Theology of Ministry - Lesson 12
Requirements for Ministry (part 3)
When a minister commits a sin that disqualifies him morally, the process for restoration should be structured to provide accountability. Giftedness should reflect in your passion for ministry, what God is blessing in your life and what other people are affirming.
Requirements for Ministry (part 3)
Requirements for Ministry (part 3)
I. Developing character
II. Can a minister be disqualified from ministry?
III. Giftedness as a qualification for ministry
IV. Affirmation of the body
V. Appropriate preparation
Theology is the clarification of convictions by which we engage in ministry.
During the Renaissance, some people began making a distinction between academic theology and practical theology.
The incarnation is the prism through which we view our entire missional task.
Christ embodied the OT offices of prophet, priest and king.
Ministry is a paradox of leading by serving.
We need to hear what God is saying through his word and proclaim it. A ministry of grace is characterized by a heart of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Ministry is participation in God’s work of transforming the community of faith until it is blameless at the coming of Christ.
There is no ministry without church and no church without ministry.
Our ministry is to be done in the context of community. We can't avoid institutions, but we can avoid institutionalism.
Each of us is called to God, then to serve the body with the gifts we receive from the Spirit. Some have a special call to leadership.
Character is what validates our ministry. We earn integrity by having a rigorous devotion to the truth.
Giftedness should reflect in your passion for ministry, what God is blessing in your life and what other people are affirming.
Our mission is to advance the kingdom of God, so we are in conflict with Satan trying to advance his kingdom. God has given us authority. We need to exercise it and stand against sin.
When people begin a new movement, it can create an opportunity for you to re-evaluate your theology and practice to determine if your ideas are biblical or based solely on tradition.
It’s important to have a theological basis for evaluating the effectiveness of your ministry.
Much of the daily work of ministry involves menial and mundane tasks. The glorious side of ministry overshadows the inglorious.
It’s important for your theology to inform your ministry and for your ministry to apply your theology.
Ministry is built upon sound biblical, theological and cultural foundations. Each generation of the Church must understand and build on these foundations, as well as discover relevant contemporary innovations and applications. This course intends to help you integrate an understanding of the Word and the world with the development of a personal philosophy of ministry.
At the end, it's a good exercise to write out you own theology of ministry that you could present to a board and/or articulate as situations in your ministry come up.
Obviously, it starts with what? [crosstalk] Yes, there's gotta be somewhere a decision that's been made to give one's life to God, though there are a lot of people who do ministry who haven't made that decision. [00:30] We start with this as a prerequisite, and then we secondly talked about what? That there should be evidence of—[crosstalk] of calling.
Audience Member: [00:39] Calling.
[00:41] These are things that, at some point when you—some of you anyways who are thinking about ordination, these are the kinds of things you will have to defend, you will have to declare and state. People want to hear about your conversion. They'll want to hear about your calling.
I hope I've [01:00] made it clear that calling, it gets a little bit more nebulous for some of us, maybe not be absolutely dramatic for some of us. It may be a whole different kind of description, and what I would say is not to feel pushed into any corner of having to say anything but what you have experienced in your own life, but make sure, again, that it is thought through theologically. So, calling to ministry, we discussed some about that, and then we went to character [01:30] only because when we think through scripture and ministry, scripture seems to go back often to talk about character, and we know that because so many people God uses, He put them through some significant refinement building character, and we talked about some of the issues of character, and we move today to what's involved in developing character.
So, I think that brings us up to where we're at today. [02:00] So, what's involved in developing character? When you look at earlier theologians, and we've seen this in Purvis, a lot of what has been advocated is an adoption of at least some spiritual disciplines, aesthetical practices, realizing that apart from interior renewal, it's gonna be hard to have much of an exterior ministry, and I think that's probably a [02:30] pretty fair statement, that when it comes to developing character, a lot of it's gonna depend upon our own personal disciplines, and what are some of those disciplines? When you think about your own disciplines for developing character for ministry, what are the essentials?
Audience Member: [02:47] Prayer.
[02:48] Yes, prayer is certainly one of the—the great essentials.
Audience Member: [02:53] Kinda [02:53] [phonetic] like a banquet [02:54] [phonetic] [02:54] [inaudible]
[02:56] Right, yeah, good way to put it, and that is a discipline, [03:00] and it is one of the hardest things we do, and it is a work, but that's certainly one key discipline. What's another?
Audience Member: [03:07] Meditating on scripture.
[03:09] Yes, reflection, not just reading scripture but dwelling thinking about it—as Peterson puts it, "Moving from the distancing eye to the listening ear," and there's a pretty big step between the distancing eye and that listening ear. Other disciplines you think about?
Audience Member: [03:29] Silence and solitude.
[03:30] Yup, increasingly, as you're deep steep in ministry, that will be things that you will almost have to just willfully put on schedules, and if you wait for it to come, it probably a lot of times won't come, so, taking time out. What's been helpful for me is to find two or three local retreat places. Wherever God puts you in ministry, as—as you get things settled and get a lay of the land, start [04:00] looking for those kind of places.
It could be a Catholic retreat center. Sometimes they have some opportunities for you to go. Sometimes it's pretty inexpensive, that will just give you a room and not much else—a bed and a desk and no TV and solitude. It's great for that. Mount Angel—I've gone there a couple times. It can be a real wonderful opportunity, or various camps, especially for people [04:30] in ministry, will have a place set aside. Just check with them.
Places like Cannon Beach—I don't know if they still do this, but for those in ministry will offer up to, I think, three days/three nights free a year to get away. They're out there, and they're designed just for your spiritual refreshment and health. I like to go sometimes up to what's called The Hideaway up at Camp Menucha [05:00] up the Columbia Gorge. It's just a little two-room house, but it provides just a time to—to just kinda get your bearings.
The temptation is to load up your backpack with all kinds of books that you gotta read for classes and other things or sermons, and sometimes, you just really have to force yourself to say, "No, I'm not taking those. I'm gonna take my Bible and maybe [05:30] one book that's devoted to just nurturing the soul," and just force yourself to do that and resist the temptations to take a lot of busy work up there because sometimes, it can end up you're doing the same thing that you'd be doing here. It's just in a different location, and you call it a retreat to silence and solitude, all kinds of subtle temptations. What else is critical too in terms of spiritual disciplines [06:00] to helping keep and build character?
Audience Member: [06:04] [inaudible]
[06:05] Yes, keep the tool sharpened, the saw sharpened—yeah, that's really critical. I mean, one of the things I hope you all do is just get it really planted in your mind when you graduate someday, it's just moving from one chapter to the next chapter. Some of you know I direct the Doctor of Ministry Program here, and one of the things [06:30] we created in our program I think is really a cool idea is that, for all of our graduates with a deman [06:36] [phonetic]—and I encourage all of you to think about a deman someday—that they can take up to one course free the rest of their lives while they're in ministry, and it's our commitment to say, you know, keep continuing with education.
Audience Member: [06:52] I was gonna say accountability.
[06:54] Yes, accountability is key, and one of those things in accountability is to look for someone [07:00] in a kind of parallel ministry, which might be another counselor, another pastor, another director of parachurch, whoever that might be and establishing accountability relationship of getting together once maybe every, something like, six weeks with a you're-welcome-to-ask anything-about-my-life kind of relationship, and just hold yourself accountable. Yes, those are all good. Anything else you think of [07:30] as disciplines? Word, prayer, solitude, study—Yes...
Audience Member: [07:34] [inaudible]
[07:40] Yes, those are the times that can help remind you what has a grip on you and what doesn't—just watching what is starting to get a hold of your life and that can be a lot of things. It can be food. It can be materialism. It can be TV—lots of little things that are always trying to worm their way [08:00] and become addictions—just compulsive behavior—a lot of different things. So, yeah, someone else was gonna—Heather...
Heather: [08:09] This is really [08:09] [inaudible] developing a habit of being healthy and taking care of yourself, like, finding outlets like kind of the [08:19] [inaudible] of [08:23] [inaudible]
[08:24] Yes. No, I think that's excellent. I think probably not near enough people in ministry [08:30] give near as much weight as they should to that. I'll tell you, for me, it's what gets me through the week a lot of times—if I didn't work out really hard about four or five times a week—and I stress this in other classes but in ministry, we put an undue stress on our physical lives.
I think you probably are getting a sense of that, or you will. Because of the kind of stresses that sometimes ministry brings, if you don't have a pretty [09:00] good strong physical body to endure those things, it can mess you up, and yet, I see people in ministry who, for some reason—maybe it's because they try to be disciplined in so other—so many other areas—they just let their body really go, and they pay for it. They really pay for it. Not to mention that it's just staying in shape, it's that sometimes it can just be a huge release, right?
Sometimes we just need that. [09:30] Last Tuesday, I got at the end of my day, and I just had this horrific headache, and I went out and just played a really hard two sets of tennis with a guy I meet with every Tuesday, and I was a new man. Okay, let's talk about D. Can a minister be disqualified from ministry?
When we talk about qualifications for ministry, it's fair to bring up the question. What about disqualification, and that's not an easy question to answer. [10:00] You know, we just had, as I shared, one of the people on our staff that we've had to suspend because of moral failure, and the question comes up, "Is this person permanently disqualified, set aside for season? Do we have any theological guidelines?"
Well, let me give you a few things here. First of all, it's pretty clear in scripture that the—that the only unpardonable sin, if we start with that tack, is rejecting [10:30] Jesus Christ. We see people who committed some pretty deep and dark sins and yet, survive ministry. Who would be some of those?
Who's an obvious one? David would be one obvious person who committed both adultery and murder and yet, so to speak, retained a position of being God's minister. Moses—I suppose you might use Moses [11:00] as an illustrate. I—I don't know how good of an illustration but he murdered, yet was placed into ministry and Paul, but we can make a distinction between those who did some pretty bad things before they came into a relationship with God or [11:16] [phonetic] reused [11:16] [phonetic] of God, but it balances with, on the other side of the coin, First Corinthians 9, 24 to 27.
Paul feared disqualification, didn't he? It talks about [11:30] running this race and, again, submitting himself to certain disciplines, lest he be disqualified at the end, and I'm not all Paul was referring to—what he was talking about there, but he had this potential. At least he understood this—that one could be disqualified.
James warns of a stricter judgement—James, Chapter 3, Verse 1. I've read arguments on both sides of the case of saying those who are in ministry, it's a privilege. [12:00] It's a high calling. If you commit severe sin, you should be disqualified to those who say there's always room for redemption.
Here are a couple of guidelines I've written down. The first thing is when someone falls into moral failure. The first thing is there needs to be a restorative process established. So, make sure you think through what is a good restorative process, [12:30] and it's gotta be prompted, first of all, by one's willingness to repent and submit cuz otherwise, without that, it's going to go nowhere.
So, a restorative process that is established, and when you think about that process, you should think about it in terms of who's gonna be part of that and what are the steps, who's going to be the accountability person, [13:00] and here's the second thing: Once a restorative process is established, here's, I think, a second major rule, and that is—or guideline and that is going back into ministry should be at the church's prerogative, not the sinner's.
So, with this person on our staff, who we've established about a 12-month restorative process in which she has signed a written agreement to go through a process that will all be in the context [13:30] of a lot of love and affirmation but yet, will call for—it's gonna call for some counseling—some professional counseling in some areas. It's gonna call for accountability [13:40] [inaudible] a number of things, but at the end of it all, the prerogative for her to go back into ministry, we've also established, should be the church's, not her own.
You know, I say that because it's easy for a person to run from the situation. This then serves as a time to address, [14:00] in particular, especially in the restorative process, whatever character flaws are there cuz there are. If a person, for example, falls into moral failure that's been ongoing while they were in ministry, there has been, obviously, a pattern of compartmentalizing things, and that's gotta really kinda be undone and figured out how that happens.
[14:30] Some people may be sensitive enough with God that just to have a fight with a spouse almost paralyzes you to do ministry, right? Getting ready to preach, let's say you have a—a tiff with a spouse and you just feel like, "Man, God, I c—I can't go any further. I've gotta make sure things are right." Some people, on the other hand, who begin to fall into deeper and deeper temptation, start to figure out ways to compartmentalize.
It's amazing to me sometimes to hear stories [15:00] of people who had these profound ministries at least on the surface and yet, had this ongoing, let's say, affair or other things, and you ask the question how—how can you do that? How can have this world over here and this world over here? When I was just entering into ministry at Youth for Christ Days Campus Life Days, I held the director in the highest esteem because he was my spiritual godfather.
He was instrumental to me coming to Christ, and he was [15:30] the key to my calling into ministry, and he was a national known leader. He spoke all over the country all the time, and I became someone he mentored. He invested a lot of time in me. I'd pick him up at the airport. I'd take him off into places.
We became very close. He was my mentor. I was his mentoree, and yet, all of this time, he had a deep homosexual lifestyle going on that none of us knew anything about, [16:00] and then it all came out when he came down with AIDS. I remember how devastating it was for me. I actually found out about it after I had come to seminary.
I got a call one day, and I was so disturbed, I really seriously contemplated quitting seminary that day, and my first thought was this is just all a bunch of junk. I'm giving my life to nothing. It shook me that much cuz I had put so much [16:30] of my—attached so much of my faith, but to this day, what I—it's a mystery to me how that happens, how people can so compartmentalize.
Now, in a certain sense, I realize we all compartmentalize all the time in some ways, but at that level, the scary thing is that people can move to that level. Like, one of the ones that threw me the most was Gordon McDonald. Here I was reading his "Order in Your Private World" and his other book on the disciplines—I forget the title—but all [17:00] about the disciplines of the interior of the heart.
In other words, he's writing about the things that are the deepest, deepest level of what a person in ministry needs to do, needs to be in their personal walk with God, and he's writing this while he's having an affair. How does that happen? The only thing I can figure out is you just build these huge compartments with these big walls in between them.
I'm not a psychologist, so [17:30] those of you that are there, I'm probably describing it all wrong. All I know is it makes no sense to me. What I'm underscoring is that when you potentially are involved in a restorative process with someone who's been disqualified, I think those are the kind of things you gotta get to the root of.
It's not just that there was sexual sin, for example. It's that you were able somehow to go through life with these kind of compartments, and those [18:00] are the things that gotta get addressed and deeper issues. Proverbs 22:14 I think is one of the scariest proverbs in scripture.
"The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit. He who is cursed of the Lord will fall into it," which I perhaps have shared that with some of you before, but what scares me about that verse is—think about what he says. The mouth of an adulteress is a deep—what—[18:30] a deep pit, and he who is cursed of the Lord will fall into it. What's he saying?
He's saying that the judgment—we often, when someone falls into moral failure or sexual sin—is to say something like, "Well, I wonder what's gonna be the judgement for that," when, if you look at that verse, think about what that verse is saying. That is the judgment. He who's cursed of the [19:00] Lord will fall into it. You following what I'm saying?
So that if the judgment is, let's say, someone who enters into a sexual relationship that they have no business being in. The question, according to that proverb, would be what led to a person being given over in that sense. It's sort of like Romans 1, where God finally gives over to unnatural relationships.
Remember it talks about [19:30] that? In other words, there's something that proceeds the overt action, and you see where I'm going, I hope, with all of this, and that is when you talk about restoration, when you deal with disqualification and you're working on the restorative process, it's those things, I think, you've gotta be willing to penetrate and get to. It's not just the moral failure of falling into the wrong sexual relationship.
We need to figure out what led to that that [20:00] finally God gave you over to that. What are those issues, and work backwards from that. How did you—how were you able to compartmentalize that because if you don't really come to grips with that, you might end up repeating it again. Somewhere I find myself, like a lot of things I discover in life, between two, perhaps, extremes.
One extreme is to extend so much grace that a person does not work through the issues, and we're so quick to want to get them back [20:30] in ministry and celebrate forgiveness that then they go out into ministry and they commit the same failure again. The other extreme I think is to say to someone, "You're disqualified forever. You can't be in ministry again. I mean, you can serve God. You can do a lot of things, but here's kinda what you can't do anymore," and I respect people on that position.
I just think maybe for me, it's a little bit too [21:00] extreme. The reason is—is because I look at someone, to me, that really is a good model, and that's—that is Gordon McDonald, who has worked through deep restoration, repentance, allowed himself to be accountable, submitted himself, his marriage stayed intact, and he's come out of it and written books again and served as a pastor again, and I think, at least from what I know and I know just a little bit, but I've spent time talking to him [21:30] personally, that he weathered through that and found grace to continue ministry again but not too quickly. Okay, questions on that—on disqualification? Yes...
Audience Member: [21:44] Is there anything other than moral failure [21:47] [inaudible]
[21:48] Yes, I think it could be a number of things. It could be deceit, dishonesty. It could be embezzlement, someone who's discovered to have been maybe stealing [22:00] from the church, as an example. That's a good question. Those are some that come to my mind.
What else do you think would be a disqualifier? We often immediately think of sexual sin, right, as sort of like the one sin, and there is something about sexual sin that I think we do have to note. First Corinthian 6—Paul seems to refer to it in a more distinctive way than other sins as he talks about sins of the body and he [22:30] talks about unfaithfulness. So, there is something about that, I think, we have to pay attention to. First Corinthian 6, about 18 to 20 would be a passage I might put here. Yes...
Audience Member: [22:41] What about spiritual abuse?
[22:43] Spiritual abuse? Give me an example.
Audience Member: [22:47] Tearing somebody apart [22:48] [inaudible] taking your authority [22:51] [inaudible]
Audience Member: [22:53] [inaudible]
[22:56] What makes that a little bit harder as opposed to, say, [23:00] sexual failure here or embezzlement or something, some of these are pretty obvious. That one has a little bit more of a grayness. I mean, what might be spiritual abuse in one person's eyes might be just a strong dominant personality who—who's leading authoritatively, and well, I can think of, you know, different language to justify that.
It's a little grayer to an obvious extreme, where it's pretty much cleared [23:30] to—to everybody. That one can be a little bit more of a judgment call, can't it, because a number of us could look at different people in ministry and say, "Man, there's a person committing spiritual abuse," and yet, a number of other people might just say, "Well, no, I don't think so. You're just offended because he takes a hard position."
Audience Member: [23:49] That's why I'm asking [23:49] [inaudible]
[23:50] I've not faced that. I mean, I've seen it, but not to the degree that person was disqualified from ministry. Yes...
Audience Member: [24:00] The adultery and morality being in the judgement of God [24:04] [inaudible] the growing number of pastors [24:08] [inaudible] Are there some other [24:12] [inaudible]
[24:15] First of all, I'd say I don't know if there's a growing number. There's always been a number. I mean, ever since I started ministry, it's unfortunately a pretty prevalent, at least as far as those things that disqualify that's [24:30] out there. It seems like there used to be a time, when I'd get "Christianity Today," when I could almost count every time I got it and read the news section, there was one or two significant names.
So, I don't know if it's more prevalent today. I think it's always been there. I think proverbs 22:14 is a reminder of—is—is—that there are times God gives us over to our desires. Going back to Romans 1, there are times when God says, "Okay," [25:00] and maybe it's a long-term letting the mind be out of control.
It can be a lot of things that kind of are the hidden that God finally says, "Okay, I'm giving you over to your desire," and then when that happens, the restraints, whatever that means—something of the spirit of God that I think is God's grace that restrains us is lifted, and we go to our natural impulses. It's kind of like [25:30] what does it mean in Second Thessalonians when it says, "Near the end of the age, the restrainer will be removed," and some people say that the restrainer is the church—the church being salt and light and culture.
The removal of that will just lead to complete godlessness. Is it the removal of the Holy Spirit? I don't know what. I just know this—that there is, I think, a work of God's grace, probably more than we realize, that acts as a restrainer in our [26:00] lives, that, every now and then, we get a brief glimpse that says, "Boy, God, thank you. You know, if you had let me go according to my own desires, I would have ended up way over here," and I think what happens—what proverb 22 suggests is that we may just keep testing, testing, testing God by knowing we should repent, or we repent, but we keep going back.
We keep going back, and then there comes a moment when God says, "Okay, [26:30] I'm giving you over," and that becomes the new judgment, and then it manifests itself in all kinds of things. The point I'm making here that I hope you don't miss is that when you deal with sinful behavior, there's always a story behind that. If I went back to Village today and found out one of my staff people was sleeping with someone—with another person's wife, and that just happened over the weekend, [27:00] it didn't just happen over the weekend.
Sin never happens. It's a result of something that's gone on long term for a long time. That's what we have to—to get—come to grips with, which is, by the way, just on a personal note, is a really good thing for you and I to think about when maybe our thought life is a little bit out of control or some of these things—is to say, "You know, this is a real good time to catch that, think about that because [27:30] it could lead to a habit that could lead to a behavior. Yes...
Audience Member: [27:35] [inaudible] I ran into a situation this week with a woman that I work with. I knew that her husband had an affair and [27:42] [phonetic] she was in Arizona for about 20 years. I didn't find out until this week that he was actually a minister.
[27:48] Mm hm.
Audience Member: [27:49] Apparently, everyone he worked with knew about it and did nothing the entire time. I think about what that says about the other people's qualifications and [28:00] what should, you know—what actions should be taken with them if they did nothing to try and, you know, confront the guy or get him back on track or [crosstalk] you know...
[28:07] Yes, these were people in the church you mean?
Audience Member: [28:10] Yes.
[28:10] Yes, sometimes they want to become very quick to protect their pastor, and they'll put up with a whole lot of stuff. Yup...
Audience Member: [28:23] [inaudible] list of guidelines had many things about several couples that I'm friends with [28:30] and they'll have, in the last five years, prominent people in their denomination, ministers, very dynamic out front Evangelists, very well known, have gotten divorced, not because of any moral failing, but simply, part of it because due to pressures of ministry and things like that, and yet, because of—and I think of three off the top of my head who [29:00] their wives specifically left their and yet, even during that divorce time, the husbands never left the ministry, never stopped ministering at all, and a lot of it was due to the fact that they were so prominent in their denomination and have since remarried, and some of the same patterns are popping up.
[29:22] Yes, that's why when there is failure, there should be along [29:30] discipline process of restoration that says to everybody, "God takes sin really serious here." Unfortunately, if we model that kind of thing, then how can we expect the people that we sheppard to take sin with much seriousness? The real tragedy in those situations is not that person and their wife. It's the signals that they're sending.
With what we just faced in our church, I realize we had to send two very important signals. [30:00] One signal is grace that this person is loved, and we're gonna care for this person. We're gonna walk with this person. We're gonna encourage this person because we know the enemy is gonna do all he can to beat her down.
At the same time, we also want to send a strong signal of discipline that we take sin really serious, and if you're gonna be in ministry, that, we believe calls you to a higher level, [30:30] not to perfection but, nonetheless, to a higher qualification. I mean, these qualifications I'm giving are qualifications that I think are there in scripture. All of here who are gonna be in ministry need to submit to them. We want to send a strong signal of really strong discipline and take that really serious.
Let's talk a little bit about another qualification for ministry. There has to be character. There has to be calling. There has to be conversion. [31:00] There also has to be giftedness, and I know this is probably pretty obvious but you can have the first three, but if you don't have the spiritual giftedness, then you really should question whether you or someone who aspires to ministry should be there.
What all of us need to be prepared for—and this happens at ordination or it happens in interviews and it should—is someone needs to ask you the question, "So, tell me about your giftedness. [31:30] What tells you you’re gifted to do this work," and that's something you should be able to answer—you have to answer in fairness to you and the people you're going to be leading in ministry. You know, it's clear in scripture that God is gifted people and Ephesians 4:11 and following, again, would be probably as important a text as any, where God called gifted people to lead the church.
John Owen I think put it this way: [32:00] No—no one can be a minister who's not gifted by Christ. The church has no right to call and send into the Lord's vineyard those whose gifts do not warrant the confidence God has called them to. So, I don't wanna pass too quickly over this, but when you think about qualifications, that's an important one, and you should, at some point, where you're sitting in a position to call someone to ministry that should be a question that's fair to ask, just as it's fair to ask [32:30] you.
There's no nice, neat, easy formula, but I just go back always to these three things—is how do I know if I'm gifted for ministry? I go back to what my passion is. I go back to what I see God's hand of blessing is, what God is blessing in my life and thirdly, what people are affirming in my life, and hopefully, what I see God blessing, what people are affirming, what I'm passionate about better be a gift mix that fits the particular [33:00] ministry God, I believe, is leading me to do, and if it doesn’t match up, I'm in the wrong place. I'm doing the wrong thing, and I'm gonna frustrate a lot of people.
I just have seem some people, as you have I'm sure, that are in ministry and have even been in ministry for years and have wonderful character, Godly, but they're in the wrong place, and we're too afraid to hurt feelings. So, we just let them keep doing that, and they do it badly. [33:30] So, hold that standard in your life, and then make sure you hold that over others.
Okay, there has to be fifth affirmation of the body. When we look in scripture, we see that again as our theology of qualifications. It's important that the body of Christ is involved in affirming those chosen who chose ministry. It's incorrect to say that one is [34:00] properly called by God alone without the calling of the body of Christ.
Here, the body needs to affirm the things we've talked about. The body needs to affirm the character of the person. The body needs to affirm the giftedness, and I think the body needs to affirm the preparation— the character, the giftedness, the preparation—and it should be done with [34:30] great seriousness. Those who recommend an unfit person for ministry bare responsibility for the consequences.
I just don't think we take this probably near as serious as we should cuz we don't want to hurt feelings. We're too gracious. We keep saying to ourselves, "Well, this person can't do it, but maybe one day they can," and it's not fair to the church.
So, affirmation of the body [35:00] and then the last thing here, which just kinda brings all of you into this picture here, is appropriate preparation, and let me just put it this way: The complexity of the problems, not to mention the eternal significance of the task, means that we dare not be casual when it comes to this whole aspect of preparation. A deep knowledge of God and a deep knowledge of [35:30] people are minimal requirements.
Thomas Oden puts it this way: "Ministry cannot proceed without the acquisition of hard won skills, which cannot be substituted by the pretense of piety." Let me say that again. "Ministry cannot proceed without the acquisition of hard won skills, [36:00] which cannot be substituted by the pretense of piety." It means a mastery of knowledge. It means mastering the kind of knowledge so that you're not just winging it or just relying on your own perceptions but realizing this—that ministry is a science and an art.
We're, right now, working on the science part, [36:30] but there also is an art side to it. There is an intuition, a cast of mind, a gut level understanding of people. Some of that artistic side, it's there or it's not. It's gotta be matched with preparation.
There was a guy John Earl [36:51] [phonetic] Anglican pastor who said this: He said, "The good minister is not too hasty to launch from port seminary." [37:00] Did you hear that? "The good minister is not too hasty to launch from port seminary but awaits the ballast of learning and the wind of opportunity." “But awaits the ballast of learning and the wind of opportunity."
When I came to seminary, I raced through my M-Div [37:24] [phonetic] I worked really hard. So, I came in '72. I was done in '75 with my [37:30] M-Div. I was ready to launch out into ministry. I could hardly wait, and then, all of a sudden, I stopped everything. I slowed down for a minute, and I asked myself, 'Am I really prepared," and I realized I'm not prepared.
I'd come out of Secular University. I'd crammed, in three years, a whole bunch of knowledge. I really didn't know really what my convictions were. So, I slowed down and [38:00] spent two more years working on a master of theology, and then I began to feel like, okay, I think I'm ready.
So, I got out for three years as an associate pastor and was reminded [38:13] [inaudible] how little I knew and then did my doctoral work at Dallas and systematic theology and began to think maybe I'm prepared now. Then, you realize you never really feel prepared. I guess I'm giving you [38:30] permission in a sense—not that I have to do that—but I'm giving you encouragement anyway that if you get to a place where you say, "I'm not sure I've got it all together as I need to to do this very serious task of ministry that's gonna require great skills," then don't rush it.
If it takes another year for you to feel ready, do it. I may have shared this story, but one of the best things that happened to me when I went [39:00] into the THM program, there was this guy named Dr. Kerr, who was teaching theology, and I was his teaching assistant.
I walked up to his office one day, and I introduced myself, and I said, "I'm your teaching assistant. How can I help you," and I thought he'd say things like, you know, "I might give a quiz every now and then. Maybe you could help me grade those," or—I didn't know what he was gonna say really.
I had no idea. Maybe type some things up for him. He opened up his drawer [39:30] of his desk. He pulled out the grade book, and I was sitting there in front of his desk, and I remember he just—he flipped it to me—tossed it to me. It landed on my lap, and he said, "I just like to lecture. I don't like to do any of that other stuff. So, you come up with the tests and grade them. You grade them. I'll just lecture."
Well, I thought, "What did I get myself into?" So, all of sudden, here I was [40:00] his assistant. He's lecturing. So, I had to come up with the tests. You can probably all kinda see where this is going. When you have to figure out how to test somebody and then you grade them—and these were classes at that time were like 40-50 students—you read 40 or 50 exams on systematic theology and you put the test together. What starts to happen?
What happened was I began to really learn theology. [40:30] I mean, when you have to test something and grade something, you gotta know what you're talking about. It was one of the best things that ever happened for my life for ministry. When I see guys today who say, "Well, I—I don't know if you need seminary to do ministry," I have a real hard time with that—just a real hard time.
I'm not saying that you can't learn outside of seminary. That's for sure, [41:00] but I think a lot of people today don't take serious the learning that really is required to be a physician of someone's soul, and I think that's an important requirement. What saddens me today is how few churches really, I think, when they're looking for someone to be a minister in their church, whatever position that might be, how few look at what someone has done in terms of preparation.
[41:30] What if a church said, "Tell me what you did to prepare educationally?" Well, I went to Western, and I—I worked on an M-Div. "So, what was your GPA? What courses did you excel in? What courses did you struggle with?" You're all horrified already, right?
If you ask me how many churches do I know do something like that, I'd say I don't know one that's ever [42:00] done that, and so what does that say? I think, again, we sometimes think, "Well, okay, that's really nice, but let's get to the real spiritual issues here," like, somehow it's separated. All right, I got off my soapbox. Any questions on qualifications before—requirements before we take a break? [42:24] [inaudible] those things we've talked about—character, preparation, giftedness.
[42:30] Build your theology of what's required to be a minister. That's important. No questions? Okay, let's take a ten-minute break, and we'll come back.