The Privilege of Training Pastors
In this installment of The Pastor-Professor, I am not going to focus on syllabus construction, educational philosophy, or classroom management. I want to step back and consider the grand privilege and strategic opportunity of training pastors.
If we’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that time is short. From Covid-19 deaths, to the sudden departure of famous celebrities (Kobe Bryant was the saddest for me), to the unceasing reports of fatal tragedies on the news, to loved ones we may have lost in 2020, the reality we cannot escape is that our time on earth is short.
But not only is our time on this earth short; it is also limited. We may have grand dreams of ministry effectiveness and reach, but we are regularly confronted by the hard truth that our time, spiritual gifting, natural talents, and physical and mental energy are all finite.
Like it or not, we each only have 168 hours in a week, a third of which must be given to sleep. God graciously provides each of us with spiritual gifts, but no Christian possesses the fullness of every gift. We each have natural abilities with which God has endowed us, but none of us is good at everything (and, even if we were good at everything, we simply don’t have the time to do everything we’re good at). Even though I am only forty-one, I recognize with each passing year that my physical and mental energy are steadily-diminishing commodities. I’m tired just writing this.
Face it: our desire for global gospel impact notwithstanding, we are incredibly limited men.
While squaring up to this truth may seem depressing at first, there is actually great freedom to be found in embracing our limited time, abilities, and influence. Importantly, we are able to discern how to best use these limited resources. When resources are abundant and supply seems endless, we don’t naturally think hard about how make the most of those assets. But when we are confronted with scarcity, we tend to manage our resources with greater care and distribute our capital with more intentionality. Scarcity often leads to higher-quality resource allocation.
A sober-minded assessment of our limited time, abilities, and reach, combined with our desire to exalt Christ as far and wide as possible, leads us to make ministry investments that promise the greatest return. Among the various opportunities to which we could give ourselves, what work affords us enduring and far-reaching gospel impact like training other pastors?
Through our work each quarter we are equipping men to effectively edify the saints, evangelize the lost, and make disciples in churches all throughout the Bay Area. The quality of their ministry will have an immediate impact on the people and will soon move beyond their local church to the surrounding communities and even the world. As people are saved and equipped under a faithful pastoral ministry—a ministry that, by God’s grace, we had the opportunity to shape and strengthen—those well-supplied saints will make more disciples who will, in turn, make more disciples (Matt 28:18-20; 2 Tim 2:2).
Multiplying Your Labors
The material you teach in the classroom, the character you exhibit throughout a student’s course of study, and the passion with which you speak of Christ and his Word, has the potential to make its way to a multitude of people you will never meet this side of eternity. By preparing faithful pastors through a Christ-centered theological education, you are multiplying your limited resources exponentially. You may only have $9.00 worth of time, gifts, and energy, but if you invest that in the right way, you may end up with 100,000% return. And those gains will last much longer than Bitcoin.
Your labor, therefore, is not in vain (1 Cor 15:58). As a former seminary student, I can still trace the influence of my professors directly to my current ministry. Even the men with whom I only took one class shaped me in deep and lasting ways. The way I approach and understand the Bible, how I view the Christian life, and my vision for pastoral ministry has been molded by my seminary professors—not exclusively, but no less certainly. Their labors, therefore, are bearing fruit in my ministry today as I pass on what I learned from them to those God has entrusted to my care.
So, brothers, keep pressing on. Keep pouring yourself into theological education. By God’s grace, your work will be multiplied in lives all over the world for the glory of Christ.