Author: Chris Regas
To facilitate a truly global conversation, we ask Christian leaders from around the world to respond to the Global Conversation’s lead articles. These points of view do not necessarily represent the Lausanne Movement. They are designed to stimulate discussion from all points of the compass and from different segments of the Christian community. Please add your perspective by posting a comment so that we can learn and grow together in the unity of the Spirit.
A response to Mark Snowden’s article: “Are we training our pastors wrong?”
Is there only one right way to train pastors? I don’t think anyone would suggest that there is. The training of pastors is a functional absolute (2 Tim 2:2; Titus 1:5), but its form is never revealed in Scripture. Therefore, Mark Snowden’s second title is a much better question to ask regarding pastoral training (PT).
Evaluation of effectiveness is always necessary and commendable. Snowden argues that a more “oral approach” to PT will be more effective than the typical approach based on a “literate worldview.” It is hard to deny his observation that typical “approaches are usually based on a literate worldview at the expense of the decidedly more oral worldview of the people among whom the pastor is called to minister. The literacy-based training shifts a local pastor’s learning style just enough to cause them to lose relevance with the learning preference of their own church members.”
Under the headings, “Understanding the Times” and “Relevance,” Snowden offers several valid reasons for considering a more oral approach to PT, but as he moves on to headings like “Spiritual Growth” and “Disciple Making,” I get the impression that he is drifting from his original focus on methodology. He appears to be advocating a more biblical philosophy of spiritual growth and disciple making, but doing so by unfairly characterizing a literate approach as always top-down, one-way, and authoritarian versus the direct mediation of the Holy Spirit based on his interpretation of John 16:13-14. He seems to assume that all literate approaches to PT are limited to a “one-way lecture.” He comes close to pitting God’s use of men and means against the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Lord who promised the Holy Spirit in John 16 is the same Lord who gives men as gifts to the church for the equipping of the saints in Ephesians 4:11-12. Does Snowden think that only an oral approach to PT recognizes that “disciplers need to listen and pay attention to the progression of spiritual maturity” or that a literate worldview denies the need for “constant interaction and intentionality” in disciple making? I agree with the philosophy of disciple making Snowden advances, but to think that only an “oral approach” is consistent with them or that a “literate approach” is inconsistent is to confuse philosophy with methodology. Granted, our philosophy of disciple making will influence our methodology, but both an oral approach and a literate approach can be done in ways that are consistent with a biblical philosophy of disciple making.
Snowden seems to rely heavily on Jesus’ approach to disciple making in the Gospels without giving due weight to Paul’s approach in the Epistles. How do Paul’s highly literate epistles fit into the oral approach to PT? Is his Romans Epistle filled with stories or tightly reasoned arguments? How do commands like those found in the “Pastoral” Epistles (1 Tim 4:13-14; 2 Tim 2:15; Titus 1:9) balance Snowden’s critique of a literate approach?
In advocating a more effective way to do PT, it is tempting to think that one’s methodology is the only right way to do it. Snowden offers many valid reasons for a more oral approach to PT, but in doing so needs to make clear that it is rarely an either/or proposition. A balance of oral and literate is most consistent with the Gospels and Epistles as well as reality. Jesus is the living Word from the Father who was revealed to the world in both an oral and literate manner by the Holy Spirit through human messengers, especially gifted and qualified pastors-teachers. We would be more effective to do likewise.
Rev. Christopher A. Regas was born in Kansas City, where he grew up and was saved as a teenager. He graduated from Liberty University (B.S.) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.). He is presently working on his Doctor of Ministry from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary For the past twenty-one years, Chris has been the associate pastor at Glenwood Baptist Church, where his teaching and equipping ministry has been focused on discipleship and world missions. His passion is for equipping the local church to experience the Great Commission in a well-balanced and whole-hearted manner. His heart for the world has led to ministries with Asian Americans and leading short-term teams on five different continents. He and his wife, Gwen, and their teenage daughter live in Kansas City, MO.