I received John Cobb’s book, Reclaiming the Church (Westminister John Knox Press, 1997) as part of the Theo-Blogger Consortium.

Of all the issues that John Cobb raises in his book, the one I personally found most relevant and significant was the professionalization of theology (page 22).

Cobb writes about the changes that have occurred during the past fifty years in the United States, and while I am not familiar with the situation in the US, I know that this is a huge problem in Australia. Pastors are trained to be theologians. This leads to numerous problems.

When Jesus called the first apostles they were not academically inclined, they were fishermen and trades people. Likewise those who feel called to pastor should not be disqualified because they are not capable of getting a university degree. Jesus used the apprentice method to teach his disciples on the job skills. He demonstrated compassion, mercy, justice, faith and the disciples learnt from what they experienced. Likewise I believe the church needs to return to this method of training its future leaders.

My husband studied at a theological college where one of his lecturers complained that his essay sounded like a sermon and not like an essay. What a ridiculous complaint! We don’t need pastors that can write essays we need pastors who can preach sermons.

We are encouraging the wrong types of people to go into pastoral ministry. We don’t need people who love intellectual discussions and in depth study of the original language. We need people who can communicate, who care more about people than books, who have experienced real life dramas and not been cloistered away in a university.

The church has been sucked into training people the way the world trains them. By isolating them in universities and rewarding them with academic achievements but not highlighting the truly important qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We forget that Paul told Timothy, “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (I Timothy 1:5 NASB). The goal is not to get an A on exam papers but rather to exercise love.

My question for the consortium:
What do you think, would the apprentice model be more effective than the university model for training future leaders?