Christianity 201

August 20, 2012

Spiritual Leadership and Education

While Bible Colleges and Seminaries are graduating record numbers of students, we are presently in the middle of a leadership crisis. The older generation is looking for those to whom they can “pass the torch” and often find nobody waiting to take the challenge. That “certain something” that marked the leaders of an earlier generation is somehow not evidenced among “generation next.”

Perhaps it is the case that many institutions are so skilled at training their students in the formalities of religious tradition that the natural, creative leadership within the individual becomes suppressed.

This is especially true when one considers the time frame involved between receiving one’s call (from God) and the date one begins active service (established usually by man). In one denomination, it’s common that that a candidate complete a four-year university degree followed by at least three years of Biblical training. This is then followed by two years of “in service training” in a North American church before the person is then allowed to proceed to the foreign mission field. This makes for a total of nine years and furthermore applies to both the individual and their respective spouse, for a total of eighteen years of training and internship.

We’ve quantified a person’s ministry worth in terms of courses completed, credit hours, and degrees earned.

There are no doubt those who become discouraged at the prospect of so much education when they are already itching to take the message to the streets. The contrary situation is found in a west-coast fellowship that simply requires the candidates to submit doctrinal statements and evidence of a “proven ministry” through either a church, a parachurch organization, or a life lived in the community or marketplace as an active follower of Jesus Christ.

What does God think of this? Does he demand a Masters degree in theology from those who would share his message in the 21st century?

One thing is certain, God chooses to work through people. He tells Ezekiel,

“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.”  (Ez. 22:30)

Today, God is still looking for men and women of faith, men and women of prayer, and men and women given to leadership who will “stand in the gap” on behalf of a decaying society. People who will live the “set apart” life that is the defining characteristic of ministry life.

Do those people need education? In the New Testament church it wasn’t even an option. The Jerusalem College of Bible and Missions had not yet been built. Furthermore, the church was built on a rather unstable foundation — fishermen usually don’t get elected to the board of deacons. Yet we read in Acts:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

One of the first qualities for leadership is spending time with Jesus. But it is a quality that should apply to the church as a whole.

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he writes,

“…the things that you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (II Tim 2:2)

The leader must be reliable and qualified. What kind of qualifications did Paul have in mind? Perhaps he was thinking back to Stephen, a man who had been chosen to assist the early church in some rather mundane administrative duties. (See Acts 6:1-10).  Today we would say that “Pastor Steve” was in charge of our “inner city outreach” or “helping hand program” or “operation good will.” His job would involve making sure that food baskets reached shut-ins, senior citizens, and people on welfare. In most of our churches, Steve would be on the staff part-time, probably working at Wal-Mart the rest of the week.  But for that job, the qualifications were that he be,

“…a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5)

Note that they didn’t hire a social psychologist with a masters degree in social work.  The qualifications were spiritual, not academic, and God used Stephen (6:8) to such an extent that he was martyred for his faith (see 7:54-58). Today some hope Pastor Steve could have been a little less radical or little more low-key. But there is no doubt that his life and death made an impact on Paul, who would later go on to write the majority of the New Testament (see 7:58, 8:1) and none of us doubt the impact of Paul’s leadership in his day (or ours).

We’ll continue this tomorrow with a look at three characteristics leaders should not have, the implied opposites of those characteristics which they should have, and two qualities of the heart which can result in causing even the weakest person (in the natural sense) to be a dynamic, effective leader.


1 Comment »

  1. […] This is part two of a two-part article begun yesterday… […]

    Pingback by Qualities Desired for Local Church Leadership « Christianity 201 — August 21, 2012 @ 5:19 pm | Reply

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