I think it’s great there are places throughout America where believers can go to sharpen their skills and knowledge for ministry because there are many who probably need help and counsel on how to conduct themselves in ministry. However, I’m of the opinion that seminary isn’t necessary when believers want to learn more about God, get closer to him, acquire a deeper knowledge of his word, or minister to people. With so great emphasis in churches on who has specific letters after their name from such-and-such a seminary, we often stray away from the simplicity that is in Christ to focus on human capabilities.
Such thoughts were brought to my attention as I studied the apostles’ ministry. Before Christ left his disciples for heaven, he gave them this word that stands true even today–“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;… But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you,” John 14:16, 26. If we are true believers, the Holy Ghost is always with us to teach us everything we need to know for ministry. In order for him to bring things to our remembrance, we have to allow Jesus to speak to us through scripture and prayer. What he communicates through prayer is backed up by scripture.
Before the 12 apostles began ministry, they fellowshipped in worship and scripture up until Pentecost. Then the Holy Ghost himself sent them out to preach. As time progressed, those who did ministry got real world hands-on training from the 12 and others who were in their midst on Pentecost as they saw and experienced the Holy Spirit’s works through believers.
Paul’s ministry was different, which demonstrated the “differences of administrations” and “diversities of operations” to reveal how “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal,” 1 Corinthians 12:5-7. When it came to Paul, God basically set him off by himself after he got basic instructions from Ananias when he was in Damascus on Straight Street. He spent time in Arabia, then Damascus again for three years and during that time had no contact with the other apostles in Jerusalem. He explains the rest of this in Galatians 1 and 2.
Paul’s journey was the way it was because he was educated in wrong doctrine at the feet of Gamaliel. He had to get a whole paradigm shift to unlearn everything so God could teach him the right doctrines. As he states in Philippians 3:4-11, he had an impressive resume in the flesh but had to suffer the loss of all those things, counting what he accomplished in the Jews’ religion as dung, or worthless waste, so he could win Christ through the faith of Christ. Only then could he know how to move forward in ministry. Then at the appointed time in Antioch, Syria, the Holy Ghost told the church to set Paul and Barnabas apart for international ministry by the laying on of hands.
If ministers like Apollos were slightly off in their teaching, God used people like Aquila and Priscilla who “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly,” (Acts 18:26) and he being the humble man he was, accepted graciously what they taught him and made the proper adjustments.
As the centuries went by, the church began to think the Holy Spirit’s promptings weren’t enough. Suddenly, it became necessary to also know what the original languages of the Bible said or what the great theologian Pomp N. Circumstance stated in his popular commentary. The Holy Spirit was still recognized and revered, but he became emeritus as the church sought advice from men on how to proceed in ministry via the seminary with a touch of marketing and psychology skills from secular society. Fortunately, God maneuvers around the obstacles we often place in his way. But just think how much more the church could accomplish if we allow the Holy Spirit to move our spirits decently and in order as opposed to looking to glorify ourselves or waiting for the proper approval of specific humans with big letters and titles appended to their names.
Harry A. Gaylord