What qualifies you for ministry?
I was having a conversation recently with someone about the vanity and superficiality of placing too much confidence in our education. The truth is many young ministers have experienced an erosion of their faith because they entered college or Bible school and they were insulted for actually believing the Bible. Too many educators have elevated their opinions over the truths of God’s Word. Worse still, some of the fundamental assignments that Jesus commissioned His “students” to fulfill are being abolished through “higher reasoning.” Think about it: our Christian educational process awards diplomas to students who enter into churches with little or no knowledge about the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit (see Matt. 10:7-8). What I find even more disheartening is that these extraordinary activities are often denigrated in the “educated” mind. We have elevated academics over the anointing; we prefer to promote someone to a prominent position of leadership based on the degrees behind their name or from the accolades in the wake of their success. It’s a good thing that we weren’t electing the positions in the New Testament church because we would have missed the characteristics that they looked for. The early church looked for people with a good reputation and those filled with the Holy Spirit and with wisdom (see Acts 6:3). Two of the lay leaders chosen, Stephen and Philip, operated in power, wonders, signs, and miracles (see Acts 6:8; 8:6-7). Why wouldn’t we consider those same qualifications for someone to lead a church or to sit on a board? What if we honored the anointing more than anything else? I don’t negate the need for people to be fully trained in a Bible college or seminary. I have spent many hours, and many dollars, pursuing a formal education. Moreover, I have had several professors over the years that have mentored me in the things of the Spirit for which I’m grateful. Yet, I heard some things that grieved my spirit.
It’s interesting to note that sixty-five percent of the words in the gospel of Mark describing Jesus’ public ministry were about supernatural acts of power. Yet sometimes the educational process in our Christian colleges and seminaries rarely talk about the supernatural activities of Jesus or how they might be practiced in our daily lives. If that is correct, then what are students being prepared to do? I certainly have no problem with teaching young people the myriad of subjects in their Christian education, but where are the classes about speaking prophetically over our cities? Where are the classes about intercessory prayer, desperation for the presence of God, fasting, healing, and crying out for fresh encounters with God? Where are the classes that study the supernatural gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 that should manifest through Spirit-filled believers?
People will push back and tell me that we can have both academics and anointing. I certainly agree, but the scales have been tipped for many generations in favor of one’s educational status at the expense of the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul said, “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God…” (1 Cor. 3:18-19). When Paul first came to Corinth he chose to surrender his academic resume in favor of the anointing of the Spirit. He was educated at the feet of Gamaliel (see Acts 22:3); a Hebrew of Hebrews who was blameless concerning the Law as a Pharisee (see Phil 3:5-6). This educated man determined to know nothing among the Corinthians “except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:3). His message was not a well-crafted, polished speech, but one that was delivered in the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:5). Paul later wrote, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless” (1 Cor. 3:20). Reasonings (dialogismos) refer to deliberating, arguing, and debating. This reasoning comes merely from the mind; what a person may think about or have knowledge of. This kind of reasoning is useless (mataios), which means empty, fruitless, and powerless. The operation of the mind without the presence and power of the Spirit is foolishness; it lacks the ability to bring transformation in people’s lives. This verse describes someone who places their mind over the Spirit. What we know can never trump who we know; namely, Jesus Christ.
So what is the point of this blog? In the words of Leonard Ravenhill, “With all your getting, get unction.” Learn all that you can; go to school, college, or graduate school. But please, in the midst of your educational process, avail yourself to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, if you’ve never had the opportunity to obtain a formal education please do not feel insecure around educated people. Never hang your head in shame because Jesus is the One who qualifies you. He told His students that their preparation for ministry would come when they were “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Pray for wisdom because you will receive it generously (see James 1:5), seek the revelation of the Lord (see Eph. 1:17), immerse yourself in God’s Word so you’ll be quipped for every good work (see 2 Tim. 3:17), and abide moment by moment in the presence of the Holy Spirit (see Gal. 5:25). Think about this: the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead “dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11). You’re qualified for any task the Spirit leads you to. His power inside you will do “far more abundantly beyond all that (you) ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).
Anointed with the Spirit is good, anointed with the Spirit and academics is good, but without His extraordinary, supernatural presence operative in our lives, we lack much; no matter how many degrees are behind our names.
Jesus, I’m grateful for the opportunities that you gave me to learn, but in the process please never let me forget that your Holy Spirit is my greatest teacher. Your Holy Spirit is my greatest qualifier. Amen