Today, many churches have outsourced pastoral training to para-church institutions. Certainly, seminaries and Bible schools still play a vitally important role in theological training. But there is a great loss when pastoral training is entirely separated from the local church. As theological training becomes more flexible with online and modular formats, there is a growing opportunity for local churches to partner with seminaries in pastoral training. If you’re a local church pastor, even if you don’t have the resources to start a formal training program, consider how you might intentionally invest in men who are interested in the ministry.
Since the early days of his pastorate, C.H. Spurgeon tutored and trained up gifted young men for the ministry. Over the first seven years of his ministry, Spurgeon would send out seven ministers, and yet more men were approaching him for training. By the spring of 1861, with sixteen men under his care, the financial cost of training these men was becoming too much. So at a special meeting on May 19, 1861, Spurgeon shared with his congregation his vision for pastoral training and took up a special offering to support the work. But the congregation would do more than just give an offering. On July 1, 1861, the congregation passed the following motion:
Our Pastor having told the Church of his Institution for educating young ministers, and having informed them that several were now settled in country charges and laboring with great success, it was unanimously agreed, – That this Church rejoices very greatly in the labours of our Pastor in training young men for the ministry and desires that a record of his successful & laborious efforts should be entered in the church-books – Hitherto, this good work has been rather a private effort than one in which the Church has had a share, but the Church hereby adopts it as part of its own system of evangelical labours, promises its pecuniary aid, and its constant and earnest prayers.
The Pastors’ College was born. No longer would the training of future ministers be the private effort of their pastor, but now it would be an official ministry of the church, supported by the giving and prayers of the members. This college would share many of the characteristics of the pastor, his robustly evangelical and Calvinistic doctrine, the focus on producing preachers of the gospel, the warm and personal form of instruction, and more. But more important than the college’s connection to Spurgeon was its union with a vibrant local church. This set it apart from all the other academic institutions of the time.