Chances are, if you had a serious life threatening problem, you would likely seek the council of a doctor. Not only that, but a doctor that could remove it. A doctor that was trained to take care of your problem, and you had trust and confidence in him not killing you! If we are talking life and death, and we as Christians have answers to life's biggest sickness, then the question becomes, why don't we see ministry as this important?
Why are so many young and ambitious guys and gals flying into the ministry without any training? You grew up in a Christian home, huh? Great! I grew up in a doctors home, so I can perform surgery now!
The Weight Of Ministry
Ministry is not something to be taken lightly. The role that you take on as a leader and shepherd of a flock, no matter who or what that flock looks like (as a missionary, youth pastor, music leader, etc) all come with it a serious weight. Just like a serious tumor, ministry carries with it a weight of life and death in those we are caring for! If we are going to be faithful ministers of the Word of God, we must be adequately equipped to handle His Word and care for the flock. The things of eternity are the most important issues of all our lives.
Now I did not grow up in a doctor's home, or even a Christian home. Even after turning to Christ, I never had a desire to go into ministry. Not at all. But I came to a point in my life where I understood that I needed more. I wanted to have a better handle on the Word of God, not just for "knowledge," but to increase my worship and to at least be able to lead my family. An opportunity presented itself to go to seminary through my local church of Laramie Valley Chapel. I had been managing a movie theater for several years, and the program offered through the WEST Institute fit into my schedule. As I began praying about it, God began telling me to go. I had no rational reason for wanting to go. I had a steady job, a family with 2 kids, and absolutely no desire to be in ministry. But I followed God's call and I went...a year and a half later I found myself in full time ministry as a youth pastor and music leader. God's ways are so much higher than ours.
Preparing For Ministry
Now that God has placed me in these positions, it was clear as to why He directed me towards seminary, but also why being properly equipped for ministry is so important and often overlooked. We must not be naive to think we know enough about Scripture. Even after going through a seminary of any kind can we ever get to a place where we can say we are experts on the Word. But on the other hand, we must not diminish the profundity of God's call to ministry by pushing off a proper education to help train us. God has blessed the church immensely through many faithful schools around the country that help people equip their spiritual tool belt. The WEST Institute was a huge blessing in my life because not only was it done in a year, but the bible knowledge was brought not just as knowledge, but as spiritual growth and heart change. You may find that you were a baby not only in Bible knowledge, but spiritually as well!
So why does a youth pastor need these tools? They're just kids. Maybe we just want someone for them to look up to. To hang out with. Maybe as parents we just want a babysitter we can trust on Wednesday night. Or maybe, as parents, we should desire a person that is not only called to be in ministry, but comfortable enough with that person to trust in teaching our kids the eternal truths of God! We need our pastors of all different age groups to be able to faithfully and BIBLICALLY preach the Gospel. Youth wrestle with issues that adults don't. Youth sometimes have questions about spiritual things that you will never hear from an adult. As a parent myself, I would hope that we parents love our kids enough to desire a faithful man of God, adequately equipped to minister to our kids.
Even worship leaders have fallen to spiritually and biblical infancy. We are so busy looking for talent rather than believers that are not only called, but equipped. When music begins on Sunday, it is not a performance, it is worship. And music leaders that have a biblical foundation on to which they can build their music program, the worship for the entire congregation increases.
Are all great preachers, worship leaders, youth pastors, and evangelists seminary grads? No. But how much better off would we be if those that were called to ministry took the weight of God's Word seriously enough to devote a season of their life to studying it, and understanding that it is not just a job, but a divine appointment by God that has eternal effects. As a pastor of any kind, we must not just know our sheep and simply where to feed them, but we must know WHAT we are feeding them. So whatever road God might be calling you to, my prayer is that all those that are called as shepherds not only get to know their sheep, but more importantly, to get to know their Savior. That can only happen by spending time with Him, lots of time with Him, and that is most profoundly done through the study of His Word.
- Jason Nelson
WEST Institute Graduate