Every occupation require some amount of training to do. Often, those with the best training are usually the ones that are effective at producing desired results. Christians like to think of the work of a pastor as a calling as opposed to it being a profession. Typically, we distinguish a calling from a mere profession noting the concomitant mentality associated with each term so that, though both terms require almost the same components (i.e. special training, skills and knowledge acquisition), the emphasis of a calling is not just for improved output or service – which would be ultimate aim of a profession – but for faithful service! As such, a pastor’s training in seminary is not so that he can learn to master Greek and Hebrew so as to enhance an eloquent delivery during a sermon but to be faithful in the preaching of the gospel and in the exposition of scriptures and also to be conscientious in the discharge of other pastoral duties.
Professionalism concerns itself with the exhibition of expertise and skills that comes through intellectual training and specialization and until recently, the notion of specialization among pastors was an alien one but somehow, certain Charismatic pastors – who in my view, are the champions of this whole phenomenon of ‘Professional Pastors’ – have succeeded in conflating that ideology with spiritual calling so much so that, we have pastors who claim to specialize in getting people married, others specialize in visa acquisitions and the most popular ones often specialize in making people rich among others. Mind you, this is just the tip of the iceberg of the fanatic fringe of the charismatic circles as there are many more of such ‘specializations’ that have developed in pastoral work as a result of this skewed thinking.
Another manifestation of this ‘Professional Pastors’ phenomenon is the seemingly innocuous but is in fact, the most pernicious, elitism that have crept into churches these days. With this kind, the pastors usually acquire MBAs and may have excelled in the corporate world and upon assuming a pastoral position (often because he’s an astute business man and not because he meets the biblical criteria for that role) proceeds to effect changes in keeping with prevailing business principles and practices and run the church like a business organization. Their kind are those who have reduced the gospel to a social message and specialize in reducing biblical truths to pithy how-tos. With some assigning such fancy titles as ‘Executive Pastor’, they have become nothing more than motivational speakers. These pastors effectively end up relying on human machinations and techniques rather than the Spirit’s power through the preached word to draw crowds in to the church.
Am I by this suggesting that pastors be reckless in the discharge of their duties? By no means. There is a certain amount of maturity required of pastors which should preclude any wanton recklessness. However, this does not presuppose they are to seek to be professionals, for the ways of the world are not the ways of God.
John Piper, a theologian and Pastor, sums it up so well when he says,
“…the more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake. For there is no professional childlikeness, there is no professional tenderheartedness, there is no professional panting after God.Brothers, we are not professionals. We are outcasts. We are aliens and exiles in the world. Our citizenship is in Heaven, and we wait with eager expectation for the Lord (Phil. 3:20). You cannot professionalize the love for His appearing without killing it. And it is being killed. The world sets the agenda of the professional man; God sets the agenda of the spiritual man. The strong wine of Jesus Christ explodes the wineskins of professionalism.”1