[See also Pastors and Seminary Education].
Q: Is seminary necessary for those going into ministry?
A: A seminary education, or the equivalent, is necessary for going into ministry.
Q: Why is seminary education, or its equivalent, necessary?
A: Ministry deals with issues of spiritual life and death. Just like a doctor requires training in dealing with bodily ailments, so a minister requires training in dealing with spiritual ailments.
Q: Isn't a heart of caring for people and a life of piety towards God in prayer and reading His Word sufficient?
A: No. Just as a doctor who cares for people and who interacts with doctors still requires further education and on the job training, so likewise a person who cares for others and who is pious still requires seminary and other ministerial training.
Q: But weren't the apostles unschooled, and thus isn't a requirement of seminary education an addition to the Bible?
A: No. The apostles had personal "seminary" level training with Jesus for 3 intensive years, and even after that, their training was not complete until Pentecost. Paul too went into Arabia for 3 years after his conversion to re-study the Scriptures, and before that he had trained under Gamaliel.
Q: But God works even in the ministries of those who are unlearned.
A: God also used a donkey to rebuke Balaam, but we don't go around looking for talking donkeys. God used a big fish to discipline Jonah, but we don't look for big fishes to execute church discipline. Just because God uses something does not mean that we should be content and disregard the perceptive will of God.
Q: Does that mean that someone who is not seminary trained (or the equivalent) should not go into ministry?
A: Yes. Since ministry involves issues of spiritual life and death, it is better not to go into ministry untrained for the task. God can and does use our imperfect service, but we should not be pragmatists and should follow God's perceptive will instead of presuming upon Him.
Q: Does this imply that full knowledge is required for ministry?
A: No. All Christians, including ministers, are still learning. But it's a sin to willfully neglect what has been known, the traditions of the Church, and thus ignore the collective knowledge, wisdom and insights of the saints, and attempt to minister accordingly. Just like doctors do not have full knowledge and should be ever learning, so likewise ministers should be adequately trained, and yet still continue learning.
Q: What do we say then of a church without adequately trained ministers?
A: It is a church without adequately trained shepherds, who ought to get training if and as soon as possible so as to avoid potential cases of pastoral malpractice.
Q: Are there any problems with a loving pastor who is not adequately trained?
A: Yes. Precisely because he cares for the flock and presumably the flock loves him, he has great influence over the sheep. If he unknowingly promotes error, the flock will follow him too because they trust him. There is nothing more dangerous than love (and zeal) without knowledge.