Knowledge, Arrogance, and Ministry

"Does God put a premium on ignorance in the ministry? We know that he has no use for the pride of learning, but neither does he care for the arrogance of ignorance." (A.T. Robertson, "Preaching and Scholarship", SBTS, 1890)

How fascinating that arrogant pride is the temptation of the most learned down to the least. The arrogance of each rests on what he knows. Yet the former, avoiding puffing himself up, discerns and decides of an informed mind. But the latter can only humbly accept the limits put on him by his lack of information, lest he assert confidently that for which he has no justification, thus slipping into arrogance (thinking more highly of oneself than one ought). So the informed and the uninformed, both at their best, are clearly not on level ground with regard to certain capacities and functions.

That does not belittle the unlearned person; it only limits the way(s) in which he or she may contribute to society. Put bluntly, different vocations require different preparations. In the economy of God, this is no different. There is room and necessity for people of all dispositions and levels of education and intellectual capacity in "ministry", for ministry is the responsibility (not to mention, joy!) of all the people of God.
"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Cor 12:4-7)

But some roles—and in my view, the one of the pastor who "labors in preaching and teaching" (1 Tim 5:17)—clearly should be reserved for the most informed. No doubt this seems a bit arbitrary, if not overstated, and it certainly is the latter.

Here is the rule we ought to follow: those responsible for the role of overseer (episkopos) or elder (presbuteros), and especially those charged with "preaching and teaching", should have education (not least, biblical-theological education) greater than the average committed, ministering member of their congregation. That will obviously differ from congregation to congregation, and locale to locale. But the superlative rule should be consistent, if overseers are to be faithful to their charge in Acts 20:27-30 to "declare to [their congregations] the whole counsel of God" and "to care for the church of God," guarding them from the attacks of "wolves [who come in among them] . . . who speak twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them." This is the task of the overseer (or elder or "pastor"), in contrast to deacons, whose tasks are more practical—even physical, emotional and social—in nature.

Unfortunately, there is much confusion today regarding what exactly a "pastor" is, with the rise of the multi-pastoral staff phenomenon and the accompanying "niche pastors." I won't deny the differences in personality and gifting among genuine pastors, but if we are to take the Word of God seriously as our guide for such matters, we must avoid the temptation to broaden the term to include virtually all persons who do vocational ministry in a local church. This will be a tremendous help to those feeling a call into "the ministry" and trying to discern the role for which they are best suited (by God, of course). Too often, true pastors are strong-armed into non-pastoral (usually administrative, managerial, or logistical) roles, for which they (like myself) are not suited. And then they are judged by their performance and then often, because of incompatible giftings and responsibilities, are deemed unfit for "the ministry" (or at least church ministry). This is tragic, but it happens all the time.

My question for you is, in addition to clarifying biblically the role of a pastor, what can we do about this on a more systematic, structural level?

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