The Moving Word

Writer, Preacher, Bookworm, Student of the Word

An Open Letter to Preachers

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In the nearly 20 years I have spent preaching or training to do so, I have seen countless instances of squabbling over whether a preacher should get an education.

Those on both sides have fired volleys across the library barricades and too many injuries have occurred.

I call for a ceasefire!

We must raise the white flag before any more brethren suffer. This ridiculous fighting is too childish for honorable, godly men.

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Too many preachers who are self-taught have monstrous chips on their shoulders, and their words are venomous towards the issue of an education.

On the other hand, too many preachers who have an education see themselves as being better than everyone else.

STOP! It’s time for a reality check.

While preaching is a calling, it is still basically a trade. Meaning, it is something you learn to do well through training from someone more experienced and practical application learned in the pew and in the pulpit.

From the beginning of time, apprenticeships have helped men and women learn trades. They have taken place in the fields, the office, the classroom, etc.

Training serves a variety of purposes and none are superior or inferior since they all serve different functions. Rating them as to levels of importance is juvenile. There are innumerable factors that go into one’s training and abilities. We are all different so one size will never fit all.

Peter, Andrew, James and John were uneducated fisherman while Paul had the equivalent of an advanced university degree (Acts 22:3). Would they have fought over who was better if they were all in the same place? If so, Jesus would likely have told them to hush because they were completely missing the point.

If you are knowledgeable and teaching the gospel without an education, do so with all of your energy. Insecurity requires too much time and energy and Satan can use that to distract you from your mission.

If you do have an education, be humble and do not allow Satan to turn that against you. Anyone who does have a degree needs to spend a few dollars and read the slim volume, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke. It is a brilliant parody of  what can happen when an advanced education begins to corrupt your brain and vision.

For the most part, an education doesn’t corrupt people but it can expose weaknesses that are already there ready for the picking.

Never in the history of the world do we have greater opportunities to learn than we do right now. Technologies have given us a universe of study tools. Anyone who is self-taught today and doesn’t use these tools [thousands of which are free] has greater issues than a lack of a formal education!

We all need to relax and stop spending so much time sizing each other up like children on the playground. We need to be men and not scared little boys. The Lord needs better than we are offering.

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4 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Preachers

  1. Good piece; never have understood what fussing there may have been, and am fortunate I hear nothing now. I have been both. I will relax, as you have said (time of the evening). I am aas tight as a loose rubber band … I think.

    • bobbyvalentine on said:

      I certainly agree with you Richard that this is not something worth fighting about. Your analogy of the apprenticeship is a good one too. Apprenticeships are education in that unique vocation. Those who finished apprenticeships were considered master craftsmen in themselves. They had an education appropriate to the task in which they were called. Ministers should view themselves this way no matter where we come from.

      Education is not limited to getting a BS, MA, MDiv, DMin or even a PhD. Education is learning and having an openness toward learning regardless of the setting. We aim to be master craftsmen with an education appropriate to our calling. Some are privileged to have the opportunity to sit in an academic setting for learning. This is in fact a gift of grace and should be viewed as such. It is not to be criticized as is so often the case. But education is not limited to such settings.

      My dad is a shining example. My dad is a master mechanic. He never finished high school. But he a few years back decided he was going to get his GED. And he did. He did not “need” it, he is nearly 70 after all!! All his life he has been self-educated. I recall him getting my old algebra book and working the problems on his own. He pursued “religious” learning with equal gusto. My dad sat on the floor, for as long as I can remember, back leaning on the couch surrounded by Nave’s Topical Bible, Strong’s, Unger’s Bible Handbook, a Thompson Chain Reference Bible, R. L. Whiteside’s Sound Doctrine (5 Vols), and Adam Clarke nearby to study. He was never afraid to pic up a book and read it. I never heard him bash some “learned” preacher because he had a degree and he did not. My dad knows the text. He is not an academic scholar but he is a scholar. He would be and is the last person to discourage “learning.”

      We should not be afraid to grow in knowledge and we should shun mediocrity. There are unlettered folks like my dad who by virtue of their industry, reading and study have a more than average understanding of the world of the Bible. There are also men who have letters who are dumber than dirt. I have taught a few actually. There is a difference in seeking an education and seeking letters behind your name. May we all be like my dad … Bereans who hunger and thirst for the deep waters of the Word. Celebrate education in all its forms.

      Shalom,
      Bobby Valentine

      • mhpreach on said:

        I have seen those who lack say, high school education, bash those with education every chance they get.

  2. I agree with u Bobby. A lot of lack of formal education brethren are envious of brethren with education and will put those who have down every chance they get. Plus use their lack of, even high school as an excuse for not doing or studying.

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