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As a Baptist, while I don't know of any specific requirements for a pastor, it is generally accepted that a head pastor would have some sort of seminary education, be it a Masters or even a Doctorate degree. That is certainly the way that it has been at all of the churches I have attended in America.

I appreciate that the notion of a seminary, at least the sort of seminary that we have today, didn't exist when the Bible was written. But is there any biblical basis for requiring that a pastor or other leader have some level of training or education? I can appreciate the fact that people can serve in different ways regardless of their education or background, but what does the Bible say about having the pastor or leader being educated?

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Does your definition of "Pastor" include spiritual gifting (such as shepherding or teaching)? Does it include leading/being an elder? ...something else or some combination of these? (There are distinct passages related to each of these.) Also, by "some level of training or education" are you excluding one-on-one discipleship/impartation and specifically referring to formal training and education? Sorry to be knit-picky, but our modern institutions are not always equivalent to the Biblical definitions & models. –  Jas 3.1 May 21 '12 at 21:46
Really what I am interested in is if someone is called to be in a leadership role of some kind, is there some a requirement for that person to have training or education, be it formal or informal. And if the requirements are different for different roles, what are those requirements? –  A. Still May 21 '12 at 22:56
James 3:1-2 says teachers will be held to a higher standard/judged more strictly. God uses whomever he pleases. I believe the heart must be right. Having elders or leaders in the church to hold pastors and teachers accountable is important. –  user1675 May 22 '12 at 3:21

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

1 Timothy 3 spells out some requirements for being bishops (and deacons). For example, verse 6:

Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

So it's evident that a bishop (or pastor, from episcopos, meaning "overseer") should be trained or experienced such that he is not "a novice" (from the Greek neophyton, referring to one who is newly converted).

Paul lists similar and other requirements to Titus, in Titus 1:5-9. Interestingly, most of the requirements described by Paul are related to worthiness, not intelligence or education.

There are several instances of scripture where the seemingly less-qualified men were chosen as leaders. Old Testament prophets such as David and Amos were called by God in their simplicity. (See 1 Sam. 16:1-13 and Amos 7:14-15.)

Not all prophets, pastors/bishops, and leaders have been poor or simple, however. Moses was raised by Pharoah's daughter and almost certainly had access to the royal libraries. (This is one reason I've heard for explaining how Moses knew he would be the one to deliver Israel, as mentioned in Acts 7:25. He was educated and knew the prophecies of Joseph.)

In the verses in Titus I mentioned, Paul tells Titus to "set in order ... and ordain elders." Paul also recalls that He was "ordained" in 1 Tim. 2:7 to be a teacher, preacher, and in his case, an apostle. (Jeremiah was also, see Jer. 1:5.)

We will recall that Christ found fishermen and other common laborers, invited them to follow Him, and He and ordained them to be leaders, as in John 15:16:

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

Church leaders continued to call local leaders in a similar manner, as mentioned in Acts 14:23. Similar ordinations to positions of leadership, seemingly regardless of educational level, happened in the Old Testament from Samuel, Moses, and Isaac.

After having done a little bit of research now, I can't seem to find any real consistency in the Biblical text about the need for pastors to be educated. It's apparent that they ought to be experienced, have a sure testimony of the gospel, and meet standards for worthiness, but in ancient texts it's not easy to find any need for formal, or even informal, education: something uniquely common in our era. The Lord prepares whom He will to serve in those capacities: with or without formal education. (Though I'm sure He encourages learning and studying!)

I suppose there's an emphasis on it today because our society demands that those who instruct us be scholars and have a degree.

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Here are a few potentially relevant angles to consider:


David was a shepherd until he was anointed king at the age of 30. Jesus was a carpenter until it was His time to begin His ministry (at the age of 30). Examples such as these may indicate that God desires to bring us through times of preparation prior to entering into our calling.


Elisha clung to Elijah, and after the death of his master, Elisha received Elijah's mantle along with a "double-portion" of his spirit. Jesus spent 3+ years with His disciples teaching and modeling kingdom living, and then released them to do the same (and greater!) things after He was gone. Examples such as these may indicate that God desires discipleship to happen with the older (i.e. wiser) imparting truth to the younger.

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders - 1 Peter 5:5


And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ - Ephesians 4:11-12

God gave teachers to the body for a reason, and there aren't supposed to be very many, so we might have to share... :) It is certainly very important to value this gifting and learn from these folks.

Personal Opinion

Many modern Christians have become completely disconnected from the learnings of the great men of God who came before them. Seminary can be a great opportunity to:

  • Connect with some of the foremost modern Bible teachers

  • Become acquainted with the teachings of some of the greatest historical Bible teachers

  • Learn valuable lessons through study of church history (including careful consideration of past mistakes, and how to avoid these today)

  • Define your own beliefs about key topics of scripture

  • Learn alternative perspectives - this is especially helpful in ministering to folks with different beliefs than your own

Of course, God can do whatever He wants... Noah (presumably) had never built an ark before God told Him to, neither had David been king, or Moses led a nation... but beyond the extreme cases of "supernatural impartation" lies a realm of "wisdom" and "learning" where we can take responsibility for pursuing sound doctrine as faithful, serious servants of the Lord.

So, in summary, I see it as valuable (extremely valuable if you're going to be a teacher), but probably not required.

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of course, Moses did have 40 years of experience tending sheep - not all that different from his task tending the wayward people of God :) –  warren May 22 '12 at 3:16
@Warren: And before that, 40 years of extensive theoretical and practical political training as a prince of Egypt. –  Mason Wheeler May 22 '12 at 13:45
<Unconstructive comments removed.> –  El'endia Starman Nov 19 '12 at 19:04

what does the Bible say about having the pastor or leader being educated?

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

If we go from the Ephesians verse, we might think that pastoring is a matter of giftedness alone. (it is interesting to not that in the Greek there is a grammatical connection between pastor and teacher such that the idea of shepherding by teaching is conveyed).

1 Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

We find particularly in the letters to Timothy a type of pastoral instruction consistent with apprenticeship.

What is typically considered education today may be alien to the instruction Timothy was given. Classroom instruction is by necessity conveyor like and instruction is often reduced to packets of dessicated data. Doctrinal axioms and their intellectual defense are emphasized over engagement and persuasion that a more relational connection with people would promote.

The Bible does give a picture of pastoral instruction to someone gifted and able. But the instruction may not be consistent with what is called "education" today.

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I think there pretty clearly is NOT a Biblical requirement for formal education to be a leader in the church.

Yes, some of the leaders of Israel and of the church mentioned in the Bible were well-educated: Moses, Luke, and Paul come to mind.

But most of the 12 disciples were lower-class people with little formal education. David was a shepherd -- not a career that generally requires a college degree. Etc.

Of course it's better to be well-educated than not. As a big part of the job of pastor is teaching and preaching, it makes sense for him to have an education. But I don't see anything in the Bible that says it's an absolute requirement.

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You seem to be contrasting the "well-educated" disciples with those who were simply discipled by Jesus. From the way you are using this contrast, you seem to imply that being discipled and taught by Jesus doesn't count as "formal education", and that seminary is more similar to secular education than it is to discipleship and impartation. I had a similar view early on, but after I actually began attending seminary, I was amazed to find that there was an incredible amount of discipleship & impartation happening there. (At least at that particular seminary.) –  Jas 3.1 May 22 '12 at 16:11
@Jas3.1 Please understand that I am not deprecating education in general or seminary education in particular. What I said was that the Bible does REQUIRE formal education for leadership in the church. I stand by that. I don't doubt that personal discipleship by Jesus himself was better than any seminary degree. But that wasn't the question. Try applying to be a pastor at a church that has education requirements, and tell them that you met this requirement because your neighbor Bob, who is a very intelligent and committed Christian, taught you everything he knows. –  Jay May 23 '12 at 6:11
My previous post was supposed to say "does NOT REQUIRE". Leaving out a "not" rather changes the meaning of the sentence. –  Jay May 25 '12 at 5:48

I believe that being CHOSEN by God to pastor, teach, preach is key. God chooses and anoints those for which He chooses. Continued growth and education is always a plus. However, wisdom comes from God through the Holy Spirit. To hold a pastor back for lack of a college degree or master's in divinity degree is discriminatory and an injustice to those who have been Chosen by God. Ministers without a degree have been successfully leading and have much experiential background. Should they too be held from promotional opportunities. These men/women are worthy which can be attested through their successes in ministering and making disciples. If God does not discriminate, why should man? If God has placed it in the heart of man/woman to go forth they should. If a man made doctrine calls for an individual to attend college or seminary, then they should also pay for it as this is their qualification requirement.

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Welcome to the forum. This site is an academic site rather than one of opinion. As such, answers are asked to be supported with scripture or other resources. –  Narnian Oct 8 '14 at 13:47
Welcome to our site. As Narnian says, however, "What I believe" isn't really what we do here. When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. –  Affable Geek Oct 8 '14 at 14:58

Education 2000 years ago

2000 years ago, the educated persons of the moment were the scribes, teachers of the law, pharisees, elders. Their education doesn't help to much to recognize the person of God, to understand His wisdom, the words of the Truth. They used their education to face Him, to judge Him, to accuse Him. Actually, in most cases the education became blindness.

Luke 9:22 And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."

Luke 5:21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Luke 19:47 Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him

Mark 1:22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 23:2 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.

Matthew 23:13-15 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. [“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.] “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.


Actually, His wisdom attracted simple and humble people, not so educated or uneducated. Fishermans, householders, poor people, or people without hope, beggars, handicapped, people rejected by society always followed Him, and children.

It seems that God likes more the moves of the heart rather than the moves of the mind

Luke 10:21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

Education now

The schools of today society is completely out of scope, atheistic, materialistic, destructive for the souls, and distractive from the real purpose of the life: salvation of the soul. A lot of garbage is deposited in the soul of child as knowledge, by schools, today. Studying civilization, art, culture doesn't help to gain a virtuous life. Superior schools cultivate inteligence not wisdom fo life. In one word, the education is pride.

The blidness of pride which comes by education is: "I know ... ", "I can ...", "I want ..."

John 9:39-41 And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

Luke 12:11-12 “When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

Because we pretend on this site that we are educated, thanks for downvotes ?! :)

Backup (resources and attitude)

Appended to @Wax Eagle's request from the comments:

I'd like to see some backup for that first paragraph of the "education now" section. It seems incredibly biased with no real backup. (wax eagle)

In Holy Tradition of Orthodoxy, it is known a prophecy of Great Abba Ishirion.

He was asked by someone: What did we work?
He answered: We worked the words of God!
Was asked again: But the ones after us, what would they do?
Abba Ishirion answered: They will come at half of our work.
And again: But the ones after these?
Abba replied: Those ones will have nothing to work, but to them will come the temptation. And those ones that will be found enlightened in that time, will be more high than us and more high than our parents.
(translated by me - can be erroneous)

Holy Fathers of Orthodoxy they not just read the Scriptures and made text analysis. They left their secular life completely and went into deserts or wild places to work all the words of the God, all their life (John 12:25, Matthew 10:37) to became disciples of Jesus Christ (Luke 14:26), to write the Scriptures in their heart with Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:2-3, Jeremiah 31:33). And all their results, fruits, they transmitted to the next generations through the disciples, and these ones continued their work and enriched with new meanings. In this way, the scriptures were interpreted and understood with their life, with sweat and blood, and Holy Tradition recorded everything from the time of apostles until the present day from them.

In this light can be understood what Abba Ishirion said. He said that old parents worked hard for their "fruits". And the next generations worked at half, by reusing experience of the ancestors, to continue the other part of the ancestor's way, by keeping everything they received from their fruits. And then, the last generations in the last days (of the world), will not be necessarily to work anything similar to their parents, because they will have the entire experience of the ancestors and they will use to fight and to resist to the temptations, these temptations being more intense than ever. And the reward of those ones who succeed will be also bigger than ever (John 14:2). This is the meaning of the:

Matthew 20:16 “So the last shall be first, and the first last.”

This recorded experience is not only an anatomy of the soul, a soul transformed by sins or lusts, under influence of various spirits, also discovers ways to fight against them and against evil to become sinless, and in the end to receive His supreme gift, the Holy Spirit (http://tzarlazar.tripod.com/lazar04.htm). This is what is missing from Christian's schools or seminaries, this wisdom is endangered being replaced currently with weak, stupid and useless teachings.

Orthodox saint Seraphim of Sarov, as temple of Holy Spirit, explained how to understand the parable of the virgins:

But the first, God's all-saving will, consists in doing good solely to acquire the Holy Spirit, as an eternal, inexhaustible treasure which cannot be rightly valued. The acquisition of the Holy Spirit is, so to say, the oil which the foolish virgins lacked. They were called foolish just because they had forgotten the necessary fruit of virtue, the grace of the Holy Spirit, without which no one is or can be saved, for: 'Every soul is quickened by the Holy Spirit and exalted by purity and mystically illumined by the Trinal Unity.'

"This is the oil in the lamps of the wise virgins which could burn long and brightly, and these virgins with their burning lamps were able to meet the Bridegroom, Who came at midnight, and could enter the bridechamber of joy with Him. But the foolish ones, though they went to market to buy some oil when they saw their lamps going out, were unable to return in time, for the door was already shut. The market is our life; the door of the bridechamber which was shut and which barred the way to the Bridegroom is human death; the wise and foolish virgins are Christian souls; the oil is not good deeds but the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God which is obtained through them and which changes souls from one state to another—that is, from corruption to incorruption, from spiritual death to spiritual life, from darkness to light, from the stable of our being (where the passions are tied up like dumb animals and wild beasts) into a Temple of the Divinity, into the shining bridechamber of eternal joy in Christ Jesus our Lord, the Creator and Redeemer and eternal Bridegroom of our souls.

(excerpt from St. Seraphim of Sarov's Conversation With Nicholas Motovilov)

So even if the secular education and the contemporary society became more antichristic, day by day, these are just reasons to make worthy of God's kingdom.

(II Thessalonians 1:5) This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.

A society without God, founded on depravity and pride (pride from cult of personality - ego, or having careers with any cost, or continuous running for material lusts, ...), a Christian can use this society as an arena, where the soul can superbly act out its dramatic role aganist the temptations bigger than ever. In a soul where pride is big, the humility can be bigger, where the sin is deep till the bone, the repentence can be till the spinal of the bone. The network projected in soul to accumulate the pride to be readjusted to find proper ways to gain Kingdom of Heaven.

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If you are against the "I know ... ", "I can ...", "I want ..." attitude, you really shouldn't be using a computer, driving a modern car, etc. All of these things have been developed precisely because of that attitude (having ambition and confidence) and the improvements to education. Your actions actively endorse the same thing you criticise. –  Marc Gravell May 22 '12 at 6:26
@MarcGravell Excepting part being "being slave of mythology", you're right. I can accept instead "being slave of technology" as a result of education. –  Iulian May 22 '12 at 7:09
@lulian I'd like to see some backup for that first paragraph of the "education now" section. It seems incredibly biased with no real backup. –  wax eagle May 22 '12 at 15:57
I have a problem with associating seminary with secular institutions... there are some excellent seminaries out there with invaluable opportunities for discipleship and impartation from very anointed men of God. The degree indicates you took it seriously and applied yourself diligently - good qualities to have when entering into ministry. –  Jas 3.1 May 22 '12 at 16:15
Never mind whether it is right or wrong, this answer is too messy and rambling to be useful. It's hard to make out what position is being stated, and even less clear whose position is being spoken for. A string of appended comments and your comments on the comments only makes it worse. Commenting on getting downvotes is also a great way to get downvoted as that is also not useful material as an answer to the original question. –  Caleb May 23 '12 at 22:07

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