Thursday, February 21, 2013

Becoming a Shepherd

Schools produce scholars; pastures produce pastors. 

While an indispensable part of a pastor's job is in fact scholarship, and the merits of a formal theological education are unassailable, the best way to learn the art of shepherding people is by spending a great deal of time with them - listening to them, serving them, teaching them, learning from them, laughing and crying and ministering alongside them, loving them...

Some reliable studies show that something like 80% of people who graduate from Bible colleges and seminaries and enter into full-time pastoral ministry leave the ministry within 5 years. Of course there are many reasons for this, but what cannot be ignored is the model being used to prepare people for ministry. The Western model goes something like this: Undergrad > Seminary > Internship > local church. Internships are valuable, but they cannot replicate the effect of time and experience, no matter how well crafted.

I am coming to believe that this model is fundamentally flawed. A disciple is really an apprentice, and we need to see discipling people, particularly those who will serve as leaders, in terms more like apprenticeship. Apprenticeship involves both formal education and YEARS of working alongside a master at the trade, in order to learn intimately how to master the art.

While it's true that food can be produced in a lab, most people agree that food grown in a field is better. In the same way, becoming a pastor should be much more organic. Lots of time in the field with the sheep, under a gifted and skilled mentor, knowing and being known - being tested and proven in the laboratory of the real world. Our failure rate is so high because the model we use is fundamentally flawed. The sooner we recognize this and take steps to change the model, the better.


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