“The Largest Stumbling Block to Leadership Development in the Global Church“
We are not training the right people, not just because the right people don’t want to study, but many times we’re not making what we have accessible to the right people. In Guatemala Jim Emery had already figured out that the key leaders that the church really depended upon weren’t able to go off to the capital for years to seminary and then come back to their families and their jobs. They couldn’t do it.
And I have calculated that if you wanted to finance all those real local leaders at your proper theological seminary training, it would run about $15 billion per year. There are about 2 million functional pastors who can’t formally qualify for ordination, or who are barely ordained, or who are mostly not ordained simply because they cannot practically penetrate the formal mechanism of theological education even if it might be theoretically accessible to them. That’s how many functional pastors there are who are literally functioning as pastors but do not have a scrap of formal, theological education – and never will, the way things are going.
Access is the problem. It is the problem of access. The real leaders, the gifted people that God could readily utilize in a pastoral capacity, are right there in those churches. You go to the 12,000 congregations, you’ll find at least an average of three people in each of those congregations who, with the proper theological training, could be ordained and could do a better job than the person who is in the pulpit. The entire number of students in Bible schools and seminaries is still only a drop in the bucket compared to the functional pastors running the churches who can’t make it to school because they are busy planting new churches, holding down bi-vocational jobs and families as well.
What I said was perfectly possible. It was perfectly uninteresting. Fuller was intent on being conventional. What was good for church leadership had become a question of what was good for the establishment of a conventional school. We fight against mammoth cultural forces: the degree-mania of our time, especially in Asia, the inflation of units, the redefinition of all kinds of thins; but probably the worst of all is what I would call institutionalization, which replaces the end with the means.
Whenever an institution of any kind becomes so concerned about its own existence, that is the beginning of decline right there. All kinds of institutions measure themselves by different things. But when an institution comes to the point when its leaders measure themselves by how many students are there or what their enrollment is – see, that’s only a means to the end. The question is, who’s there? Or more poignantly, who is it that isn’t there?
Question: In what sense do you evaluate the view of some denominations about the professionalization of the pastorate as a requirement, for instance with an M.Div.? What kind of effect does that have?
Winter: It’s like shooting yourself in the foot. Really. That’s the historical fact. Every single denomination in this country that has required formal, extensive graduate professional training for ordination is going downhill There are no exceptions in the whole world. In fact people have gotten the wrong impression about seminaries, joking about cemeteries, and so on.
They assume that whoever the students are, a good curriculum will graduate good pastors. Rather, even a poor curriculum would graduate good pastors if highly gifted, mature Christians were the students! Seminaries have no policy of turning such people away; they simply don’t give access to them – which is something which ought to be their highest priority.
ACCESS is a society of schools which have learned how to educate at a distance. Our experience over the last 26 years has proven for any perceptive person that real education does not have to take place through incarceration. We hold the key to the maintenance of an educating lifestyle that allows people to learn and at the same time attend to the meaningful duties of real life rather than the by-now culturally approved years-upon-years of an artificial world that is numbing and perverting.
When, without blinking, we measure education by years in school, when we say someone is more highly educated than someone else if he has lost more years in the school world, we are very nearly totally confusing the means with the end. Years ago I defined extension education for myself very simply as ” that form of education which does not disrupt the student’s productive relation to society.”