Thursday, January 6, 2011

Note to My Brothers Part 3: Ministry Qualifications

                There is this secular idea that by meeting certain criteria a man will then be qualified for ministry. For example, if a person wants to become a lawyer it is assumed that they must go to law school. Applying the same secular ideas to ministry, if a person wishes a ministry position (pastor, preacher, missionary, etc.) they should begin with formal training. The formal training will produce verifiable qualifications and these qualification will cause the doors of ministry will swing wide. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with formal training but it is not the most important thing nor does it guarantee ministry success.
                So often the concentration is on the secular “qualifications” with neglect to the spiritual ones. One verse stands out in my mind when I speak to young men you are seeking to pursue what they call “ministry."
                                Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”
                               1 Corinthians 4:2            

                The faithfulness that is spoken of is not some future thing. Faithfulness is a “now” thing. When we are regenerated the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. We are given gifts at that point for the purpose of serving God and the body. Ministry is not some future position in some future time but is here and now.  How can a person expect God to promote them to some public ministry (complete with the title and paycheck) if they are not even faithful where they are now?
                Several years ago I was involved with a church internship. All the interns were assigned preaching duties on Sunday morning at the local assisted living apartments and nursing homes. The scheduled rotated so that each person would preach once a month. One Sunday morning while walking through the halls of the church I saw a fellow intern. I was sure that it was his day to go to the nursing home. “Oh no,” I thought, “what if I was mistaken and it is my day?” I raced into the office and looked at the schedule. It was his day. “Perhaps he forgot,” I thought. I later found out he had not forgotten but that he skipped going to the facility in order to listen to a visiting missionary speak. Today that guy has a very cushy job with an international mission society. He has an office, a nice salary and travels to foreign countries a few times a year. Truly God is a redeeming God. None the less I do not send that society any money. Please know that the promotion of a man is not always the approval of God.
                In the secularized Christianity of the day, being cute will get you a lot further than being faithful (or Holy). When I use the word “cute” I mean attractive, having a pleasant disposition and ability to win friends and influence people. Oh, I know the response already. “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” Well, there is the problem. We are not out to catch flies we are out to be faithful to the ministry and message of God in hopes that dead people will live. Personality will take you much further than piety- in man’s economy, but not in God’s.  

                Many times I have had young men join me for the purpose of evangelism and outreach. I will take them to the apartment complexes, projects and trailer courts to go door-to-door sharing the Gospel or handing out tracts. I have also taken them to do open-air preaching and street evangelism. This usually will last a few months and then they will stop. Once they see that it is not glamorous, there is no paycheck, their picture will never be on the front page of the association’s paper nor will they be asked to travel around to churches giving presentations- they stop. Where is the faithfulness to serve God even if the reward is not immediate? Are you following Christ because of the free bread? Is the ability to serve not the reward?

                I think to myself, “Why would my church give you money to go to a foreign country if you are not faithful where you are at?” If you are lazy and fearful here then you are not worthy of going anywhere! If you are not faithful to preach in the streets why should have a pulpit? If you are too good to preach in the jails and in the nursing homes then you are far to dignified to be of any Godly use in the weak, pathetic churches of America or the pagan, foreign mission fields. You will only bring more death to those that are in desperate need of life.

                Next time: The danger of comparing ourselves to other.

1 comment:

chad beck said...

Thanks Barry! I am often tempted to have a pity party because I am in the middle of nowhere and feels like God has forgot me. Ha! It was God who put me here, I am reminded. You hit the nail on the head, "is the ability to serve not the reward?"
To serve God is a "privilege" and not a "right." I am humbled God would even consider a fallen wretched like me to serve Him. It is all of His grace, for sure!