, apparently gifted or seemingly effective - who falls short in these matters is disqualified from the pastorate. If these matters of character remain as unresolved patterns of behaviour in any man seeking to shepherd the flock of God, then he cannot - for the sake of the church, he must not! - be permitted to take that office.

A second matter has to do with the matter of apologies and forgiveness. We are often told that some man has apologised for something. He was sorry he did it. Fine, and so might we all be. But an apology is not the same as repentance. The gracious dynamic that truly resolves sin and its offence is not the mere passage of time, nor the issuing of a more-or-less public apology (see here for more on this). It is the expression of sincere repentance, with its appropriate fruits, with forgiveness extended in principle and practice, leading - we trust - to genuine reconciliation and appropriate restoration. Quite apart from anything else, I can be sorry for a sin that I may or intend to go on committing. Repentance involves a God-dependent determination and whole-souled commitment to keep from sinning in that way again. So applause for apology is a different thing to forgiving the repentant, and we should not confuse the two, either in their intention or effect.

Finally, let there be no gloating: "let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1Cor 10:12). You may believe you saw this coming. You may have mourned over the painful trajectory that developed, and perhaps the failure of those who publicly applauded phases of Mark's career publicly to address the change in tack. You may have your suspicions and fears about what comes next. But to revel in the sin of another is a demonic thing. To rejoice in a man's public downfall is to join Satan's company. When you see another man, any man, sinning and stumbling, remember that - but for the grace of God - that is you, and pray with tears that it might never be.