I strongly believe that of the many things that have corrupted the church, the choosing of leaders based upon them having a degree from a Bible college or university ranks very high on the list. This tradition has exalted man-made credentials above biblical qualifications. Biblical qualifications are almost not even considered anymore when choosing leaders.
When I first got saved, I was living with my father and step-mother, who had gotten saved a couple weeks before myself. They believed it was their calling to take in children who needed a home. Before long we had a house full of rebellious teenagers. I wanted very badly to get away from that situation because I had to live with them 24-7. Instead, the Lord made it clear to me He wanted me to stay and help with this ministry and lay down my life for these kids.
That ministry lasted for about five years at which time my step-mother got cancer ending the ministry. I did not know it at the time, but that five years of sacrificial ministry without pay was the Holy Spirit’s way of training me for ministry in the future. I had previously gone to Bible college to get a degree, but the Lord told me to leave after a couple years so that He could put me in His “school of the Holy Spirit.” When I entered that school, He told me the first thing He had to do with me is un-indoctrinate me from many of the things I had learned in Bible college.
A couple of years later, I was used by the Lord to start a congregation. I ended up hiring a man who had gone to a Bible school for a couple years and gotten a degree. He had no former training in ministry. We worked side by side for seven years. I was essentially the assistant pastor without a title or pay. He got all the perks like a weekly check, honor, accolades, and authority. I was putting as many hours into the ministry every week as he was, but I had to work a 40-hours-a-week job on top of that. However, because of the Holy Spirit’s training of me to lay down my life for the people, I spent much time with the sheep. The “pastor” didn’t want to spend any time with the sheep; he only wanted to preach to them one hour a week. We had a pot-luck lunch after services so they saved him and his wife the best from the food beforehand. After services my wife and I prayed for the people alongside of him and his wife while most of the people went to eat. My wife and I got the scraps after everyone else had eaten. He had never been trained to self-sacrifice for people; he had only academic training. I began to see there was something seriously wrong and deceptive about pastors having a degree for ministry with only academic classroom training and never learning to lay down their lives for the sheep.
We sent my son to Liberty University to get a pre-med degree. Liberty University is one of the biggest religious universities in the U.S. Naturally, every year he had roommates who were studying to be “pastors.” To get a pre-med degree takes a lot of studying, and often my son stayed up all night studying. While he was studying for his degree, usually his roommates, who were getting a degree for ministry, were playing video games. The courses were so easy they did not need to study much. Thus, at the end of the four years, they had many hours of playing video games under their belt. Our son did not have much time for that kind of fun. These students are the future pastors of America. Not only do they get an easy degree that supposedly trains them for ministry, their training is selfishly having as much fun as possible while in college. The concept of self-sacrificing for others probably does not even enter their heads, nor are they trained in it.
We are supposed to be followers of Jesus, who led the example of self-sacrifice. In fact, the biblical concept of love is based on His sacrifice for us. Thus, we are called to lay down our lives for others. The Pharisees on the other hand had no training in self-sacrifice; they only had classroom training. Jesus said,
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them (John 10:11-12 NKJV).
The religious people confronted Jesus because He had no credentials from their institutions.
Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” (Matt. 21:23 NKJV)
They wanted to know what credentials he had to be in ministry such as where He went to school? Like the church today, they were oblivious to the concept that self-sacrifice for others is the training for church ministry. The fact that Jesus had already sacrificed His throne in heaven made no difference to them—He had no credentials. Jesus rebuked them for not being willing to sacrifice for the people.
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men” (Matt. 23:1-5).
Jesus taught the apostles to sacrifice for the kingdom. Peter acknowledging this said,
“See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:28-31 ESV).
The religious leaders noticed they did not have any formal education,
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13 NKJV).
Where was their degree? How dare them go into ministry without a degree and classroom training!
He also spoke specifically about his credentials,
For we [Christians] are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit and by the Spirit of God and exult and glory and pride ourselves in Jesus Christ, and put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances—Though for myself I have [at least grounds] to rely on the flesh. If any other man considers that he has or seems to have reason to rely on the flesh and his physical and outward advantages, I have still more! Circumcised when I was eight days old, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew [and the son] of Hebrews; as to the observance of the Law I was of [the party of] the Pharisees, as to my zeal, I was a persecutor of the church, and by the Law's standard of righteousness (supposed justice, uprightness, and right standing with God) I was proven to be blameless and no fault was found with me. But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ's sake (Phil. 3:3-7 AMP).
He went on to tell what his credentials were,
Are we starting to commend ourselves again? Or we do not, like some [false teachers], need written credentials or letters of recommendation to you or from you, [do we]? [No] you yourselves are our letter of recommendation (our credentials), written in your hearts, to be known (perceived, recognized) and read by everybody (2 Cor. 3:1-2).
Paul claimed the fruit of his ministry was his credentials. Paul also certainly exemplified sacrificing for the church. He said,
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me (1 Cor. 15:10 NKJV).
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Tim. 4:6-7 NKJV).
Many more scriptures could be cited to show this.
Paul also trained and proved Timothy to sacrifice for the kingdom.
But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra--what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me (2 Tim. 3:10-11 NKJV).
But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel (Phil. 2:19-22 NKJV).
Paul said Timothy had “proven character.” Can you even imagine that being a qualification for ministry today? No proven character is necessary for church leadership today, only a degree.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service (Rom. 12:1 NKJV).
Notice he did not say milk your supporters out of 65 million dollars so you can buy a new Learjet as one television preacher recently did.
Paul speaking of people who use ministry for self-gain said,
“. . . who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself (1 Tim. 6:5 NKJV).
Thus says the Lord my God, “Feed the flock for slaughter, whose owners slaughter them and feel no guilt; those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich’; and their shepherds do not pity them (11:4-5 NKJV).
Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever (Jude 1:11-13 NKJV).
“. . . and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts (Jude 1:16-18 NKJV).
However, as long as they have a degree, they can do whatever they wish; and it is sanctified by their credentials—so they think.
Paul listed the qualifications for leadership in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1, but these are basically ignored for preference of a degree. The reason that pastors are not even mentioned there is because “pastor” is a man-made position. The shepherds of the New Testament are elders—in the plural (see my book, The Church Pattern: Ezekiel’s Temple.)
Many so called “pastors” have used “their” flock and position for personal gain. A degree means nothing in the kingdom of God. Many, if not most, who have degrees for ministry will not even qualify for ministry when the Lord installs His end-time leadership (Jer. 23:1-4). Over the centuries the church has been deceived degree by degree concerning what a pastor is till finally they are now defined as a person with a piece of paper on his wall—no biblical qualifications required. Don’t be deceived by a degree; it is only another man-made tradition.