Dying by Degrees

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Some time ago, a church where I have been for meetings on several occasions became pastorless, and I had been praying that God would lead a man to become the pastor who could take the church to the next level. It was a ministry with great potential. A few months later, as I was in an airport on my way to an evangelistic meeting, I saw a good friend of mine who had been on the staff of this local church. I asked him if the church had yet called a pastor, and he replied in the affirmative. He told me that their new pastor was young but that he had two degrees from a certain Christian college and two more degrees from a seminary. The educational degrees he had earned seemed to be the qualifiers for calling him as pastor. The “degree” criteria seems to be very prevalent now when churches are in search of a pastor.

Download the PDF version

Size: 1 MB

Some time ago, a church where I have been for meetings on several occasions became pastorless, and I had been praying that God would lead a man to become the pastor who could take the church to the next level. It was a ministry with great potential. A few months later, as I was in an airport on my way to an evangelistic meeting, I saw a good friend of mine who had been on the staff of this local church. I asked him if the church had yet called a pastor, and he replied in the affirmative. He told me that their new pastor was young but that he had two degrees from a certain Christian college and two more degrees from a seminary. The educational degrees he had earned seemed to be the qualifiers for calling him as pastor. The “degree” criteria seems to be very prevalent now when churches are in search of a pastor.

How badly I wanted to ask my friend several questions about their new pastor! “What about his character?” “Can he preach?” “Does he have the power of God on his life and ministry?” “Is his family exemplary as a pastor’s family should be?” I began to think about the spiritual condition of many churches across our country, and I wondered if our quest for knowledge and the prestige of education is not one of the reasons for the decline of powerful, growing, community-impacting churches. It appears that our movement has more conferences and seminars about reaching people on an intellectual basis than we have about the power of God. Very few of the great spiritual giants of the past that exhibited the power of God put a lot of letters after their names.

In Acts 4, verse 13, we read, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” In the book of the Acts, the power of God was manifested through preaching. After Peter preached at Pentecost, we read in Acts 2:37, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Thirty-eight times in the book of Acts, a form of the word “preach” is used. They preached in the market places, in the synagogues, by the riverbank, at the Sanhedrin, in Solomon’s porch, in the temple, and on Mars Hill. As it says in Acts 8, verse 4, “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” One of the first questions that a local church should be asking when selecting a pastor is, “Can he preach?”.

The power of God was also manifested through praising. In Acts 2:47 we read, “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” The positive and optimistic attitude is contagious, as is a pessimistic and negative attitude. I have never been with a pastor who exhibited the power of God on his ministry who did not major on the blessings of God rather than on the negatives. Paul and Silas praised God and sang praises in prison at midnight although their bodies were throbbing with the pain of the day’s persecution. A praising Christian is a powerful Christian.
The power of God was also manifested through prayer. The church was born in a prayer meeting in Acts chapter 1, and it was maintained throughout the Book of the Acts by prayer. In two-thirds of the chapters of Acts, we read of a prayer meeting. Acts 4:31 reads, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” So a logical question for one who candidates for the pastorate is, “Does he know how to have his prayers answered?”.

In conclusion, the power of God was manifested through purity. In each of the first four chapters of Acts, there is a display of the power of God; however, in Acts chapter five, we read of a man named Ananias. (The devil will always try to thwart the blessings of God after times of refreshing.) When Peter confronted Ananias and Sapphira with their sin, God sent judgment upon them for lying to the Holy Spirit. They had committed the sin unto death. The result of that purifying is in Acts 5:14, “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” God blesses a pure preacher and a pure church. So the question for any aspiring pastor should be, “Is he living a godly life?”.

Coming from one whose life and ministry revolves around the training of men and women in an educational institution, these thoughts may seem odd. I am in favor of education and am absolutely convinced that a call to serve is a call to prepare. However, at Ambassador Baptist College we are far more concerned about the character of our students as they leave our halls than about the degrees they have earned. God’s blessings on our lives and ministry are not determined by the letters after our name but by the power of God on our lives.