Somehow, by the grace of God alone, I graduated from Southeastern Seminary with an Master of Divinity (M.Div.) in May 2006. I praise the Lord for getting me through Southeastern's program, because there is no way I could have done it in my own power and strength.
While in seminary, I heard quite a bit of preaching, most of it in chapel. I am no expert in preaching, but I thought that most of what I heard was pretty good. Some of it was excellent. Some of it was not so good. A few of the sermons were even poor.
Why do I bring this up? I'm mentioning it because everyone I heard preach at Southeastern has at least an M.Div. degree. Therefore, an M.Div. does not guarantee excellence in preaching.
This brings me to my question for today: Why does someone with an M.Div. have to be the one preaching? This is the view held by most churches in our country.
If you ask almost any pastoral search committee at a church, they will tell you that one of the qualifications they are looking for is an M.Div. or equivalent degree. They are usually assuming that this will lead to good preaching.
My experience tells me otherwise. I can tell you that in my preaching class at seminary, we had a very wide range of preaching abilities. Some of the men interpreted scripture well, but their presentation was weak. For others, their presentation was excellent, but their interpretation was not up to par. Of about 40 men in the class, I would say that seven or eight were excellent preachers in all phases of the task.
Having grown up in the church, I have heard many different of preachers. I have even heard a few who did not have an M.Div. (this is rare because most pastors have to have this degree to be called by a church in the first place). Some of the M.Div.-less men I heard did a good job; others did not.
What does the bible have to say about all this? It is clear that anyone who preaches must be faithful to the biblical text. In writing to Timothy, Paul reminds him of the importance to "preach the word," which in his case was the O.T. (you can read II Tim. 3:14 - 4:5 by clicking here). In that particular context, Paul was warning Timothy of the danger of false teachers. Timothy was to be faithful to the holy scriptures.
Most current churches are looking for a pastor who will preach faithfully. The qualifications for pastor/elders are in I Tim. 3 and Titus 1. Paul tells Timothy that elders must be "able to teach." He writes to Titus that elders "must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."
What can we glean from the above two passages? Anyone who is an elder must be able to teach the scriptures and hold firm to them. What is the purpose of this? The elder should, then, be able to teach biblical doctrine and also correct those disagree with a faithful interpretation of the bible.
So a pastor/elder must be able to teach. This much is clear. However, let's not make the mistake of saying that only a pastor/elder should preach. This is clearly nowhere taught in the bible. In fact, I Cor. 14 shows many different people involved in the gathering of the church. I think it is fair to say that more people than the pastor/elder should be preaching (read here).
What can we make of all this?
Here are some conclusions I have come to:
1) An M.Div. does not guarantee good preaching.
2) A man without an M.Div. may be a good preacher.
3) A pastor/elder must be able to teach.
4) When the church gathers, a pastor/elder does not have to do the preaching.
If a church, then, is looking for a pastor, and they expect him to do the bulk of the preaching, what should they do? My suggestion is that they look at the man, his character, and his abilities. An M.Div. will not ensure good preaching ability. In fact, a man with no theological degree may be an excellent preacher.
Get to know the man, not the degree.