Leonard Lovett. Ph.D
When I received my calling to preach as a teen-ager, Evangelist Alonzo T. Turner from Bridgeport, Connecticut wrote me a letter and admonished me to read Paul’s letter to Timothy in I Timothy 4: and II Timothy 2:. There it was like a gem almost out of sight, (II Timothy 2:15 MLV) “Do your utmost to present yourself to God, approved, a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly interpreting the message of the truth.” (15v. KJV) “Study to Shew thyself”) I literally memorized both chapters and held them as a sacred gift from my God-father in ministry. He was the annual guest revivalist at my step-father’s church, Thomas Temple COGIC, Pompano Beach, Florida, named in his honor, [Pastor Charles Thomas] I received Christ as Lord with the Baptism of the Sprit. It is unlikely that the Evangelist had a clue that he was transmitting a sacred trust to a little stringy teen-ager who would later become the pioneer dean of the first fully accredited Pentecostal Seminary in North America, the C.H. Mason Seminary, an affiliate of the Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, Georgia. I was so thirsty for truth; I saved enough to purchase a Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Henry Snyder Gehman, Princeton Theological Seminary. My training began as I read the Bible intensely and became a fierce defender of doctrine, as I understood it.
Mother Annie M. Ridley, Delray Beach Florida, a District Missionary saw my sincerity and raised funds every fifth Sunday afternoon to make sure I entered College. My father had deceased six years earlier and my mother’s financial resources were completely depleted. They made an investment in me which I view to this day as an act of grace and love. I went to Mississippi to Saints Jr College, the Church of God in Christ’s only school that was accredited by the State. I transferred to Morehouse where I struggled academically, but through faith and perseverance graduated. My acceptance at Crozer Theological Seminary represented a shift in my theological terrain because of its reputation for theological liberalism. My field work assignment in ministry was performed at Memorial Church of God in Christ in Haverford, Pennsylvania at the request of the late Bishop OT Jones, Jr. pastor, who became my primary mentor in ministry.
Recently I asked my ophthalmologist surgeon how long was my surgery, and what was his level of skill and training. He remarked that the surgery was between eleven and seventeen minutes. That beyond his graduate training it would take around 1,000 surgeries to achieve his level of competence with this particular surgical procedure with all the advances in technology. I observed that it took three (3) years of graduate training in law for my youngest son to receive a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree. It takes an average of seven years to qualify as a general practitioner of medicine. How is it that a hardened criminal can come out of prison, join our church, confess a call to ministry within twelve months, receive ordination, get assigned to a church, pay a jurisdictional report and qualify to become a Bishop with less than a High School diploma?
We have an unlearned contingency within the church who would defend such a person with the reasoning, that if the Lord called them to preach, who are we to judge? There are people among us who believe that God will anoint ignorance and curse intelligence. Dr. Martin Luther King once spoke about ministers who generate “more heat than light” and more “perspiration” than “inspiration.” There are still jealous leaders among us who speak of a Seminary as a “cemetery” in order to generate a laugh. Such persons even contend that “if you open your mouth, the Lord will fill it.” To that reasoning I say “God will fill your mouth with air.” Does it make common sense that you will not trust an untrained teacher with your children, an untrained doctor with your body, an untrained lawyer with your legal issues, but no training is required with your soul and spiritual life? Lazy people should stay away from ministry.