“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”——Acts 4:13
Some of the most qualified pastors and leaders I have known don’t have any formal Bible college or seminary degrees. There are also many that I have seen that have seminary doctorates or other advanced degrees, but have no business leading a small group, let alone being in any pastoral or leadership position. Let me suggest that many of the qualifications that we look for in the secular world often don’t apply in the Church.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t value to intentional study in some Bible colleges or seminaries. There is in fact a lot that can help train people up and disciple people for ministry. But we also can’t let these things become the bar for which we evaluate if a person is fit for ministry.
Peter and John were much more “qualified” to be fishermen than even be considered for ministry by most today. But what we see from the passage above is that although Peter and John had no formal education or training, their qualifications were of them “having been with Jesus”. If Peter and John didn’t have degrees or institutional training, but were known for spending time with Jesus, shouldn’t a person’s relationship with the Lord and their growing in knowing and applying the Bible be one of the main qualifications for those looking to be pastors or leaders??
It continually amazes me how many people are actually pastors and leaders today. They gain massive followers and audiences for their charisma and ability to market themselves and their ministries. But how they handle God’s Word absolutely disqualifies most of them from any sort of ministry.
What we should be looking for in pastors and leaders is their character and how well they can actually handle the Bible. They must be person of integrity, able to rightly explain Scripture according to the context, and show they have the ability to stand for Truth despite opposition. It doesn’t mean they are perfect or that they know everything about the Bible, doctrine, or how to “build a church”, but are competent to show they have a growing understanding of true faith and salvation.
Now this again doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a bar of other qualifications. Both the books of Timothy and Titus, as well as Scripture as a whole, describe in further detail what pastors, elders, deacons, and the like require. However, we must again realize that just because someone can provide a piece of paper for their education or training doesn’t necessarily make them more qualified than someone who does not have these things. The same can also be said for those who are put into pastoral or leadership positions, but haven’t been tested or proven without any education or training.
It seems that Jesus was far more concerned about faith, character, and the willingness to “go and make disciples”, than anything else. Most of the people that God used in the Bible did not have the highest ability according to the world, but set themselves apart in their desire for the Lord and their obedience to Him. The same should go with how we evaluate our pastors and leaders today.
So we should ask, what does it mean for us today to be known as “having been with Jesus”?? Since Jesus was crucified, raised again to life, and has acceded to the right hand of the Father, we can’t physically spend time with Jesus as those like Peter and John were able to at that time. To be known for being with Jesus, requires that we be spending intentional time in prayer, reading and studying all of the Bible, and serving the Lord in obedience. In essence, becoming so familiar in our relationship with the Lord that we are able to know, understand, and share the Truth of the Bible with others. It requires that we are living according to God’s commands and are able to refute those who contradict. (Titus 1:9)
Just as Peter and John weren’t perfect in their faith and obedience, no man is either. Humility, being teachable, and a willingness to confess and repent of sin has to be at the heart of those in ministry. What is concerning is that the character of a person is often overlooked because of their other abilities. Some don’t meet the qualifications of Timothy, Titus, or elsewhere in Scripture to be pastors or leaders, but then as time goes along, their sins eventually reveal that they haven’t been “practicing what they preach”, so to speak. We must be much more careful examining the character of people and not just their outward appearance or abilities. It is not enough to say that, “we are all sinners”, but then allow those embracing sin to continue to be in ministry.
Being a pastor and a leader in the Church also isn’t just another job.
Many churches in North America, if not in other places in the world, tend to view the role of a pastor as any other profession. They even look to “hire” pastors and leaders according to the same application process as many other jobs. Ministry is often seen as another 9-5 type career. Many pastors and leaders are told that they even need to hold “business hours” in their church office. But if we all take a step back and look at ministry, can ministry really be confined to this type of work schedule and these expectations?? Is that how Jesus operated with His disciples??
Ministry isn’t so linear. Most ministry usually cannot happen within the typical times when others are working. Therefore, to require pastors to hold “office hours”, means they would be working well beyond typical 40 hours a week. And many do.
We cannot view church and ministry within our world framework.
There is time where preparation and study must happen. There is time to be meeting with other believers. There must also be time meeting with other non-believers. Therefore, ministry must be fluid. There will be times when it seems that those in ministry may look like they are not “working”. But what people miss is that there are other times when those in ministry are pouring in so much more time than is even known. We must be careful in our evaluations when it comes to those in ministry and those who are really doing the work of ministry.
Another area that astonishes me are denomination and church annual evaluations of pastors. Can you imagine the yearly review of Peter and John?? Just picture them sitting down with their “Senior Pastor” to see if they are meeting the expectations or “vision” of the organization. Not that there shouldn’t be accountability that pastors and leaders should be following, but these evaluations and reviews follow the world’s patterns, not God’s.
I have also been a part of and heard of way too many pastors who want to do real ministry and disciple others, but end up being caught up with so many things that are not really about ministry and discipleship because of the expectations brought on by the world’s standards. Whether that be church board meetings, denominational meetings, or many other so-called “meetings”. The focus of these “meetings” often doesn’t revolve around how to encourage, pray for, or talk through the challenges we each face in pointing people to Jesus and true discipleship, but on things that don’t truly matter. It is discouraging for those wanting to see people put their faith in Jesus and grow in their faith and obedience to Him. And it is quite telling when many pastors and leaders today are more focused on the ABC’s of churches (Attendance, Buildings, Cash), rather than on discipleship.
The qualifications of pastors and leaders must be re-aligned with Scripture if we are to truly be the Church. There are far too many churches today that function with more Chief Executive types that seek to fulfill some sort of goal to grow the organization. This isn’t church or even more, the Church. Even though people may call these things churches or the people that lead them pastors and leaders, we must have a different standard. It is critical that each of us be known only for “having been with Jesus” and not simply for our outward appearance or abilities.