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Some Thoughts on “Ministerial Education" From John Albert Broadus

Some Thoughts on “Ministerial Education” [1]


John Albert Broadus

Scripture Portion

Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workmen that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth. —2 Timothy, 2: 14 (KJV).[2]

Our passage . . . brings before us the great subject of the qualifications and the training of minister of the Gospel. Where do we stand to-day [sic], my brethren, so to ministerial education? What is the duty of to-day [sic] in regard to it? As to our past, there is in it much to be thankful for, and of course much to lament. I believe, for my part, that the theory of the Baptist churches as to the ministry of the gospel is a right theory, substantially. That theory has always been that the ministry of the gospel ought to be restricted to men who have been over a certain fixed course of mental training in order to it, but that every one [sic] should be encouraged to preach who feels moved to preach, and whom the churches are willing to hear.

What I wish to speak of, then, is our present duty as to ministerial education. And I have three points of remark about it. . ..[3]

First, —Ministerial education must go hand in hand with general education. It ought to keep in advance; but it cannot be, as a general thing, far in advance of the education of the people. They must go together. Why, with our free system of choice, you cannot get the churches to prefer a well-educated man, unless they have some education themselves. A man who had been reared among intelligent people and has been well educated, and who then goes to preach among the ignorant, is startled to find how prejudiced they are against his ideas and against him. . .. You will pardon me, for I wanted to illustrate the fact that ignorance, like a shell-fish [sic], secretes a coating of prejudice that hardens all around it. If you could make all your ministers educated, as long as the mass of people are comparatively uneducated, they would often not want them. So, the two must go together. Moreover, it is a thing very easy to happen, and which sometimes does happen with all our precautions against it, that a certain class of men are educated away from a people. . ..[4]

My second point is this—Ministerial education must not be—cannot be—the same for all. Let us not go from one extreme to the other [requiring all be educated or satisfied with an ignorant ministry] . . .. So, then, I insist upon it that we Baptist people, in trying to elevate out ministry, must not go from the extreme to which our churches once inclined towards the other extreme. If we do, we shall be false to all our history; we shall be false to what we conceive to be the teaching of the gospel; we shall be recreant to the demands of the approaching future. My brethren, we must not have some artificial notion of education, and allow it to be converted into a mechanical process, which is always the tendency. People talk as if educating a man was just taking him through the fixed machine, all men trough the same machine, and coming out at the same point with the same training. That is false to all the prodigious variety in the faculties and tendencies of mankind. We must constantly guard against the tendency to make education, in all its departments and in all our institutions, a mechanical process, instead of a process of growth and the training of the living thing. . ..[5]

Come not to my third point—Out institutions for ministerial education, or, more generally, our institutions of higher education, must be greatly improved without delay. . ..[6]

Our institutions need more instructors, in order that the work may be divided out, in order that each man may have the opportunity to devoted himself to certain things and know them thoroughly, and work at them with the intense delight that comes to a man when he feels that he is making progress in the subject he loves. . ..[7]

Well, you can see the absolute necessity that follows. Out institutions must be better endowed. . ..[8]

Now, my brethren—minister and laymen, men and women—we must take hold of such thoughts as these, which would come to any of us upon reflection, and go among our people and stir their souls with the thought of the opportunity there is for them, the many to give a little, but especially the few to give much, for it is only from the larger gifts of the few that institutions of education have received ample endowment; to stir their souls to see what God gives them opportunity to do, what God’s high providence sends down, like the sunbeams of heaven, for a direction to them. . . . [9]

[1] John A. Broadus, “Ministerial Education” in Sermons and Addresses (Philadelphia: H.M. Wharton & Co., 1886), 198. A footnote in the text says this “Sermon before Missouri Baptist Educational Society, at Liberty, Mo. (the seat of Wm. Jewell College) in 1881.” [2] Broadus, 198. [3] Broadus, 203. [4] Broadus, 203-204. [5] Broadus, 208ff. [6] Broadus, 210-215. [7] Broadus, 211. [8] Broadus, 212. [9] Broadus, 215.

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