In Favor of Church-Based Pastoral Formation – Part 5

In Favor of Church-Based Pastoral Formation – Part 5

Part 5: What if the Church is the Problem?


I would like to conclude this series in defense of church-based pastoral formation, responding to a very important critique: “What if the church is the problem?”

Let’s imagine a situation in which the local churches of a certain region or denomination are given over to traditionalism over the Bible or, perhaps, to unbelief or to worldliness. Their leadership lacks credibility; the church is slowly dying. In such a situation church-based pastoral formation is untenable. It would reproduce its current leadership, possibly accelerating its doom. There is little or nothing in the context of formation that would positively influence the process. Church-based versus non church-based pastoral formation may as well be the choice between the gallows and the guillotine.

An intervention is needed. It may come in the form of renewed theological education outside of the boundaries of local churches.

I have said elsewhere that church-based pastoral formation is not a panacea, to heal all the ills that afflict the endeavor of placing godly, well-prepared men to shepherd Christ’s blood-bought flock. As with most everything in the Christian life, the spiritual and unseen elements are more important that the physical structures and systems. To borrow the illustration from Payne and Marshall, the trellis without a vine is meaningless. The fundamentals of pastoral formation are found in the godly character and sound doctrine of those men engaged in the work, reproducing men like themselves (if not a little better by God’s grace).

And so, to have men of character, fully submitted to Scripture engaged in the task of pastoral formation in the context of a seminary or Bible institute, or a log cabin in Pennsylvania, is to have the potential for wonderful pastoral formation and multiplication.

And so, if you are laboring in theological education and the discipleship of future leaders in places where the pulpits of the churches are wastelands, where a good man is most hard to find, know that your work has tremendous transformative potential. If your life reflects the Gospel and your Gospel is pure, God may be pleased to use you to breath the life of his Word back into churches, that they may be abundantly fruitful for his glory.

Biblically qualified elders training faithful men in the context of local church ministry is ideal. If we can have it all, why not take all we can get? However, the essence of the undertaking is found in the Gospel and in men already transformed by it. Put them together and the church finds a glimmer of hope in her darkest hours.


About The Author

Jeremiah is the Director of the Pastors School of First Baptist Church of Atibaia in Brazil. He is married to Ana Karlina (2006) and they have one daughter, Manuela.

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