This blog is a dialogue with Matt Stewart, about a comment he made on Keith's blog. Whoah, that's a lotta links.
Matt basically wrote that he has, under the possible influence of the neocalvinist tradition, been mentored and discipled more by professors at college than at church by pastors (although, see his later correction). That is a topic of some interest to me, so I thought I'd throw in my two cents without crowding Keith's comment spot.
As Reformed, evangelical Christians, we have a strange concept of the Church. We don't want a Roman Catholic hierarchy (because, frankly, its too Catholic); we don't want an Anabaptist setup (because, frankly, its too Anabaptist)--so we have a strange configuration that tries to find the middle ground between the two. The pastor takes on the lead of the church. Now, this isn't what our systematics tell us to do, but it is what more often than not happens. People become very dependent on pastors to meet their ministry needs, which, granted, is part of the pastor's job description. However, as my pastor made clear in his last sermon, people sort of demand that the pastor takes care of every problem (especially social problems) within the Church. Unfortunately, this is a response by the congregation of immature living--a community is supposed to be mature enough to handle its own problems...although it wasn't any different in Paul's day (see I Corinthians 6). My point here is that pastors shouldn't be the only ones, or even the primary ones, we go to for discipleship. Yes, they are supposed to have more wisdom than the common layperson; yes, they do have special training in discipleship and counseling; yes, that is why they are getting paid. But let's not forget Paul's words "It was [Christ] who gave some...to be pastors...to prepare God's people for works of service [or ministry, the Greek is the same], so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaing to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ..." (Eph. 4:11-13). Pastors' jobs, Biblically, is for preparing others to bear the burden of discipleship and discipling--basically what an 'elder' is supposed to do in a community.
Professors, on the other hand, have such a greater contact with students. Pastors see their congregation once a week, maybe twice if they hold a Bible study mid week. That isn't enough time to meet the discipleship needs of their congregations. Professors meet bidaily, sometimes daily, to meet the discipleship needs--even if it isn't a formal relationship! Professors act as advisors, not just academically, but emotionally and socially. Professors eat in the same place with students day after day and share many common times and experiences that pastors cannot. The community produced by this, while temporary and 'artificial' in a way (see my post below), is much tighter and easy to minister in than in a separated American church. In this way, professors should be celebrated for their role in student development. Plus, professors, working in the freedom of the academy, are more free to disagree with their traditions and speak freely about that--which is crucial to both the Reformation spirit and also to a student's critical thinking skills.
For what its worth...