Here is part 2 of an interview I recently had with a student from Cal Baptist University on my reading habits…
2. How much writing do you do? What kind? Do you ever publish? What is the primary purpose of your professional writing?
I have not done any formal publishing. I blog regularly at “Life Under the Sun” (http://stephen-jones.blogspot.com) as a way to think through issues, disciple pastor friends, and educate the general public. I would be interested in doing more publishing someday, whether for a curriculum or a book, but I don’t have any projects in the foreseeable future.
As a pastor, I’m writing constantly – everything from interviews like this, to emails, to bulletin announcements, to biblical counseling advice, to prayer lists, to monthly church newsletters, to sermon notes. I also submit a Minister’s Message for publication to our local newspaper once a quarter.
It’s very important for pastors to be clear communicators not only in speech but in writing. In fact, it’s probably true that the better you can write, the better you will be able to speak.
3. How much education do you need? What kinds of certification or licensing are required? Do you need to update this? How often?
In California, it’s required to have a minister’s license to perform weddings and to be eligible for tax benefits like the Housing Allowance. Many churches also expect you to have this license in order to preach, perform funerals, and administer the Lord’s Supper. The process in churches will vary, but it’s usually just a matter of having your church vote to license you at your next business meeting.
Ordination is a more in-depth process where you study, exercise your gifts, and then sit before a council of pastors and leaders for formal questioning. I did this a year after becoming pastor at First Southern, and do not regret waiting a little while. By then, we had been “tested” for a while, and our flock and denominational leaders knew us better. It made the event much more special and did not occur until after the Lord had truly confirmed He had called us to serve Him full-time in ministry.
As far as education, I highly recommend at least an MDiv for those pursuing full-time ministry. Undergrad is great, but you simply cannot delve into the complexity of issues, original languages, Bible survey, preaching skills, theology, and pastoral training necessary with a BA.
I think it’s OK to begin pastoring while still getting your education (particularly if you are associate). But long-term, I think it’s best to have at least an MDiv. I wouldn’t want to go to a doctor who had merely a bachelor’s degree in biology. Why would we settle for anything less from preachers of the Word of God?
Pastors must be life-long learners. As Howard Hendricks says, the day we stop learning, we stop being effective teachers. Whether this education is formal or informal, we need to be men of the book and men who understand the hearts of our people and the spirit of the times. If we are to ‘guard what has been entrusted to us” (1 Tim. 6:20), we need to be thoughtful, perceptive, discerning, and articulate. It is no wonder that Paul, just months before his death, asked Timothy to “bring the cloak…and the books, especially the parchments” (2 Tim. 4:13). As long as he was on the earth, Paul never stopped learning! We should expect the same.
(to be concluded tomorrow)