In Paul David Tripp’s book Dangerous Calling he says, “The ultimate purpose of the Word of God is not theological information but heart and life transformation. Biblical literacy and theological expertise are not, therefore, the end of the Word of God but a God-ordained means to an end, and the end is a radically transformed life because the worship at the center of that life has been reclaimed. This means it is dangerous to teach, discuss, and exegete the Word without this goal in view.”[mfn] (p. 51)[/mfn]
In this book, Tripp shares his concerns regarding men gaining a theological education that is often times divorced from the life of the church. It is common for churches to send their young men who have demonstrated a giftedness for ministry to an institution where the vast majority of their time is invested in gaining biblical knowledge. This biblical knowledge is often not integrated into the life of the believer and then invested in the lives of others who are in the church. Very few men have the opportunity to marry their theological education with intentional, intensive involvement in the life of the local church.
Tripp continues, “Their spiritual life became immediately more privatized when they left their home church to go to seminary in another city. For many, the seminary became their primary spiritual community, a community that was neither personal nor pastoral in the way it handled Scripture and related to the student. Having graduated from an environment where, for three or more years, they were not pastored and had a rather casual relationship to a local church, they are now called by a church that doesn’t really know them. This is all magnified by the fact that they are not joining the church per se; no, they have been called to lead it.” [mfn](pp. 84-85)[/mfn]
Certainly, there is a grave danger when we train pastors in a venue that is not integrated into the life of the local church. When I say “integrated into the life of the church,” I mean the church is actively providing practical training for men who are pursuing pastoral ministry. Having men attend a good church is vastly different than carefully training them within the context of a biblical church! We understand that in many professions an internship is essential for a person to be qualified to do particular jobs. Having a surgeon who only had classroom experience would be terrifying! Well, having a pastor whose training has essentially been academic is equally terrifying.
If you are considering ministry as a vocation, please understand that gaining a biblical education is critical, but it should not be divorced from the life of the church. Carefully pray and consider opportunities where you can gain the biblical knowledge that you need as well as receive the essential mentoring from godly men who are actively serving in the local church.
See more about Dangerous Calling at Paul Tripp’s site.