Disengaged intellectualism is undoubtedly a danger for those spending a season in full-time study in the belief that God is calling them into pastoral ministry. We’ll latch on to anything besides Jesus for security and significance, even learning about Jesus. And as Piper recently reminded us so wisely, the overlap between what is learned in most PhD programs and what is needed in ministry is minimal.
But I find instructive the following statements about the value of study–statements from (or about) men who led lives and ministries that were anything but arid academic pontification.
[S]uch is the depth of the Christian Scriptures that, even if I were attempting to study them and nothing else, from boyhood to decrepit old age, with the umost leisure, the most unwearied zeal, and with talents greater than I possess, I would still be making progress in discovering their treasures. (quoted in Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo, 263)
Samuel Miller, commenting on Jonathan Edwards’ 1723 decision to return to Yale as an academic tutor after a brief New York pastorate:
Many a nice young man since, as well as before his time, of narrow views and crude knowledge, has rushed into the pastoral office with scarcely any of that furniture which enables the shepherd of souls ‘rightly to divide the word of truth’; but Jonathan Edwards, with a mind of superior grasp and penetration, and with attainments already greater than common, did not think three full years of diligent professional study enough to prepare him for this arduous charge, until, after his collegiate graduation, he had devoted six years to close and appropriate study. (quoted in Iain Murray, Jonathan Edwards, 56)
Donald Grey Barnhouse (pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church from 1927-1960):
If I only had three years to serve the Lord, I would spend two of them studying and preparing. (quoted in John Stott, Your Mind Matters, 55)
Billy Graham, to a gathering of 600 pastors in London in 1979:
I’ve preached too much and studied too little. (quoted in John Stott, Between Two Worlds, 181)