Summary: What are the qualifications in our day for pastors, deacons, elders and leaders in general and how do they compare to the qualifications set out in the New Testament?
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What are the qualifications in our day for pastors, deacons, elders and leaders in general?</strong> Is it the ownership of several freshly pressed suits and ties? Is it pieces of paper with a signed by someone most people wouldn’t recognize? Is it the personal collection of books filled to the brim with other people’s personal opinions of Christ and the church? Is it in masterful trickery of the tongue upon tickled ears? Have we ever really asked ourselves the question, “what qualifies us for ministry?” What plumb line, or bar are we measured against that allows us the privilege of open ministry (both corporate and individual)? Or on a personal level, what qualifies us to openly display the gospel to the unbeliever?
My desire is to know what the scriptures say on this matter, of qualification. Ever in my searching I have yet to find the verses commanding the attendance of and accredited university for 4 to 7 years. Nor do I find the doctrine of, the issuance of golden sealed papers to be rewarded for the regurgitation of cold information. No, in my ventures across the scripture I have found something, yes something somewhere which hints, no, declares the qualities of true leaders and servants. Now I am not discrediting the usefulness of proper education, I’m speaking as one who earned a Bachelor of Theology with highest honors (the Canadian equivalent to summa cum laude.)
However, that bachelors may be recognized by the people around me and those reading, watching and listening to my words but in God’s eyes it’s not a permit to be part of the ministry.</strong> That bachelors did not force God to place a call of ministry on my life and neither did that degree replace or cancel out 16 years of informal self-study and previous ministry experience. To be honest my years of personal experience and previous studies made getting my bachelors much easier and allowed me to complete it in record time.
I’m a huge advocate for learning the scriptures, theology, hermeneutics, doctrine and the like but possessing information, books or degrees does not equal a call to the ministry.There are a great many people who have attended Bible Colleges and Universities who were not called into ministry. On the other hand there are many who are called and are active in the ministry who have never been to school at all. Perhaps I am just jaded about this subject because I have been on both sides of the fence. I have been called and active in ministry without a degree (including teaching people with Bible school degrees) and now I have a degree and am still living out my calling.
I feel that people treat me “better” now than before, but my heart has not changed. I remember one encounter with a church I used to attend in Winnipeg, I was having a deep theological conversation with a man who was an elder in the church and a high-ranking member of the denomination. At one point he asked me where I went to school and how I became so insightful for my age. I told him that I didn’t actually have a degree and he looked at me turned his back and walked away and refused to talk with me any longer. (I should probably mention that at this time I was also the church’s volunteer youth pastor.)
Paying an institution thousands of dollars and writing theses and book reports did not stir up or validate a call on my life. Rather it merely encourages people to trust me more as I live out that calling, because honestly would you rather buy a book written by some guy from Canada called Cam, or from Cameron D. Conway B.Th? We must go beyond the sights and sounds of paper and ink and begin to look at the qualities of the heart, the experience of trials, testimonies unwavering faith and a devotion to build the Kingdom as the true signs of a call to ministry in a person. The education which comes later (either formal, through discipleship or self-taught) then acts as a foundation to maintain a person in ministry. It provides the scaffolding for a heart to witness the gospel to the world. We must always remember that a heart will always cry out louder than an idea, our heart motivates us and leads us to God while knowledge and information ensure that we are correctly sharing the truths of the gospel.
How many times have we had information presented to us that was either not believed by the person speaking, flat out incorrect or focuses on the wrong things. I’ve seen fiery evangelists who have known next to nothing about the scriptures or discipleship and I have seen experts on the scriptures who have never lifted a finger to spread the gospel. We need both, we need a heart of fire and mind of raw fuel to sustain those flames and give them purpose.