I have been posting on this topic as various reasons have come to mind. While I have thought of many things, I just haven’t posted on it in a while (before this recent burst of posts I hadn’t posted on anything for that matter).
One of the things I love about Third Avenue is that it is predominantly filled with seminary students, but the pastor does not have a MDiv. Why would this be a characteristic that I love about my church? The tendency among seminarians (and the average congregant) is that the pastor needs to have the biggest title (or at least something equivalent to the majority of the congregation).
By the pastor not having an MDiv, it reminds all of us that a title does not anoint a man to preach. It does not even mean that the bearer of the degree loves Jesus. It reminds us that God has called men to preach.
Getting a degree is a very good thing (I firmly believe in getting a solid education). What I fear is that too many equate competency with formal education. Knowledge can puff up, but love builds up. The first question we should ask an ordination candidate is, “Do you love Jesus? Do you love people?” Not, “Where did you go to school?” The latter should be on the list of questions, no doubt. Good doctrine is critical to appropriate worship. But do not think that PhD means that you are qualified. Christ Jesus has made us competent, not the diploma.
It is striking that the list of qualifications for elders is about character. Doctrine undergirds it all, but in many congregations it appears that learning alone has replaced the shepherd aspect of the pastor.