Steve Bremner

Author, Podcaster & Writing Coach

Jesus Didn’t Get Credentials From SeminaryThis post is a 7 min read

…and neither did His disciples (gasp!)

I’ve been torn with what direction I wanted to take this entry in: either focus on the fact Jesus was “uneducated” (in his earthly lifetime anyway), or the fact he picked people to change the world who were not educated.

I’ve been in settings where my personal ‘academics’ are rejected because I didn’t go to a real “accredited” Bible college–or one of the right denominational preference of some individuals. I’ve met people who really believe(d) they’re not ever going to be ready to spread the kingdom of God unless they get a bachelor degree in religious arts or something. I’ve met other people who DID have 4 year bachelor degrees from Bible colleges who didn’t have their “stuff” together when it came to personal holiness. But yet, ‘credentials’ are what makes the credibility cut way too often with ministers of the Gospel, since that’s how the world prepares their students for their vocations.

Am I against education? NO. Like Reinhard Bonnke says, “I’m not against education because it’s certainly not an advantage to be stupid.” But I am IF it gets in the way of your calling. I am against it if becomes an idol, or dare I say it–an excuse that keeps you from stepping out, because let’s face it–it’s easier to lean on the arm of our own flesh, and intellect, education, and so forth, instead of trusting God completely to use us as willing and flexible vessels. Many of us use things like education, whether it be university or Bible college to actually excuse ourselves for why we aren’t doing great exploits now, and remaining in perpetual planning and strategizing because we will do something great in some other vague, nebulous and undefinable day in the future only after something else first–namely, our degrees.  As my friend Eric says, we stay in this ‘forever longing’ for when something will change later, that we don’t take advantage of what we have before us to do NOW.

When I just began reading the New Testament in Matthew, I notice Jesus didn’t operate that way. In fact, He’d be disqualified from pastoring many churches in North America by today’s standards of what makes someone a man or woman of God.

For one thing, as a man, Jesus didn’t get educated at the Jerusalem Bible College. He didn’t go somewhere and study and learn the system’s way of doing things before He could fit into it. He simply revamped the system and ‘created one’. He didn’t go to the finest seminary in Israel and select the top 12 valedictorians of the school and make them His disciples. In fact, he picked people that made those who had studied the right stuff wonder what the heck He was doing making disciples who were tax collectors and fishermen. Certainly nobody the culture would have thought could go off and change history!

In fact, Jesus selected 12 guys that weren’t even ‘saved’ yet. Now put that one in your Bible and read it! If Jesus came and presented His model of ministry to many of the top churches and seminaries of our day, they’d probably flunk him.

The Hebrew way was more of an apprenticing style. Elisha followed Elijah for years and served him before he was taken up in a chariot and then Elisha was able to literally follow in his footsteps. The Greek way was/is academics, and wisdom, not so much apprenticing where you learned from literally following in your mentor’s footsteps. That’s part of why Paul had different approaches with the Gospel with the Greeks and the Jews, of which he said “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”(1 Cor 1:23)

I’ve heard so many policies and methods for how discipleship is supposed to be done. I don’t personally even know the right way anymore. In Matthew, this is how I see things happen in Jesus’ life, ministry, and way of preparing quality disciples to multiply Himself into, who would then spread what He put into them–I’m making a general outline beginning with Jesus’ birth:

1) There’s barely any mention of Him for the first thirty years of His life, while He lives in relative obscurity

But this doesn’t mean–in my opinion–that those years were unfruitful or unproductive. In fact, I’ve heard it said that for every year of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He spent 10 years preparing for it. I think there’s no real way to know if that’s the case, but it’s closer to the truth than believing He just popped on the scene one day around the age of thirty, suddenly!

I say that to say, it’s opposite to our way of doing it–we go to seminary or Bible college for 3 or 4 years, and then spend the next 30 or 40 of our life ministering with the ‘credentials’ or degree we got from it. I have an inclination Jesus was not just prepared for that 3 & 1/2 year span before the foundation of the world, but that there was a time alone in the secret place fellowshipping with the Father as part of that “only doing what He saw the Father doing” pattern.

2) Jesus is water baptized FIRST, and THEN the Holy Spirit came upon Him (Matt 3:16-17)

Many seminaries and Bible colleges major on academics (Greek way) and don’t impart the power of the Holy Spirit to their ministers. Jesus–no less than God Himself–didn’t begin His ministry until after this event had happened. Interesting, eh?  Then, according to the parallel account in Luke chapter 4, He’s led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness, where for 40 days He’s fasting (we don’t know whether fasting was a pre-determined part of this period or an afterthought), and faced all manner of temptations summed up in these specific ones documented in Matt 4:3-9.

Then, look at how he picked “successors” (disciples): he went and picked people that if we want to get nitty-gritty about it, were not even saved yet. Please don’t comment or email me to argue about that particular point–I know they were Jewish, but given the timing of when the Holy Spirit fell, bear with me on this. Most of us think people need to be saved first and then discipled. Not according to Jesus!

Then, according to Matthew’s chronology of events, he preaches and teaches a LOT of stuff that the disciples were present for, along with a large crowd to hear. We have called it the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew chapters 5-7). In it many Christian doctrinal points are established specifically from this speaking engagement. Notice, it was not a four-year bachelor degree program, but probably was done in one day over hours.

Then, for the next two chapters of this Gospel, Jesus specifically demonstrates his authority BY healing the sick and casting out devils from people. Immediately following, He gives this authority to His disciples, and instructs them on it and then off they go! Seems like a pretty short preparation compared to what we make ministers go through to be qualified to teach. Then after that, they keep on learning and keep on doing through out the rest of the Gospel account and no doubt the rest of their time with Jesus on earth.

Let’s summarize:

Jesus–God Himself–didn’t minister until the power of God the Holy Spirit came on Him. It doesn’t say He graduated and got a degree on His wall and a laminated preaching license in His wallet. Then he carefully selected individuals to be His disciples, and didn’t wait long before sending them out AND giving them his own authority–“pre-permission” to do what He did and what He said, and thus demonstrate the kingdom of God.

Interesting stuff.

So why do we follow an academic pattern first and foremost for how people are to be trained for the ministry and mission field?

Related topics: holiness leadership lifestyle ministry opinion

About Steve Bremner

Steve the coffee drinker is a Canadian missionary to Peru, who after raising up disciples to flow in the power of the Holy Spirit within a missional community named Oikos for many years, now helps people bring their own ideas and messages to life through books and audio productions. If you like Steve's blog, you'll also like his books and audiobooks. Note: this post may have contained affiliate links of which the author receives a small commission if you purchase something recommended in the post.