That seems like a pretty reasonable question. In fact, it is the kind of question I would expect to receive if I were in an interview for a sales person job or an opening for a management position at a factory or a job as a crane operator at the construction site down the road. A person needs to have the appropriate credentials if they are to assume they can do a job.
Isn’t it the same in ministry?
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with pursuing academic training in ministry. I have two earned degrees in theology myself. But is a person qualified for ministry if they have a degree in the field? If they are a dynamic speaker? If they have the charisma to capture a room and motivate people to achieve a goal? If they go to lots of conferences and enact cutting edge thinking and technology in their churches? If they can attract a crowd and grow the membership of a church? If they can lead a capital campaign that nets millions of dollars? Now flip it. Is a person disqualified from ministry if they do not have these traits and abilities?
Think like a Corinthian. We know their culture. Wisdom, knowledge and education is good. The cult of the personality will take you far. Recommendations from the masses will take you far. Gather a group of people to you and have them follow your teaching. Sure, others might call it pride and “being puffed up” but really its just confidence. We even know that this kind of cultural thinking had seeped into the church in Corinth in various ways. If a group of people think like this, won’t they want credentials and recommendations?
Does that Corinthian thinking sound that different from everyday American thinking?
So, what qualifies a person for ministry?
Perhaps we need — as some do — official references to give you? . . . You are our official reference! It’s written on our hearts! . . . That’s the kind of confidence we have toward God, through the Messiah. It isn’t as though we are qualified in ourselves to reckon that we have anything to offer on our own account. Our qualification comes from God: God qualified us to be stewards of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the spirit. (3:1-2, 4-6)
Paul appeals to two things as evidence to his qualifications as a minister:
- They only had to look at themselves. How did they come to know about Christ? Who brought them this far? Their very lives were reference letters.
- They could see the marks of the Spirit in his life. His power came from the power of the Spirit, not his own power. His persuasive spirit was not his own, but God’s. His charisma was the “charismata” (Greek for “gift”) that comes from the Spirit, not a charming personality.
One is qualified for ministry if there is within that person the Spirit who is changing the worshiper into the image of Jesus from one stage of glory to the next (3:18).