People now have the means to put their money where their mouth is. The question will now become whether they do or not.
At one point to be a pastor in a church, or in more subversive terms to gain the instant following of congregations as a pastor in a church, you had to go to bible college. Your degree would be essentially decided for you. A mix of theology and ministry course were formed and formulated to give you a broad swath of training for the diverse and challenging field of pastoral work.
But upon gaining your first job in church you find out the dirty little secret of modern-day church work. that is just as dirty as the sinners that the church tries to get saved.
The foundational courses of biblical study and ministry theory you get, do little to prepare you for real church ministry. I could go into the specifics but a simple litmus test of the reader's experience is likely all you need to get you to buy into the rest of the article.
Have you ever heard a pastor say, "They didn't teach you about (insert topic or problem here) at bible college?" Or as a pastor said that yourself?
Have you ever asked why bible colleges don't, in fact, teach about those things?
Most pastors have some of their best stories about this phenomenon,. Spending 4-8 years in schooling to be found ignorant of a situation or problem is a shock to young pastors but often teaches them the real nuts and bolts of ministry and theology in practice. But what this common phenomenon shows us is that the actual learning from a theological education happens routinely after the education is technically completed. A pastor with a 4-year bachelor's degree in theology should know what it means to do his job. a carpenter would know how to build a house with that much schooling and based on that schooling you would trust that carpenter doing that building even if it were his first house to build.
That's because wrapped up in the paper of degrees and education is the essence of trust. We trust that places that teach, will teach, what needs to be taught. And that learners who want to learn actually learn. This is why finding out that a student cheats is so distasteful. It's a waste of guile and intelligence to cheat on a test though by the numbers that cheating often uses just as much intelligence to work out the cheating method. Where we get angry and upset is when we thought we were getting a person who learned and we got a person who cheated. got a theological degree that was filled with electives and courses unrelated to the rigours of theological teaching or the roughness of ministry reality.
We would hate a cheater even more if they outright faked a degree. If he made a small bible college up from a prairie town and formatted a single-page degree from which we would have to sleuth our way against such to see if it's valid or not.
a good degree from a good college gives us the certainty we need to trust a person with wages for the saving of souls and the preaching of the gospel.
At least in church.
But what if we no longer live in a world we can trust the way the churches of our fathers trusted in the bible colleges they went to? You can peg that lack of trust on a good dozen bad things these days. Liberal drift, inflation, the current job market. you name it. The world we live in now is becoming more and more different than the world of the past and how the past managed its institutions and trust will be different than ours. So how would a pastor wannabe demonstrate the trust that a degree used to give in a world where degrees are becoming worthless?
The answer is likely tied up not in what the pastor can do but rather in what he couldn't do.
A pastor trying to persuade a church that he's capable of being a teacher of the Bible, couldn't be empty-handed in his bible teaching. He couldn't have an empty youtube channel or sermons he's preached, even if those sermons were preached to a camera and camera alone. He would need content to convince people with.
He couldn't have bare bookshelves. Churches need their pastors to be well-read and constantly reading. being able to distill the logic and knowledge of the times into his preaching and into his ministries. to discern what's a bible study fad and what's a bible study staple.
He couldn't be alone. A church would want its pastor to be a part of a community or group of other pastors that could support not only him but each other as a group.
What a pastor couldn't or shouldn't do is assume they are a pastor because they want to be a pastor but would need to show that they could be a pastor. They will do this, make no mistake, but they shouldn't.
With the rise of online platforms, content becomes a form of authority. If you create 1000 youtube videos and they are engaging and well produced and watched, you can gain a following. That following isn't just a way for you to get ad revenue, it's a way to exercise power. Every follower is choosing you over the other options that are out there, and there are a lot out there.
I used to worry about the faking of Church, that a "pastor" in big scare quotes could just start doing the nuts and bolts of what a church does online and essentially gain his congregation in aggregate from his followers. his messages might even still be the gospel preached, his books even good theology. But the community that he teaches becomes consumers at face value and fans any deeper than that.
The ability to self-learn is only altruistic in a space that can't allow for the commodification of that learning. A Christian in a theological library is only learning about God. But a Christian who has that theological library. At next to no cost, because it's been turned into an app. That Christian is in a different place. When that Christian isn't writing in a journal but is instead making videos to process what he learns. That Christian is now dealing in influence. And the internet loves its influencers.
We will be wading into this pool of Self Learning and Influence more and more. The internet is here and as most feared here to stay. Might as well learn how it works.