Uneducated, Untrained Men

“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

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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.

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You Might Need To Re-Think…

If your pastor spends more time quoting others than preaching the Bible in context, you might need to re-think what church you go to.

If you anxiously await the new “Christian” book that is coming out rather than diving into reading and studying all of the Bible, you might want to recognize that your source for truth is from man and not God.

If “false teachers” are only those that don’t claim to be “Christian” or are from other religions, you may need to read in the Bible that false teachers are often disguised as Christians and twist the Bible out of context.

If your church is focused more on building projects, sending out mailers, marketing, or the programs and events they are coordinating, you need to return to the Bible to see how to really define the Church.

If you believe that the goal of church is to invite others to your church rather than the responsibility of each believer sharing Jesus with those around them, you may need to change your beliefs about evangelism.

If you believe “unity” is more important than Truth, then you’ve misunderstood unity according to Jesus in the Gospel of John.

If you think that “inter-faith initiatives” are an opportunity to work with others for the same goal, you’ve missed the Great Commission.

If your church cares more about “mission” or being “missional” rather than the Truth, your church might be focused on humanitarian work rather than the Gospel.

If you are following those claiming that anything they teach is “radical”, “scandalous”, “reckless”, or any other hyper-adjective rather than on the simple daily walk with the Lord, you are more than likely following the wrong crowd.

If you say your church teaches the Bible, but the pastor spends more time on his sermon series’ plucking verses from the Bible for his agenda, your church isn’t “Bible Based”, but Bible Twisting.

If you are told that mystery and doubt are qualities to be embraced, it’s likely you are are following the Emergent Church movement and need to return to Scripture to see these are things to be rejected, not embraced.

If your church is more concerned about “building community” rather than making disciples, you are probably at the wrong church.

If you believe there is something called, “Christian Yoga”, and think that it is actually “Christian”, you may need to learn more about Yoga and how it is incompatible with true Christianity.

If your small group looks more like a “life group, “book club”, or ”social gathering”, rather than a place to gather with others to actually study the Bible, you are probably in the wrong group.

If you spend more time sharing “inspirational” phrases from what you’ve been reading rather than encouraging and challenging one another from Scripture, you may need to re-evaluate how you spend your time.

If you believe that the end of faith is in “Jesus finished work on the cross” rather than the beginning of a growing, active, and obedient faith, you might be following the modern grace or hyper-grace movement and might need to spend some time learning about the danger of these movements.

If you are comfortable simply “attending” church, but not actively engaged in knowing and ministering to those in the church, you might need to change your thoughts about Church.

If you are more concerned about “Social Justice” and see that as true “Christianity”, you are more likely an activist and not a disciple.

If you are following people that are teaching Spiritual Formation, Contemplative Prayer, Silence, Solitude, Mysticism, or any other ancient spiritual practice and claim it is “Christian”, you might need to re-read your Bible to see these things are found nowhere inside.

If your pastor or the leaders you follow love going around promoting their own books and gushing over other pastors and leaders, they are not people to be admired, but need to be truly ignored.

If the sermons you listen to are focused upon “your best life now” and not on how we are to grow in faith and obedience, it’s likely you are caught up in the Prosperity Gospel; which is really no “Gospel” at all.

If your church encourages “Lectio Divina”, “Prayer Labyrinths”, “Sacred Enneagram”, or any other similar practices, they are forms of divination, and not of God.

If being “authentic” and “real” are more important than confessing and repenting of sin, you may have misunderstood the Gospel.

If your loyalty to your church or denomination is more important than standing for Truth, you are seeking to please man and not God.

If you hear people talk about different “expressions”, “faith traditions”, “tribes”, or “brands” of “Christianity”, what they really mean is that the Way is wide; this sounds more like Universalism than true Christianity.

If you are promised health, wealth, and miracles, you are more than likely following the Word of Faith crowd and not the Bible.

If those you are following are always pointing you to some supernatural showy spiritual gifts to confirm their faith, you should be truly skeptical and re-read 1 Corinthians to have a better perspective of true spiritual gifts and their operations.

If you believe that “The Message” is just another version of the Bible, compare passages like the Lord’s Prayer with the New American Standard Bible to see that “The Message” is utterly garbage and should be used by no one.

If your church is growing and has dynamic “ministries”, it doesn’t mean that you are part of a “good” church, but rather it must be evaluated according to the characteristics found in Scripture and not simply outward appearances.

If we are simply just part of God’s “story”, this is Narrative Theology and not reality.

If your church decides they need to “pray”, have a “conversation”, or “dialogue”, to decide on certain social issues, what they really mean is that Truth isn’t simply found in the Bible, but among consensus; run away…fast.

If you think by following a certain tradition, practice, or formula you gain favor with God, it is “Christian Superstition” and is not Biblical.

If those you follow are reconsidering, redefining, or have some “new perspective”, on the atonement, hell, or other major doctrines, they are part of the Progressive “Christianity” movement and should be outrightly rejected.

If your church talks about how to get more “volunteers”, they operate more like a secular organization or charity than the Body of Christ.

If your pastor or the leaders you follow love to share acronyms, fill in the blanks, the 3 “R’s” of some topic, or the however many keys, ways, signs, marks, strategies, or steps to whatever, they are more interested in being “cute” than really preach and teach the Truth of the Bible.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.  The world, churches, and many professing believers are a mess.  We must be on guard so that we don’t drift away from the faith. (Hebrews 2)  The first step begins with each of us.  We cannot continue to embrace and tolerate those that pull us away from Biblical faith, but must boldly stand for the Truth.  May the Lord help us to discern what is truly going on today.

Living With Biblical Conviction

“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men, by the craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”——Ephesians 4:14-16

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Our lives are constantly filled with pressure from every side to conform.  We are expected to live up to a certain standard set by those around us.  And with so much pressure, we face the continual temptation to compromise our beliefs and actions to simply fit in with people.

As the world moves further away from God and the Truth of His Word, it is becoming more and more difficult to remain faithful to the Lord.  We all struggle to stand strong in faith in certain situations, and at the same time, try to stay away from confrontation.  It is one of the most difficult things when we know we have to do what is right before the Lord, but also know that it is going to cause tension with others.

For far too long, professing “Christians” have been taught to tolerate and simply “love” people.  We have been told not to “rock the boat”, be “judgmental”, or be “divisive”.  But what are we to do when we have to make a decision that isn’t popular, but must do so to be obedient to God??  Are we to obey man rather than God?? (Acts 5:29)

What is troubling is that we have been led to believe that when we make a stand in obedience to the Lord, we are being self-righteous.  This is often a wrong belief.  As Christians, we can make clear decisions to walk in obedience to the Lord, while still maintaining an attitude of humility toward others; even if others may see it differently.

One of the biggest struggles we have in churches today are Christians living with Biblical conviction.

In order to be living with Biblical conviction, we must know what we believe and why we believe.  And to believe the Truth about Christianity, we must be reading and studying all of the Bible and not being led wherever and by whomever the wind takes us.

Since there are a growing number of people not being given a heavy dose of Biblical preaching and teaching these days, it is no wonder that most professing “Christians” compromise their beliefs and often have vastly different understandings of Christianity.  Or worse yet, many end up being hypocrites in how they live or even look no different than the rest of world.  If we don’t live with Biblical conviction, our beliefs and actions end up taking on whatever shape each situation dictates.

Biblical conviction begins with seeking Truth.  Truth is found as we go through the Bible, asking questions and working through what we are to believe according to Scripture.  While we don’t all have to agree on every point of theology, we should be able to relate to others on how we got to those conclusions from the true context of all of Scripture.  When we read, study, or are confronted by wrong beliefs and actions in the Bible, we must quickly acknowledge those things and adjust our beliefs and actions accordingly.

If we are not preparing ourselves and making stands in the little things, why do we think we will on the big things??

Christians tend to be very soft when it comes to social issues.  With such a great fear of offending people, it is much easier to just go along with whatever.  This leads to giving approval to the sinful beliefs and actions of others, as well as even participating in these things.

Passive participation is equally as sinful as active participation.

Passive participation is essentially going along with those making sinful decisions.  This doesn’t mean that we have to go around calling everyone and everything out, but does require us to respond in the situations we find ourselves in.  And while we may not actively be a part of those decisions, sometimes our mere presence along side people can show our support.  We must be careful that just because we love and care for people, we don’t allow our passive participation to become sin in us.

There are many difficult situations that Christians find themselves in these days.  Christians are asked to be part of weddings where the couples, who are professing Christians, are clearly living contrary to God’s Way; living together before marriage, engaging in sex before marriage, who are divorced and are now remarrying, and so on.  Believers are being asked to bake cakes, take video and photos, and other things for homosexual weddings.  At work, Christians are asked to make unethical and sinful choices in how to do business.  In other situations, there are temptations to join in gossip and talk bad bad about people.  Believers are even asked to join in other activities that would require setting aside obedience to the Lord.  These things are not easy to always make a stand.  And these are just a few of the growing list of areas that challenge what we believe as Christians today.

When it comes to churches, almost anything anyone preaches, teaches, blogs, posts on social media, writes a book about, and so on, is embraced within the confines of “Christianity”.  This shows how far we have gone that many are so gullible to be following anyone and anything done in the name of “Jesus”.  Isn’t this what Paul was warning about in the book of Ephesians and many other places in the Bible??

We have to realize that our obedience to God far outweighs the praise of man.

In order to live with Biblical conviction, we must know that it is going to cause conflict.  Even though we all want to be liked and accepted, it comes with a great cost.  When it comes to deciding between honoring the Lord or being a part of something sinful, we must make our stand for the Lord.

We must know that when we do make a stand in obedience, there will be fallout.  We may lose friends, family members may be upset.  We may not get the jobs or promotions we had hoped for, or worse yet, we could actually lose our jobs.  But as believers, we must be preparing ourselves for these things now, so that we don’t find ourselves compromising later.

Jesus never said that life would be easy.  As we grow in faith and obedience, things often get worse and not better.  But God is with us.  Even in the midst of difficult circumstances and the consequences of seeking to be obedient to the Lord, our reward is in heaven and not here on earth.  Once we begin to shift our thinking to pleasing God and not man, it gives us great hope in knowing we are doing what is right before the Lord.

Living with Biblical conviction is difficult, but it is right.  As believers, we must return to living in a way that honors and glorifies God in all areas of our lives.  We must make sure that we are not being “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine”, and are truly grounded in our beliefs from the Bible alone.  There will be some, even professing “Christians”, who will take offense.  But for the sake of our faith in the Lord and our hope of eternal life, we cannot compromise ourselves to try and make others happy.