Gotta Go with Piper On This One

This video has been making the rounds:

I’m with Piper here (surprisingly) for the simple fact that I think if you’re already pastoring, assuming God has called you to pastor, then you’re doing what you should be doing.  I don’t think a PhD is necessarily going to make anyone a better pastor even if it will put them in a position to know more stuff or to think more critically.  The best pastors I’ve ever met have all been without formal education.  This isn’t to say that they weren’t competent handlers of the Bible, they were, but something  they have that formal education can’t give is a heart for God’s people.  Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t scratch and itch to do a PhD if you have it.  If it’s something you want to do then do it; just make sure you count the cost first.

B”H

13 thoughts on “Gotta Go with Piper On This One

  1. This video resonated with me to an extent. I’ve been out of seminary six years and here I am throwing myself to the wolves of academia. I think experience and mentors are the best teachers of pastors, but advanced study of Scripture is a great plus for pastors. Of course, like you say, some of the best pastors happen to have no formal training, but the obverse is also true: some of the best pastors have PhDs in biblical studies. I just hope that my end result is what Piper described about having a “deep grasp of God and his ways in the world,” for without that, one is just another academician. I also offer a hearty “amen!” to his comments about having to know what everyone else has to say about a verse–so true!

  2. “the best pastors I’ve met are those without formal education”… Hi Nick, I doubt this is true in every instance. I would be worried if the best pastors are those without formal education. I do agree that the most important thing for a pastor is a heart of God’s people. That you can’t learn from books or pastoral theology textbooks. That’s why I always emphasize the studying of biblical languages, the Bible and church history/Fathers as the best resources for equipping pastors. And I agree 100% you don’t need a PhD for pastoring, though a few PhDs will do good among the ranks of pastors.

  3. He’s got a point, though I’m sad the the current state of affairs makes it very difficult to be a good minister and a good scholar. The opposite has been true for most of church history, but now it seems lime they both require too much time to coexist :-(. I’m thinking especially of NT Wright leaving his bishop’s post to return to the academy.

  4. Esteban: That’s because wisdom accompanies age. ;-)

    Jason: I thought of you when I first saw it. I’m curious about what you plan to do with the PhD once you get it. Do you see it aiding in your role as a pastor in a way that intensive personal study couldn’t have done?

    Tony: Oh, I wasn’t making a generalization, I was simply relating my personal experience. I’m not opposed to pastors getting PhDs if they feel called to get them; I just wonder what they plan to do with them once they get them. For the person who feels led to teaching in an institution then I can see the payoff. For the guy who simply shepherds a flock then I wonder how much use it will really be. And I’m a fan of pastors knowing the Biblical languages but I’m also of the opinion that most pastors don’t know them as well as the teams producing our translations.

    Alex: Ya know I always wondered exactly what Wright did as a bishop. He always seemed to me like an academic and never really a clergyman. Then again, I’ve never been an Anglican, and I have no idea what Anglican bishops are supposed to do.

    TC: Then you must be correct! ;-)

  5. Nick: Ultimately I hope to teach in a college/seminary setting. As far as the pastorate goes, I will probably do that until I feel God’s lead elsewhere. I don’t know that I could attain the same level of exegetical ability apart from post-grad study. It’s certainly possible, but I learn better when I can interact with profs rather than just reading and reflecting.

    If it happens that it means both pastoring and teaching, I think that would be good, though I can’t imagine how demanding that would be!

  6. Jason: If that’s the case then I can see why you’d get the PhD. Could you see yourself doing one if you didn’t have aspirations to teach in such a setting?

  7. Nick, I thought I answered your last question for Jason. When I did my PhD I have no idea at all or any aspiration to teach in a College. It was purely because I thought I needed at least 3 years to understand the book of Revelation plus the fact God has made the provision in the form of a full doctoral scholarship from the University. And when I finished my PhD I pastored a church for 5 years before taking up a teaching position as Lecturer in NT, Singapore.

  8. Tony: That’s a great testimony! If God provided for it with a full scholarship then it definitely seems worth pursuing.

    Jason: That’s what I figured.

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