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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 understand 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 in what ways does the Bible support 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

3 Answers 3

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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

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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