Reforming the training of pastors (3)

Reforming the training of pastors (3)

(Third in a series. To be continued.)

We’ve pointed out it’s good for a man to aspire to shepherd God’s flock. Also that it’s good and natural for grandsons and sons of pastors to desire to share their father’s call to pastoral ministry. Desiring to enter pastoral ministry is good so long as that desire is not motivated by pride or laziness. The men who enter the work must be called by God to serve Him and His flock—not our own flesh.

Let’s now turn to the matter of how best to get training for this work.

Right here at the beginning of what will become more than a few posts, let me open up how it was my brothers and I ended up moving out to Boston and earning our MDivs at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. It was a family thing.

Our parents, Joe and Mary Lou Bayly, were the first Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship staff workers in New England, during which their church home was Boston’s Park Street Church. At the time, there was a strong commitment to the authority of Scripture under the preaching of Harold John Ockenga. More recently, there’s been an attrition of Biblical authority led by Park Street’s longtime (and just retired) pastor, Gordon Hugenberger.

Park Street has now joined the mass departure from Scripture’s doctrine of sexuality led by men like Gordon Fee, Gilbert Bilezikian, Bill Hybels (and his Willow Creek) who have used their influence to push churches like Park Street to ordain women elders for the exercise of authority over men in the congregation.

Back in the day when Dad and Mud1 attended, though, Park Street was stalwart in its commitment to the authority of God’s Word.

When I came to study at Gordon-Conwell thirty years later, Ockenga had resigned Park Street’s pulpit and was serving as Gordon-Conwell’s president emeritus. He lived near the campus.

In addition to Ockenga’s orthodox influence and leadership, there were other reasons to attend Gordon-Conwell. Dad had taught a class on death and dying and pastoral care during Gordon-Conwell’s summer session a couple years earlier, my wife’s older sister had studied counselling there, and Gordon-Conwell had awarded Dad an honorary degree a decade or so earlier, so Gordon-Conwell seemed the natural place for Dad’s sons.

Graduating from University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1978, it didn’t seem quite right to move directly to Boston and start seminary. Explaining to Dad that I wanted to have a time of testing of my gifting and call to pastoral ministry, he suggested I write his friend, Eugene Allen, who was serving as an Associate Pastor under Bob Oerter at First Presbyterian Church in Boulder, Colorado, asking if I could have some volunteer responsibilities there for a year. My plan was to find work in Boulder cleaning, painting, or otherwise. I made the request of Pastor Allen and he said he’d speak to Bob Oerter (the senior pastor) and get back to me.

It was a great joy when Pastor Allen called to say Pastor Oerter had proposed that, instead of my working a full-time job outside of the church, I be hired as a full-time pastoral intern. So Mary Lee and I (along with our two-year old daughter, Heather) moved to Boulder.

There I served teaching an adult Sunday school class, starting and trying to hide my leadership of a small group (some remember those days when leaders had to hide leadership from those being led), attending staff meetings, and helping set up a lay counselling program staffed by church members.

It was so helpful. First Pres was a large enough congregation (1,500 to 2,000) to get sort of lost in, so my sins and mistakes didn’t register as high on the Richter scale as they would have in a small church. We learned a lot and made some close friends that year.

More importantly, the kind souls of First Pres confirmed I had the gifts for pastoral ministry and offered to provide a stipend to support us while we were at seminary. First Pres’s session recommended me to Boulder Presbytery to go under care and the presbytery approved my getting the MDiv at the non-denominational Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, rather than one of their own United Presbyterian Church (USA) seminaries. This was a big deal. Another Evangelical man under care of Boulder Presbytery requested to attend Gordon-Conwell at the same time as I did, but was turned down because it was nondenominational. (He went to Gordon-Conwell anyhow, and had to leave the care of Boulder Presbytery.)

After a good year, Mary Lee, Heather, and I climbed in our VW diesel rabbit with bikes on top and a one-ton trailer hooked to our hitch pushing us eastward. Arriving on the north shore of Boston, we moved into married student housing and started seminary at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Their statement of faith required faculty, administration, and students to subscribe to the inerrancy of Scripture.

This is important for future posts. Gordon-Conwell was built on an Evangelical statement of faith that explicitly included the declaration that the Bible was “inerrant.” Every student, administrator, and member of faculty was required to declare their explicit commitment to the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture.

Let me conclude by recording here the three things Dad said to me before we arrived at Gordon-Conwell:

  • If you’re going to be a pastor, you’ll have to get an MDiv. It’s the union card.
  • The only thing seminary has in common with Jesus’ training of His disciples is that both are three-year institutions.
  • Tim, it took me three years to get through seminary and seven years to get over it.

(Third in a series. To be continued.)

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1. Our family’s pet name for Mother.

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About The Author

7

Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church since 1996, Tim and Mary Lee have five children and lots of grandchildren. Tim's books include "Daddy Tried," The Grace of Shame," "Church Reformed," and a new book for elders. Tim spent ten years in the PC(USA) and twenty in the PCA. He's now a member of Evangel Presbytery.

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