Pastors do not always appreciate the value proposition of good theological training for faithful ministry. Some have seen the faith-destroying power of liberal theology and shunned all theological training. Others have imbibed the anti-intellectual spirit that permeates many ‘Spirit’-oriented churches. Many equate ministry effectiveness with church growth or earning power and realise that training does not correlate closely with a bigger church or salary. These all fail to grasp the central reason that sound theological training is mission critical for faithful pastors.
Pastoral training is mission critical because people become like their pastors, and ignorant pastors produce unfaithful people. This is the message of Hosea 4. In chapters 1–3, God called the prophet Hosea to marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him. Her unfaithfulness to her loving husband served as a symbol of Israel’s unfaithfulness to Yahweh. In chapter 4, Hosea lays the blame for the people’s unfaithfulness squarely on the priests’ lack of knowledge. Just as pastors are today, the OT priests were responsible to protect the purity of worship and to teach the Word of God. Let us consider three reasons why sound biblical training is crucial for faithful ministry.
Firstly, pastors need sound theological training because right beliefs lead to right behaviours.
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
and no knowledge of God in the land;
there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
(Hosea 4:1b–2, ESV)
Do you see the correlation between “no knowledge of God” and “no faithfulness” in life? The prophet blames the people’s lack of faithfulness to God on their ignorance of God’s Word and ways. If they knew the Word of God, there would be more faithfulness and love, and less swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and adultery.
The value of being a well-trained pastor does not lie in getting a bigger church or salary, but in helping the people God entrusts to your care to be more faithful to God in their daily lives. This goal requires a particular kind of theological training—the kind that prioritises knowing God as he revealed himself in his inspired Word. Liberal theologies have no power to produce godliness because they reject the inspiration of Scripture and deny that God can be known truly and normatively. Only Bible-based, Christ-centred training improves faithfulness.
Secondly, pastors need sound theological training because students become like their teachers. The prophet calls it “like people, like priest” (Hos 4:9). The Lord Jesus Christ said it this way, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). If you are a pastor, you are your people’s compass—they will follow your beliefs and behaviour. Jesus cautioned about the Pharisees, “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit” (Matt 15:14). If you are a pastor, you shape your people’s beliefs and behaviour. If your knowledge of God and his Word is flawed, you are leading them astray.
Thirdly, pastors need sound theological training because God rejects ignorant shepherds.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.
(Hosea 4:6, ESV)
God loves his people, but he sees them being destroyed for lack of knowledge. They do not know him, his covenant, or his requirements, so they are living in ways that lead to his judgement. Who is responsible for the people’s ignorance and immorality? The priests are! What did the priests do wrong? They rejected knowledge and forgot the law of God. Unlike Ezra, they did not give themselves to studying, obeying, and teaching the Scriptures (Ezra 7:10). As a result, Yahweh does two things. First, “I reject you from being a priest to me.” Second, “I also will forget your children,” meaning that their genetic priesthood will be removed. Being a priest or pastor is a privilege with a sobering responsibility (Jas 3:1). If you are not committed to knowing and teaching God’s Word, he may reject you being his shepherd.
In conclusion, therefore, pastors need sound biblical training because people become like their pastors, and ignorant pastors produce immoral people. God expects his priests and pastors to know him as revealed in Scripture, living by his instructions and teaching their people to do the same (Matt 5:19). Tragically, the church often suffers from the same syndrome as the Israelites to whom Jeremiah prophesied:
[T]he prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rule at their direction;
my people love to have it so,
but what will you do when the end comes?
(Jer 5:31, ESV)
When the people perish for lack of knowledge, God holds the leaders accountable for failing to expound his Word faithfully.
Short Bio: Kevin, who is the Principal of SATS, obtained his first doctorate from Stellenbosch University and his Ph.D. from SATS. He has a deeply insightful approach to theology and has already made a significant contribution in his relatively short career.
 He did not marry a prostitute, but a woman who would later become an adulteress.
 I took some minor liberties with the punctuation of the ESV to make the point clearer.