Last week, I posted “How to Plant a Seminary in Four Steps” and drew from the example of the Berea ministry in Spain, which began with a conference ministry in order to launch a seminary to train Bible expositors. I closed alluding to prerequisites without which the four steps would be ineffective.
BK Smith, lead pastor at Oaklands Chapel in Victoria, British Columbia, nailed the first and most important—a model church. He is absolutely right when he comments:
I think these steps are all well and good, but I find many people forget how crucial it is to have a healthy church that models what a Biblical Church should look like. I define a healthy church as a faithful, disciple making, community impacting church … obviously by being faithful to preaching God’s Word, developing men and women in the church by discipling them and training them to disciple and then to impact those around them. A healthy church is NOT just having a rock solid doctrinal statement and believing all the right things … I also believe we need to see fruit along with faithfulness in these churches.
So in order of importance, here are two prerequisites… and a cherry on top.
- A model church
A ministry training pastors and leaders in expository preaching must have a strong, healthy church where expository preaching is on display. The class room instructors need to be able to point to a church where the principles are in practice, and say “That’s what we’re after!” If you don’t have a model church, you’ll need to plant the church before you can plant the seminary.
- Qualified character and skill on the ground
The personnel launching the start-up will by necessity wear many hats. In addition to seminary training (these men will become the professors of the new seminary), they also need to be men of godly character and be able to manage their own homes (i.e., they need to be elder-qualified [1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9]). They’ll need to be all this, plus be administrators and event coordinators all while serving as their own secretaries.
(If you know someone like this, pray for him!)
- Relationships with visiting instructors
While perhaps possible in principle to do without, for the conference start-up to work, it really helps to have a pool of guest lecturers committed to make periodic international trips (probably on their own dime) to teach at your new school. The visiting instructors don’t have to be famous, but they do need ministry experience. Seasoned pastors and teachers as visiting instructors will balance the relative inexperience of the young bucks trying to get the new seminary off the ground. Also, the experienced visiting instructor has the advantage of being able to draw from previous teaching series to reuse the content without having to write something fresh for another conference every several months.
I’m excited for David Robles and his team at Berea in Leon, Spain. They are doing a great job, and God is granting growth to their new ministry. Furthermore, their model and progress encourages us in our work in Brazil.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!
Have I left something out? What else might one need to consider when preparing to plant a ministry to train pastors and leaders for the church?