Formal Theological Education Is Helpful But Not Necessary

As a person who holds two advanced degrees from two different seminaries, I place a high value on theological education. But I have learned that while a formal theological education is helpful, it is not necessary for a person to accomplish effective ministry. I have met numerous pastors who were self-taught and were extremely effective in their ministries. I have also met a significant number of lay people who could discuss deep theological issues even though they had no formal theological education.

Not long ago I was involved in an effort to train lay people to help their pastors accomplish effective ministry in their churches. Over the course of two months nearly four dozen laymen from ten churches learned how to preach and make pastoral quality visits. Some church and/or denominational leaders may feel that teaching lay people to preach and giving them significant pastoral duties will weaken the church. My point of view is that if laymen are given adequate training, then there would be no reason to expect inadequate preaching and pastoral care from them.

While there may be some voices of concern regarding the quality of lay preachers, a rising chorus of voices is also calling for increased training for lay ministers so they can be as effective as possible. Steve Nerger writes in his book, Bivocational Church Planters: Uniquely Wired for Kingdom Growth, “God has a unique calling for pastors. We are not trying to diminish that. However, this calling is not just for seminary-trained men. That is a North American mistake created by the arrogance of humankind with the prestige of a human-made education.” Nerger recognizes the role of formal theological education in training ministry leaders; he just believes that people have gotten so focused on formal education that they may have missed the bigger implications of God’s calling on a person’s life to serve in ministry.

Formal education has great value. Men who want to minister should avail themselves of such education when possible. But people should not let their lack of formal theological training keep them from serving the Lord. The bottom line is that when God calls people to serve Him, God will help those people answer that calling regardless of the level of their formal theological education.

Dr. Terry Dorsett is a bivocational pastor and church planting missionary in Vermont. He is the author of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, published by CrossBooks and available at CrossBooks, Amazon and 25,000 other online retailers.


~ by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett on February 4, 2011.

3 Responses to “Formal Theological Education Is Helpful But Not Necessary”

  1. I agree Terry I would like to see more churches involved in training lay people into ministry work.I am a member of compass church in Collyville Texas 2600 plus members..But they have started 2 daughter churches one in Roanoke Where I attend..Compass Roanoke Texas with about 150 members but I feel like if I had training somewhere else to share Gods word to unchurched people I could be a great leader.We have Friends In Ma and they tell us all the time the northeast is a unchurched area with a great need. But of course as Head of my Household I get concerned about where to live and provding for my family.I know God will provide it I am just one of those people that dont like change and he has to open the door for us to move but I havent seen the door or atleast if I have it has not been opened wide enough for me to see it.I just think if I had training as a layperson then I might feel like I could go and do whatever God calls me and my Family to do.But you are right we need mentors and Pastors to call on to help us with this to make churches especially in Vermont or even Boston Area able to teach and reach unchurched people to know about the Love of God and his Son Jesus..Thanks have a blessed day and continue to preach God’s word everyday. I imagine Vermont is So beautiful this time of year with all the snow..God Bless..Greg Livingston

  2. Greg,
    Thanks for your post. I am praying for the Lord to give you leadership as you seek ways to serve Him. When God calls a man, God also provides for that man, usually in ways that could not be planned out completely in advance. That’s why He is God and we are not.


  3. Amazon has temporarily lowered the price on my book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church to $13.57. That is 32% off the regular price. It is a great time to pick up copies for your leadership team. You can read all about this book at this link:

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