This is my official blog about why I have no business being in ministry. Well. . . not exactly. Maybe it’s more a blog about the false perceptions and expectaions we place on others, including ourselves. You see, we live in a cookie-cutter world where preachers are cut right from the fabric which we ourselves manufacture and design. We develop the mold and form preachers into exactly what we expect them to be. We even separate them into special categories that are found nowhere in Scripture. Many call ministers “clergy” (the “professional”) and and everyone else “parishioners” (dedicated members to one church body with its own minister) or, even more degrading, “lay” members.
I guess part of this blog is sparked by the many comments that I get from well-intentioned people I meet in the street. The most common compliment(?) I get is, “Minister? You’re too young to be a minister!,” as if a 32 year old man (older than Jesus when he began his ministry, by the way) lacks the compitence, faith, experience, or knowlege to effectively preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It gets worse. As I was working on my sermon for Sunday, the more I compared Scriptural requirements for Jesus’ preachers to some ads listed online for ministers, the more troubled I got. If I were to meet the expectations of some of these ads, Jesus and I would be disqualified for ministry. Here is just a sample of one such ad for a preacher and, keep in mind, these ads are a dime a dozen. For this particular congregation the minister’s expectaions include, but are not limited to:
1. Must be married (sorry Jesus, you’re out)
2. Must be between the ages of 35-55 (I’m automatically disqualified here)
3. Must have a degree in Bible or a certificate from a 2 year preaching school and counseling certificate/degree desired
4. Must provide counseling services to couples, families, and individual
5. Prepare and preach lessons from the pulpit. Sermons should connect with a wide variety of age goupls and offer practical instruction
6. Pepare and teach Bible class lessons
7. Work with elders/deacons to set goals, determine priorities, establish programs, use timelines, etc. to help the church accomplish its mission
8. Assist the congregation by leading in visitation of prospects, visiting hospitals, peforming weddings and funerals
9. Provide direction and supervision ot the church’s evangelism/outreach effort
10. Be involved in the community as a representative of the church and seek opportunities to evangelize
11. (my personal favorite) Attend all congregational functions, as able
12. Participate in elders/preachers meetings
13. Attend professional development events as required
14. Lead by example in creating congregational unity
15. Work with other ministers on staff
16. Be an excellent communicator both orally and written
17. Be competent in using information technology and presentation tools
There are more; my fingers are tired from typing and at this point I’m so underqualified that I’ll leave this position to God.
Jesus tells his disciples more about what not to take with them than he does about what he requires of them to be preachers:
1. Carry no moneybag
2. Carry no knapsack
3. Carry no sandals
4. Greet no on on the road (interesting requirement, eh?)
5. Enter a house in peace and eat/drink whatever they give you
6. Do not go from house to house (looking for better accommodations)
7. Heal the sick and tell them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you”
8. Wipe the dust off your feet if you are rejected (a symbol of protest and coming condemnation)
By the way, these are not the requirements for Jesus’ 12 “trained” apostles that he sent out previously. These are the requirements for 72 followers of Jesus as recorded only by Luke and whom we otherwise know absolutely nothing about. We don’t know what Bible schools they graduated from, what their marital status is, what their age is, whether they can work Power Point, what their preaching style is, whether they can even read or write, how long they have been following Jesus (my guess is maybe a couple weeks?), or whether they are certified in counseling.
We do know that Jesus told them not to take anything but the clothes on their backs. We also know that they were not professional “ministers.” We know that they were faithful to Christ and that they didn’t make excuses for why they weren’t good enough or smart enough to talk to others about Jesus. We know that, after Jesus stripped everything from them (even food for travel), what remained was faith. And faith, my friends, qualifies all of us to share Jesus with others. We cannot go on making our own lists of expectations for “professional” preachers and expect the Lord’s church to grow. Our faith, not mine alone, is what grows the church. When all of its members are faithful to Jesus Christ and when everyone shares Him with others by using their gifts, God’s church will grow.