My father, having been a pastor for over twenty years, has told me that pastors are given a great deal of respect in some communities and that it is very easy for pastors to forget that they are not professionals; professionals in the sense that lawyers, accountants, doctors,etc. perform a specialty service of which they are made capable by years of study and dedication. While the part about study and dedication is true, I think there is still a distinction to be made here, pastors are not professionals. Clergy is not a "white-collar" profession. However, there are a couple of reasons why I think that we as Asians regard pastors as a "white collar" prefession.
Besides having roots in a shamanistic culture, which places courtesy to the spiritual/supernatural, I think that there is a huge emphasis in legitimizing authority. Because of the Confucian nature of Asian society with its hierarchy, it is very difficult for one to speak without some sort of credential, in this case, seminary or some other experience. Perhaps it goes back to the dynasties of old when the imperial courts would offer education to those who proved themselves prodigious. Scholars have always been held in high regard in Asian cultures and the emphasis persists even to the present.
I think the problem that I have is that this emphasis persists to the point that pastors legitimize themselves before others, and perhaps even to themselves, with solely the mark of scholarship, not necessarily discipleship. What do I mean? I remember when going through a job search how much the name of a marquee university meant to my bachelor's degree and even having the notion that my schooling made me a superior candidate for work in the business world. I have witnessed on more than one occasion, where pastors measure one another based on their seminary education and there's a judgment that takes place. There's the notion that the education makes the pastor and it is the bar by which one pastor can be measured against another.
With the number of Asian applicants increasing to seminaries nationwide, I can't help but wonder if many young adults with good intentions, are simply going to obtain an education to provide an occupation, or if they are educating themselves for their deepest pre-occupation. Let's be honest, why shouldn't they? It's a good life to do good things, to live in the church, to preach, to lead worship, to have influence, to be a good steward and be paid; but is it possible that we could be misguiding our believers that unless they go to seminary, unless they are a part of occupational ministry, that they are not advancing the Kingdom? Is it possible that more Asian Americans are going to seminary to gain a career and social status, rather than submitting to a call for a lifetime of sacrifice? Is it possible that Asian Americans are flocking to the seminaries because we do not provide enough discipleship and mentoring in our churches?