Should Training for Ministry Be Optional?

 

Leonard Lovett. Ph.D

 TorahStand copy

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.

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Posted under: Black Church, Christian Forum, Church People or Kingdom People?, COGIC, Denominations, Dr. Leonard Lovett, Leading Without a Vision, Public Forum, When Holiness Becomes Secondary

3 comments

  • brother Campbell on June 18, 2015 at 10:56 pm said:

    Dr. Lovett, thank you for putting together such an awesome blog. This is my first time reading this blog. Initially, I was encouraged by reading this article, but immediately became disappointed and felt obligated to respond. This piece comes across as an arrogant, hypocritical attempt to bolster self praise. Congratulations are in order for your accomplishments:
    • Following Evangelist Alonzo T Turner’s admonishment to read Paul’s Pastoral Epistles and taking initiative to commit them to memory.
    • Purchasing a bible dictionary to aid your intense study of the bible
    • Persevering through your academic struggle at Morehouse and continuing your matriculation on to Crozer.
    However, I pray you help me understand your reasoning. When you ask “ 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?” I can only understand your inability to capitulate with the latter portion of the question—qualifying to become a bishop with such lenient qualifications. The first portion of your seems inappropriate to me. If a “hardened criminal” comes out of prison and joins the church, we should rejoice with the angels. If we believe God can save a man who killed and persecuted Christians and turned him into an apostle, why can’t he save a “hardened criminal” and turn him into a preacher? If God forgave your sins….Next point, If God saved that person in prison, and he studied the bible, with or without the aid of a bible dictionary, and shewed himself approved unto God , why not ordain him. Does not the scripture say he who was forgiven much loves much? I do not mind listening to a preacher who loves God much. In fact, it is refreshing to find such a one these days. Who are we to judge another man’s servant? Should we inhibit this preacher if District Missionary, Mother Annie M. Ridley of Delray Beach Florida never sees his sincerity and raises enough funds to send him to college? Granted, some from the “old church” did assume God would anoint ignorance. But the scripture also warns that the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. Often times, ministers go to seminary school and learn the letter very well. And rather than use the knowledge for the edification of the kingdom, there is a “fleshly” tendency for many of them to try to lord it over the flock, elevate themselves and belittle others. Granted, some are jealous and ignorantly assume all seminary preachers are guilty of being bone dry. I totally agree that training is necessary, but to assume seminary is the cookie cutter solution to prepare all ministers for ministry is extreme. Most ministers will agree that theologians are not great evangelists. Did not the honorable Charles Harrison Mason drop out of seminary and attend Azusa. Assuming ministers who have not attended seminary are lazy is equally disheartening.

  • D Pruitte on June 11, 2015 at 1:57 pm said:

    Dr. Lovett,

    There is so much truth in this, I don’t even know where to begin!!

    As a young woman training for ministry as a missionary, I cannot speak to any denomination other than the one I am part of, and I love my denomination with all my heart and believe completely in its unshakeable doctrine.

    But how often I have mourned the phenomenon of the young “rocket” male preachers in this great church! It’s so predictable, it is nearly formulaic:

    1.) Young boy demonstrates an ability to “hoop” around the age of 12 or 13.

    2.) If he is related to someone in authority (grandfather or father is a bishop, grandmother is the Supervisor), his ascension to ministry is quickly escalated, and he is normally licensed as a minister by age 18 or earlier.

    3.) By age 21, said young man is ordained as an elder, regularly taking preaching engagements outside of his church, and needs only 2 more things before his ascension to pastorship- the “right” wife (she should be attractive, supportive, and not too outspoken unless called upon), and the right financial connections.

    He does not need a bachelor’s degree, but he does require several flashy gold rings, custom suits, grand cuff links and those lovely stiff white collars and cords.

    He does not require seminary or formal training, but he does require connections to the “right” people in the denomination who can guarantee him regular speaking engagements, and a choice seat on the platforms in conventions.

    Am I alone in feeling that this is a recipe for disaster? For lunacy?

    Prolonged submission to an established mentor is absolutely necessary. It keeps one accountable, and it keeps one humble.

    Proverbs 4:7 put it best: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (KJV)

    Be blessed, and keep speaking the truth, Dr. Lovett!

  • Evangelist Joyce Brooks on June 5, 2015 at 8:49 am said:

    Thank you Dr. Lovett for these up lifting words. One of my sisters in ministry and I have been having this discussion for a while and here the Lord comes and gives us conformation. Thank you for obeying the leading of Gods Spirit to write this article. I have some of your teaching material and books from when I was a member of Triumph Baptist Church here in Philadelphia under Dr. J. S. Hall Sr./ Pastor. I love how you come right out with the truth. God said in His Word, and the truth shall make you free. Keep on feeding us the ones that are thirsty for the correct teaching and preaching of God’s Word so we will grown in the Wisdom and Knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ who saved us and brought us up our of a dark place into His marvelous light, that we will be the people of God to bring the Gospel to those that are lost so they can experience what I have experienced in my walk and labor in Christ to continue to help build up The Kingdom Agenda here on earth. God Bless and keep you man of God. Continue on with the assignment the Lord has you on. Praying for you..

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