I was editing a lesson for the 12th grade Bible textbook put out by BJU Press, and I formulated a critical thinking question to go with the material:
“According to this lesson, what rule is Charles Spurgeon an exception to? Why was he an exception?”
The general rule I suggest in the lesson is something like this: Aspiring pastors should get some sort of formal theological training if it’s available to them. It would be foolish to spurn such an opportunity. The Bible has a lot to say about getting wisdom and holding on to it (Prov. 3:21-23, etc.).
Spurgeon is an exception who proves the rule because, though he didn’t get formal theological training, he trained himself informally by a voracious appetite for good theological books. I would suggest that a trained pastor who does not read is, especially in the long run, inferior to an untrained pastor who does.
My editor made a good comment: “(David Martyn) Lloyd-Jones was another exception. I guess the moral of their stories is that if you want to be a good preacher, get formal theological training. If you want to be the greatest preacher of the century, don’t!”