By: Matt Damico
Who Is Sufficient for These Things? A Look at the Qualifications for Ministry
When you apply for a job, it’s wise to spend time looking over the job description. You need to know if you’re even qualified for the job before you submit your resume. Someone who’s never swung a hammer shouldn’t bother applying for a job as a carpenter. And someone who can’t swim would be wasting time applying for a job as a lifeguard.
This is one reason people go to college, to gain expertise and skills that qualify them for certain jobs. Want to be a nurse? Nursing school would be a good idea. Want to be a computer programmer? A degree in political science won’t help.
If you’ve considered a life of ministry, then – as with other vocations – looking at your own qualifications and the job description would be wise. Believe it or not, there’s a divinely inspired job description in the New Testament.
But you’ll notice something as you look at the description: there’s barely any mention of skills and abilities. Instead, God’s main concern for those who in ministry is character.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a pastor from the 19th-century said that, “It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” If you want to be effective in ministry, then start putting sin to death and pursuing godliness.
This is the gist of Paul’s message to his protege, Timothy. Paul wrote two letters to the young pastor, including the list of qualifications for the job. You can see the whole list in 1 Timothy 3:1–7, but for now let’s run through a few of the highlights.
- Above reproach. If you hope to serve the Lord vocationally, you need to be above reproach. Thankfully, to be above reproach isn’t the same as being perfect. That’s impossible. Living above reproach means living in such a way that if someone brought a charge against you, it wouldn’t stick. It means you confess your sin and don’t keep it hidden, and it means living a life worth imitating. If you go into ministry, people will look to you as an example. If you live above reproach, you’ll be a good one.
- Self-controlled. Christians are called to live a life that looks different than the world around them. There may be no better way for you to stand out among your peers than by practicing self-control. Our culture encourages us to indulge ourselves, to follow our hearts, and to do what feels good to us. But God sometimes calls us to resist things that our flesh desires. If you’re heading for ministry, you need to learn to practice moderation – with food, with internet use, with a smart phone, and more.
- Able to teach. This is the only “skill” in the list. If you want to serve God and his people in ministry, you need to be able to articulate the truth of God faithfully. That doesn’t mean you need to be an amazing public speaker, but you should be able to communicate God’s Word in a way that helps people understand and helps them love God better. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t do this yet, nobody is great at teaching right away, but ask some people you trust if they think you’ve got potential to teach.
- Not a lover of money. Jesus said that you can’t serve God and money. One of these will rule your life, but only one. If you love money, it is impossible to love the Lord with all your heart. If God doesn’t reign supreme in your life, you will find it difficult to lead people to love God with all they’ve got.
- Manages household well. Paul says that someone in ministry must manage his household well. You might think, “I don’t have a household to manage!” But there’s an instructive principle here for all of us. In your life, you’ve got responsibilities: school, a job, duties at home, a relationship with Christ, and more. Are you able to manage those things well, and can people trust you in those different arenas of life? Or are you prone to laziness and sloppy work? This is one area where we can all improve, so if you want to do ministry, start instilling some order and habits into your life now for the sake of your ministry later.
A life of ministry is exciting and exhausting, wonderful and weighty. It’s never too soon to start cultivating Christian maturity and godly habits. If you do that, you’re on your way to embodying these qualifications. And, Lord willing, you’ll be able to say this with the Apostle Paul:
“I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24