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View Full Version : Why do Pastors feel the need for a Doctorate?


TCGreek
05-26-2007, 05:18 PM
Is it necessary for a senior pastor to have a doctorate? Now I can understand the likes of Piper and others who, after teaching, were called to the pastorate. But should every pastor seek a doctorate unless it helps the DEPTH of his ministry?

The reason for this concern is because many senior pastors are taking the quick way to doctorates: they are going to less than admirable schools just to be called "doctors."

Hope of Glory
05-26-2007, 07:30 PM
Most churches won't hire a pastor without a degree, most without a doctorate. Even smaller churches.

It's prestige, IMO.

I have a friend who used to teach economics in a major university. He could teach a student everything he needed to know about economics. But, without the degree, the person couldn't get a job in the field, and without taking basketweaving 101, the person couldn't get a degree.

I know of someone who wrote a textbook in a selected field. It was the standard, with no one finding fault in the work. Until someone found out that the expert didn't have a doctorate. (They gave him a doctorate because they found no fault with the book and they felt that he probably deserved it, but if the work was perfect, why the problem?)

TCGreek
05-26-2007, 07:38 PM
It's prestige, IMO.

Hope of Glory, should the man of God be concern about prestige, which really is what man thinks of him?

I can understand the pastor who gets a doctorate because he wants to deepen his knowledge in a particular discipline of Scripture or theology, which will bless his ministry. But for prestige! What have pastors come to?

StefanM
05-26-2007, 07:43 PM
What have pastors come to?

We should also ask this of the churches that demand doctoral degrees.

StefanM
05-26-2007, 07:49 PM
Most churches won't hire a pastor without a degree, most without a doctorate. Even smaller churches.


I wouldn't say that. Most of the churches in my experience have not been pastored by ministers with doctorates. Generally, I've seen the following "tiers":

Bi-vocational churches: These churches will generally consider candidates who are students or who do not have a degree.

Small, full-time, single-staff churches: These churches will generally consider candidates with a BA or better or with extensive experience

Full-time, multi-staff churches: These churches generally prefer the MDiv degree or better, though in certain locales or situations, a minister with a BA may be considered

Large, multi-staff churches: These churches want the PhD or DMin. You can sometimes find a minister with an MDiv in these churches, but the doctorate seems to be increasing in prevalence

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Of course, the smaller churches seem to like having a pastor with a doctorate, but they realize that a person who has earned a doctorate is probably already in a larger church with a higher salary.

The largest churches, though, typically have ministers with doctorates. I would think, though, that the most common level of education would be the MDiv among full-time pastors.

TCGreek
05-26-2007, 07:59 PM
The largest churches, though, typically have ministers with doctorates. I would think, though, that the most common level of education would be the MDiv among full-time pastors.

Is that why pastors feel the PRESSURE to go schools like Andersonville, Covington, to get a doctorate behind their names, even though they cannot read Hebrew or Greek?

StefanM
05-26-2007, 08:22 PM
Is that why pastors feel the PRESSURE to go schools like Andersonville, Covington, to get a doctorate behind their names, even though they cannot read Hebrew or Greek?

I think that is one reason, but I would think that most of the churches demanding a doctorate would recognize the deficiencies in those "doctorates".

Major B
05-26-2007, 09:35 PM
That is why I have not gotten what I call a "doctorette" degree. For that matter, even accredited D.Mins are weak compared to a PhD (even if the only way you could possibly pronounce PhD is "fudd," as in Elmer...

I have a solid M.A.R. from a fully accredited (SACS) school, but going beyond that has been very difficult while engaged in bi-vocational ministry and working a demanding secular job.

Some churches will call a pastor who is a non-doc, but they won't pay him as much.

It is very difficult to publish without a Dr. in there somewhere.

Major B
05-26-2007, 09:35 PM
I think that is one reason, but I would think that most of the churches demanding a doctorate would recognize the deficiencies in those "doctorates".

Some pulpit committees are pretty clueless.

StefanM
05-26-2007, 10:03 PM
Some pulpit committees are pretty clueless.

This is a reason why some may be tempted to get bogus degrees.

Some churches (especially smaller ones) might be so impressed with the title that they don't bother to investigate the school.

Hope of Glory
05-26-2007, 10:39 PM
Hope of Glory, should the man of God be concern about prestige, which really is what man thinks of him?

I can understand the pastor who gets a doctorate because he wants to deepen his knowledge in a particular discipline of Scripture or theology, which will bless his ministry. But for prestige! What have pastors come to?

This is the area where some go too far the other direction. They turn up their noses at education.

Just as the man of God should not be concerned with prestige, neither should he reject education and learning. We need to use the tools we've been given, but not for the mere honor of it. (I don't think there's anything wrong with prestige, just as there's nothing wrong with money. But, what position does it play in your life?)

In the example that I gave above, if the textbook was flawless, why did it matter if the man had some particular letters after his name? If the individual is the best economics student ever, why does it matter if he's had art appreciation?

I started college level classes when I was 12 years old in writing. (Although, sometimes my typos don't show it; I'm also very thankful for editors.) The first thing I went for in college was for journalism. I've always liked studying and I read a lot of reference books for the fun of it. I also took economics classes at George Mason, and I have taken Greek (and other seminary related material) from two former seminary professors. Yet, I'm considered unqualified in anything having to do with economics or in the ministry according to some because I don't have the corresponding letters to go with my name.

Oddly enough, I have been published under both subjects. (I also used to write a brain games column for the college newspaper, and that was fun!)

One church a couple of years back even sought me out to get me to candidate for a position as pastor, when I thought I was going to move. Why? Because they had been given my sermons on CD, and they really liked them, and they were right in line with their form pastor's teaching, except I don't yell when I preach. They liked me a lot. Then, the unthinkable happened! They found out that I don't have a master's degree!

It doesn't matter to many, many people, what knowledge or abilities you have, unless you have the degree. But, that's changing. I know a man who is a headhunter for Fortune 500 companies, and he specializes in finding people who have the abilities and knowledge that these companies are looking for, but without the degrees. One man that he placed a while back had taken advantage of an online resource (MIT's, I believe) and learned a lot of stuff, and he had much real world experience. Most companies round-filed his resume right off the bat. One interviewer actually laughed at him in a derogatory way. This man just finished helping the taking over of two of the companies that rejected him.

BTW, I typed a "most" when I meant a "many". Most churches will not accept someone without a degree, many without a doctorate.

Gayla
05-26-2007, 11:29 PM
Re the prestige comment:

When the Dr in front of his name makes him talk down to everyone, it's definitely the prestige that he wants.

Tom Butler
05-26-2007, 11:54 PM
A pastor-friend of mind joked that he got his D.Min so he could preach like a Pentecostal and folks wouldn't laugh at him.

Joseph M. Smith
05-27-2007, 06:24 AM
It doesn't matter to many, many people, what knowledge or abilities you have, unless you have the degree. But, that's changing. I know a man who is a headhunter for Fortune 500 companies, and he specializes in finding people who have the abilities and knowledge that these companies are looking for, but without the degrees. One man that he placed a while back had taken advantage of an online resource (MIT's, I believe) and learned a lot of stuff, and he had much real world experience. Most companies round-filed his resume right off the bat. One interviewer actually laughed at him in a derogatory way. This man just finished helping the taking over of two of the companies that rejected him.



Another one of those ways in which the children of this world are wiser, etc. .... a few years back, I suggested to my son that it might be good for him to get his master's degree (he has a BA in information science). He responded that it would not really help him learn much, as the cutting edge in his field is in the industry, not in the university. I appreciated his focus on learning, not on credentials.

And then there is my son-in-law, who did not finish college, but who has created a speciality for himself (in anti-terrorism techniques and technology), and who has been pursued by several companies and agencies for key positions. He is now the Vice-President of a major corporation. Probably many of the people he supervises do not even know his lack of formal education, but he proves his expertise daily.

Jim1999
05-27-2007, 12:39 PM
I started out when we went to Bible College for three years so we could enter ministry as soon as possible. A degree was for others..or later.

In Canada, there were three basic schools to choose from: 2 Bible Colleges offering a diploma, and 2 seminaries, offering minor theological degrees. The primary goal was to get out there into the field preaching the word. We did the best we could at "pastoring".

Soon modernism came to the front and we took exception to being called "Reverend", so we got honourary doctorates...the infamous D.D. The Liberal demanded a BA before theology and a minimal BD for pastoral service..We followed suit but called our degrees B.Th, M.Th. etc.

The vast majority of Baptist preachers in our Fellowship had simple Bible College as did most missionaries. We learned more as we went, amassing good solid libraries and reading extensively.

Some of us went back to school and earned degrees because we had academic goals in mind.....the place where degrees belong, in my mind.

In later years, parishioners could drop out of high school, obtain decent jobs, working up the ladder, but they became very demanding of pastors for those $40.00 a week "jobs".

Over my lifetime, I never applied for a pastoral position. I received a personal invite to "preach for a call" and often declined offers. The other demand I had was that my earned degrees were not for publication. I never allowed a church to place my degrees on bulletin boards or announcements. I feared it going to my head, and preferred to called "pastor", or even Jim.

I watch the happenings of to-day and often come home and literally sob in my study at the directions the church seems to be taking. Somewhere along the line, they have missed the mark, or I am sadly out of tune. I miss the simply people who loved the simple gospel and appreciated the man who simply loved the Lord and the people and taught the simple truths of God's word.

There is a place for learned responses to complicated ideologies, but even these can be given in simple terms.

I had a deacon in one church who could neither read nor write. He worked night shifts and came directly to church from work. He worked the aisles, received the offering and was always available when a body was needed. I deemed that man one of my greatest deacons. I could count on him. He was there to serve communion, or sweep the floors. He could hold the hand of a needy person, or help them move their furniture. He was to me what being a Christian was all about. A simple man, but oh so complicated too.

I miss the church. I really do.

Cheers,

Jim

blackbird
05-27-2007, 03:50 PM
Why do pastors feel the need for a doctorate???

For fear of being "left out" of the pursuit of mega church glory!!!

As the megachurch emerged onto the scene---there came with it a nonverbal dictate that said one will never make that scene unless there was some sort of doctorate with the name. Pedagree!! When was the last time you saw a "Heinz 57" for sale at the pet store?? Mixed breed puppies are given away out of the back end of the country pickup truck---free!!! Fullblooded puppies are sold behind glass cages in the mall for a hefty price!!! The "Heinz 57" preacher will get passed up everytime for the fullblooded doctor at just about 99.99999% of the so called mega churches out there!!!

Many, many pastors then rushed out for the degree just like those '49ers rushed from the East coast to the West for a pan full of gold----some strike it rich----some die in agony along the way!!

Does it help one to preach?? No! I know many who hold the doctor degree who can't preach their way out of "wet paper bags"----while some who'll never hold the doctorate are still some of the finest pulpiteers in the world.

And as Forest Gump would say

"Thats all I got to say about the war in Vietnam!!"

Major B
05-28-2007, 12:31 AM
And as Forest Gump would say

"Thats all I got to say about the war in Vietnam!!"

BB, are you "still in Saigon" (in your mind...)?

blackbird
05-28-2007, 04:54 AM
BB, are you "still in Saigon" (in your mind...)?

My momma always said-----my mind is like a box of chocolates!!! You just never know what you'll get!!!!

Good to hear from you again, Major!!!

Circuitrider
05-29-2007, 10:43 PM
A doctor's degree is like the curl in the tail of the pig. I nice ending to a great package.:laugh:

I made the decision over 20 years ago to get a D.Min. degree. I was pastoring at the time and looked forward to the additional training in ministry. I had earned a BA in Bible, Pastoral Studies and a minor in Greek and also an M.Div. ten years before that. My reasons for the degree were: further training, continuing ed for my ministry, also I wanted an earned degree rather than hoping to get an honorary from a school. I do think that the advanced training is a good discipline to keep a pastor from getting stale. :type:

I now work with over 100 churches in our state as a missions director. I do not find a strong pull by churches requiring a doctor's degree for pastoral candidates.

I believe the doctor programs whether D.Min, PhD or ThD are good things. The people I see complaining most about these various programs are often those who hold resident degrees and resent these alternative programs.

We should enjoy the diverse opportunities for men in ministry to advance their training under alternative means such as online, video, etc.:thumbs:

Jim1999
05-29-2007, 11:16 PM
Quote: My momma always said-----my mind is like a box of chocolates!!! You just never know what you'll get!!!!
------------------------------------------

You may just get a good bellyache!

Cheers,

Dr. Jim

TomVols
05-30-2007, 08:58 AM
Let me offer a dissenting view.

I felt the need for doctoral work to be the best prepared I could be for the ministry of the Word. I've heard it said that the doctorate is for the academy while everything less is for the church. Hogwash.

I still may get a doctorate so I can better prepare myself for ministry. I know some people who bought doctorates, but I can honestly say that the pastors I know who earned either D.Mins or Ph.Ds did so because they felt it was an effort to be faithful to their calling, to their people, and to their Lord.

Blackbird mentioned he knew some "doctors" who couldn't preach. Some of the best preachers I ever knew had doctorates. Some of the worst were the ones who decried ministry preparation. That door swings both ways, and I'd venture it swings more the way I see it :)

Hearing someone else, they make it sound like every other church has a doctorate for a pastor. I live in a fairly good metro area in the Bible belt. I'd venture that maybe 10% at best of the pastors have Doctorates. In my suburb, there are roughly 100 churches (seriously). Some are fairly large. None of the pastors have doctoral degrees.

PastorSBC1303
05-30-2007, 09:51 AM
I am going to agree with TomVols on this one.

While, I am sure there are pastors who go after a Doctorate for the wrong reasons and just simply want a Dr. by their name, I have not personally met too many of them.

In my DMin studies at Southern I have been impressed with the guys i have met that are going after a DMin to better prepare themselves for ministry and to be better tools in the hand of the Lord.

Specifically I am a cohort group with 4 other pastors from around the country and I can honestly say I do not believe any of them are going after a Dr. in front of their name, but simply want to give their best to the Lord and keep growing in their ministry.

So I think we should be careful painting with too broad a brush as to why pastors go after degrees.

Tom Bryant
05-30-2007, 11:08 AM
Thanks, Tom.

I guess I am not smart enough to know the inner life of pastors who get a Doctorate or even a "Doctorette". Motivations are hard to determine and seem to be only in the providence of God.

I went to college after the army. I was 30 when I got my BA (not my Bad Attitude... I've always had that). I decided not to get a Masters in a seminary because I wanted to get on with the ministry. But i wish I had gotten it. It took me 10 years to finally get it, one class at a time.

I've thought about a Doctorate because I can never learn enough about the Bible. I can learn it on my own, but with my sin nature, I tend to slack off and get lazy. Taking courses forces me to work on becoming a sharper axe in God's hand.

I have been here for almost 10 years. They took me before I got my Masters. They honored me, but I didn't get a pay raise from it. :laugh:

Hope of Glory
05-30-2007, 03:51 PM
TomVols, I think you may have taken something that I said wrong.

In response to the original post of why so many are seeking the letters along with their name, I have made some replies.

I have never said there's anything wrong with education. In fact, I think it's terribly important, and not just in the ministry. I wish I could get my teenager to understand this concept and that a "C" is not an acceptable grade in history class because "it's not really that important".

(An aside: This unacceptability of a "C" is aimed directly at somone who is capable of straight A work, and not aimed at anyone else; he was in the gifted program until he quit trying, and now he's in the general classes and has the attitude that simply passing is sufficient. I have to admit that I had the same attitude, but God blessed me with a mind that permitted me to have straight A's in high school without even trying. In college, since I was paying for it, I did try, and maintained my perfect GPA, but I know the difference in my attitude from one to the other.)

I think education is important. That's one reason that I have pursued many, many college level subjects beyond the scope of what I originally went to college for. (But, I question the importance of Art Appreciation to a Math major, just I question the importance of Early Childhood Development to someone who is going to seminary to learn Greek.)

I think the emphasis on the letters by the name is the problem, and I think this is the reason that so many are seeking the easy way out. And sometimes, doing it the hard way, but for the wrong reasons.

By the same token, I think those who reject education are equally as appalling, if not more so. "I don't care what the words actually say" is probably more damaging than a church that thinks that only a person with letter by their name can be educated and intelligent. Both extremes are in the minority, and at opposite ends of the spectrum, but it's a significant minority.

TomVols
05-30-2007, 06:03 PM
I still think you're painting with too broad a brush. I won't quibble with you about those who do the "buy-a-degree" route just looking to be called "doctor." Still, I've never met anyone who did it "the hard way" who wanted the letters. When you look at the fact that Ph.Ds at seminary take anywhere from 3 to 4 years and take tens of thousands of dollars, if they honestly think they're doing it for the money, they have to be the dumbest people ever. Churches won't pay you one dollar more for having a Ph.D. A great many churches simply pay what they pay. At my last church, I earned the same amount of money as my predecessor, who had never darkened the door of any school past high school. I think of a local church whose pastor just retired (with a doctorate). Their new pastor has no college whatsoever. Their salaries will be equal. I could go on...and am...so I'll stop :)

Well, not quite..again, I just think when one is impugning motives, it's easy just to lump everyone together based on a caricature and not a factual analysis, especially when such isn't possible.

Hope of Glory
05-30-2007, 09:42 PM
There was a list posted on this board a couple years back that had a bunch of Baptist churches that were seeking pastors. The list only included larger churches (1000 or more), if I remember correctly. (There were actually several lists, but the one I'm referring to was for larger churches.)

Without exception, they all either required a doctorate or preferred a doctorate but would consider someone with only a master's.

Since so many pastors do the ladder climbing thing, their ultimate goal is to get one of these big churches, so this is the way to do it.

Now, I don't believe, nor did I mean to imply, that most churches or most pastors do this. But, I do believe (opinion) that these churches represent the majority of Baptists.

I also believe (opinion) that this line of thinking has trickled down to more and more smaller churches and infected their thinking that they are inferior if they can't wrangle a pastor with a doctorate.

Bible-boy
05-30-2007, 09:48 PM
I had an eye-opening conversation about this issue recently while on the mission field. One of the guys on my team had just finished his BA in Biblical Studies. While on the field we visited a pastor’s school that was part of the local national Baptist Union (or Convention or Association I don't remember the exact title). Anyway, we had a conversation with the Principal and Vice Principal of the school. My friend point blank asked if he came over for a two to three year assignment would they allow him to teach at the pastor’s school. Both men agreed that they could use his help.

Later we talked about this conversation with one of the full-time missionaries in that area. He went through all the logistics that would have to fall into place for my friend to come over and help teach at the pastor’s school. Then he cautioned my friend to go to seminary here in the USA and at least earn a Masters level education before attempting fill such a position. His main reason for suggesting this was that if my friend came over with only his BA in Biblical Studies and held such a position he would eventually be placed in charge of some aspect or project on the field. So he would be responsible for a team of missionaries and a program with say a $300,000 budget. He would likewise, have a counterpart responsible for a similar program/budget working out of the same regional field office. This other guy may have been on the field for 15 years and have an earned PhD and here comes my "young buck" friend with his BA and they would be expected to work together as equal counterparts responsible for similar programs/budgets etc. The full-time missionary said that there would likely be problems in such a situation.

I had a big problem with such a line of reasoning. Serving on the mission field is about fulfilling the Great Commission. It has nothing to do with one's personal level of education or "having paid one's dues." Like I said, I found it to be very eye-opening.

Dr. Bob
06-05-2007, 11:37 PM
I believe in getting the most education you can, even if you're just going to drive a mule. It makes more difference between you and the mule.

Sam Jones said that a century ago.

I never quit learning. Formal education put demands on my mind and gave me skills that I found woefully lacking from an excellent undergrad and grad programs (at real accredited schools). Let me bore you a bit . . .

After 4 years out of grad school, our church needed to start a Christian School. I went to the University of Wisconsin and earned a degree in education/administration for credability.

Then 6 years in the pastorate (with a bachelor/masters) I found I was not equipped for counseling, so went to Liberty's summer program and earned a certificate.

Two years later our Christian schools in Wisconsin (I was pastoring and administrating a large school) had curriculum needs. I returned to school and earned a doctorate and my text (my dissertation) is still in print and used.

4 years later a small college asked me to teach and be the Dean. I finished another degree in Education.

10 years later I started a third doctorate, a PhD in Biblical Geography and did all the "leg work" following the journeys of Paul from Antioch to Rome (everything except the shipwreck :eek: ). My present disease has curtailed that program . . but I would never regret the "alphabet soup" behind my name, as each letter represents being better equipped to minister to others and glorify my God.