A Glut of Ministerial Candidates?

They’re having an interesting discussion at the Warfield List about what do with the over abundance of ministerial candidates. Here’s my tuppence:

I think this is an important question, and I agree that there is some buck passing that goes on.

It’s not quite true at WSC that all one needs is a checkbook. One also needs a pulse!


Our admissions people tell us that we’re self-selecting, i.e. when prospective students see that they actually have to learn Hebrew and Greek and that we require students to use them, they sometimes “self select” another school. When a student gets in who doesn’t belong, we do counsel them. In 10 years at WSC I’ve seen very few students graduate who really should not have. In one case I protested by refusing to sign the diploma. In two cases I think neither is in the pastorate any longer.

Speaking for my colleagues, we do wish that churches would call us and ask about students/graduates. We rarely get such calls.

It would be presumption for us at WSC to try to do the work of the presbytery or classis. We cannot call us sessions/consistories and say, “you should not call this fellow because….”

Presbyteries, sessions/Classes/consistories have to do due diligence. They should not assume that because a man graduated seminary that he is necessarily eligible to be called. I know that our classis (SWUS URC) has made that clear to candidates! Seminary is good preparation for ministry but it’s not the sufficient condition. Examination by Presbytery, internal call and external call is necessary. I think we
all agree on that.

One suggestion for the glut of PCA candidates/pastors: Church planting. Let’s follow Andy’s lead regarding planting OSP congregations. There are only 500,000 or so NAPARC folk out there. We could grow by 10 times and still only be 1/3 of the nominal SBC number. If we grew by 10x we would only be equal to the ELCA.

I don’t mean to suggest that every recent seminary grad is up to the rigors of church planting but surely some of them are and some of the more mature, seasoned ministers in (relatively) comfortable pulpits should be planting. Why don’t those stable, mature sessions call a younger man and release the experienced men to plant? There are millions and millions in this country and across the globe who do not know Christ. If we OSP types think that church planting is the divine plan for kingdom extension then let’s take advantage of the opportunity we have.

Surely it cannot be the case that we have too many trained people? I’m not accusing anyone of saying this but the church is not a zero sum game. The pie can and must be expanded for the glory of Christ. if there is a surplus of potential pastors and not enough existing fields of ministry, let’s expand the fields of ministry.

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  1. Hi Dr. Clark,
    I don’t have a yahoo ID, so I can’t post this over at the Warfield List, but I had some thoughts, as one of the “glut.”

    First, it seems like the internship process is a huge factor in deciding whether or not a man is called to gospel ministry. However, it also seems like internship process is not taken particularly seriously as a means of evaluating men. I say this as an intern of my presbytery. It seems more like a checklist that, if completed, gets one a stamp of approval from the presbytery. I would actually like more evaluation–more questioning of my sense of calling and gifts. I would love it if I had regular conversations with men in my presbytery who wanted to ask me questions about my preaching or teaching.

    Second, it seems like if the presbytery took a more active approach in calling pastors for congregations, then some of this could be avoided. As it is now, congregations call pastors who are then “rubber-stamped” by the presbytery. I know that the PCA is designed as a bottom-up polity, but it seems like the presbytery could really be of service to the churches in thus manner. I know a lot of pastors would not like the idea of being told where to serve, but perhaps that could be an aspect of discerning one’s calling?

    Again, I say these things as a seminary student, candidate, presbytery intern (part of the “glut”). Of course, I want to plant a church eventually, so maybe I’m not really part of the glut.

  2. I’m a layman in Pittsburgh PA. The Reformed churches I’ve visited here are wonderful, but there’s only one that’s (barely) within 30 minutes of my home. Can yunz send some folks out here?

  3. Thanks for the listing Dr. Clark. I’ve attended Covenant OPC in the past — that is about 25 minutes away (there’s no easy way to get anywhere in Pittsburgh), and I love those folks; between my wife and me, work/school schedules have made it very difficult to attend. I’m in the little bare patch in the Pittsburgh map near Glassport/McKeesport. I was not aware of the location of City Reformed, a start-up work, which appears to be somewhat closer. Schedules have temporarily eased up, and I’d like to give a visit there.

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