I wonder what it was like being personally called by Jesus. There you are, mending your nets after a night of fishing on the Sea of Galilee and some man named Jesus approaches and asks you to follow him (Matthew 4:18-20). This is exactly what happened to Simon and Andrew and then also to James and John. Just minding their own business, going about their day, and they were called out by the Messiah into a new line of work.
I wonder what qualified them? We’re not specifically told why Jesus chose these men but we do know that they were simple and uneducated (Acts 4:13). They didn’t attend seminary or Bible college or go through some man-made religious vetting process. They were called to go and they did. All of which makes me wonder why the church seems to require so much qualification today to serve in ministry. I understand that the disciples were able to learn from Jesus himself, but even they did not actively start to preach the gospel until after Jesus’ death and the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Which seems to imply that the same should be relevant today.
What I’ve found is that discipleship, and specifically training in ministry, is absent in the church today, at least in the nondenominational churches that I have attended. The expectation is that if you’re interested in ministry, you seek outside sources of training to become “qualified” to preach the gospel. There are a few in-house Bible schools within churches around the nation, but very few elderships actively teach and train men to be qualified but expect those qualifications when hiring.
So what is someone supposed to do if they feel called into that work? First, I think it important that we understand that it’s through the Holy Spirit that we become capable of serving God as a minister. While a post-secondary education and a little piece of paper saying you graduated carry some weight, it is God who gives you the talent for this good work. The Holy Spirit is essential in giving us discernment of God’s word. If that only came from college professors, then why is there so much false teaching out there? It’s the Spirit who teaches us how to love, how to have patience, and how to live a life of self-control, none of which you learn to do in the classroom. It’s God who gives us the talent to teach in a way that’s easily understood and it’s also Him who gives us the fire within to serve Him no matter the cost.
I personally have spent much time in prayer and Bible study preparing myself to preach the Word of God only to have some other Christians criticize and disqualify me with their judgments. I’ve been told I wasn’t outgoing enough or wasn’t wise enough or haven’t preached enough to be considered a minister. It’s been amazing to hear the excuses others will throw at you for not being good enough for God. But God doesn’t look at it that way. David committed murder and adultery and yet God used him. Matthew was a thief but God called him. Peter denied Jesus and was still used to spread the gospel. And Paul? Well, before Jesus came into his life (Acts 8), he harshly persecuted the church. I have yet to meet a pulpit minister who was without disqualifiers, both before and after beginning their work in ministry but God uses them mightily.
What’s important is when God calls, it’s time to go. It is God who determines our future service to him, not others. It’s God who qualifies us as messengers of his precious gospel. It’s God who gives us the tools needed to preach his word to the lost. If elderships and other wise Christians would realize this, more time could be spent training the next generation of preachers within the church instead of expecting them to arrive already trained and ready to go.
Unqualified? I think not. Not with God on my side.