♣ Credentials Non Essential
Michelangelo, one of three great High Renaissance artists (accompanied by Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael) renowned for his exquisite and breathtaking creation, that marked the Sistine Chapel with a ‘royal’ insignia, continues (for over 500 years) to captivate the hearts, evoking the wonder of many from all people and languages around the world. But, can you imagine certain ‘authorities’ asking this prodigy of the great resurgence period for his credentials after beholding such phenomenal artistry?! Of course, his reputation preceded him, but there are those (nowadays) who pedantically insist that official training qualifications be presented on demand. The fact the Roman Catholic Church commissioned this master painter says enough in and of itself; such a world political and religious institution, without question, perceived his extraordinary abilities.
‘The King’s Speech’ is a notable movie, based on true events, that depicts the would-be King George IV seeking a therapist in order to surmount his speech impediment. After prolonged unsuccessful attempts through other ‘qualified’ therapists, he eventually finds the one suited for his needs. Surprisingly, Great Britain’s future king was practically cured through this ‘unqualified’ and ‘unrecognised’ speech therapist, who previously gained hard-core experience in aiding traumatised 1st World War soldiers to communicate again.
Bas, a world renowned wildlife artist, had never really taken an interest in art until around his thirties. After a short duration upon commencing a course in the field of painting, his tutor broke the shocking news to him stating that such studies would be of no use to him. The young discouraged aspiring artist had misunderstood what the lecturer implied; amazed at the student’s standards, he said that there was nothing he could teach him and that he would do well to seriously pursue a professional career in fine art. He did as was suggested to him, and today, he has accomplished and continues to be one of the world’s most successful wildlife oil painters.
My acquired qualifications through Art College you can burn for all I care, but no one can diminish the fact that I have a natural ability to draw and paint. No education put it there, although it recognised and drew out what was innate; education in essence teaches you how to learn but never imparts what is never there to begin with; education enhances your perception and trains you to utilise one’s abilities – the etiquette of being integrated into society. For a piece of paper (credential) to prove that I am a qualified artist never speaks for me but only what I put on paper or canvas. This is not to dispute that certain positions necessitate documented competency in a given field, especially in the field of medicine, military and other potentially high risk occupations.
In the realm of ecclesiology (church) there is an overt and overemphasis on credentials and titles; one is deemed less important without them. Many hierarchies within the Church of England and other denominations refused to acknowledge Leonard Ravenhill as an ordained minister due to not ‘acquiring’ all of his theological credentials, yet all through his entire ministry he preached with power and authority none of these other so-called ‘graduates’ had ever known in their entire service as clergymen, and so few well respected leaders today who barely come near to matching his calibre.
When the apostles appointed elders in the church, was it mandatory that such candidates had to complete a four to six year course in theology? The proof that someone was called was one who displayed the fruits of the Spirit. It goes without saying that one must be grounded in sound doctrine and have the ability to teach (1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:24; 3:10-16; 4:2-3; Titus 1:9; 2:1). Do you know how Paul taught his apprentice, Timothy? Was it, “Pursue Polemics, hermeneutics, apologetics…” (1 Timothy 6:11)? That, no doubt, come into it, but I would seriously contend that it took priority; it was more like: “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” God doesn’t care whether or not you have a Masters, Drs or PhD in theology. As Ravenhill humorously said, “You can have thirty-two degrees and still be frozen.”
One may or may not have credentials in theology, but that does not entail they are void of an ability to preach. A few, yet ‘unqualified’ have preached – and preached well on the account of the hearers – in notorious locations where most graduates only dream of preaching. Bible college or seminary will never put a fire in your bones that’s impossible to keep closed up; that’s the work of the Holy Spirit and His work alone. Many that have gone to bible college have either become agnostic, atheistic, or have become lifeless and robotic; seldom do you find a well-grounded – in life as well as in doctrine – theological college today. No wonder Ravenhill said, “Seminaries are more like cemeteries today.” True that such educational facilities have changed over the last few years in reclaiming a more fundamental approach, but many still lack a spiritual fervency that greatly impacted ministers years gone by.
All the years in seminary will not ensure anyone to preach, as beneficial as they have been known to be. Many who graduate regurgitate theological terminology with no problems; many know how to lecture – and that is as far as many will reach – but there’s hardly any who can preach. Put all the conceited big heads next to George Whitfield. But then listen to all of the pathetic excuses many preachers say that Whitfield was the exception. On the contrary, being the exemplary standard that he was, many say he was great and unmatched by any other preacher in England – no one disputes that – but let’s stop using poor excuses for shabby attempts at preaching; either you are called to preach or you are not. Many who think they are called to preach are deluded. They know how to express their own views with charisma, so the pulpit becomes their soapbox, but it certainly isn’t a communication anointed with heavenly fire. You may have a large following but none of “the applause of heaven”.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones defined preaching as simply as “giving the people a sense of God”. Of course it is intelligently expounding the whole counsel of God, and certainly one must have a definite ability to rightly handle the Word of God – more so and above all, a divine calling and anointing, but as many brag and forcefully emphasize that preaching is one of the sacraments in the Church – and it is – let us at least recognize the one great need for power upon preaching. It is no good just acknowledging that we need power, many have been acutely aware of it for years and yet nothing has changed; either rid the pulpits of the blockages or get down to serious prayer, and pray and continue praying until God answers, but of course – today’s institutions find that undignified; it’s not ‘theologically’ correct!!
You may have a big head full of knowledge but a little heart for God. Many who graduate like to flash off their credentials, thinking they can take on the world. Well, here is the news: you still have a very small brain, so little in comparison to what really is out there. Paradoxically, the only real sign of growing in knowledge is realising the more you know, the more you realise how much there is you don’t know, and that in comparison you know so little with a growing acute awareness of your utter inability but for God. If that isn’t the case then your knowledge amounts to nothing – just a massage to your own ego! Many say they know very little, even after years of extensive study, but let them hear it from another mouth and you’ll see the hypocrisy; they’ll dispute otherwise because they think they are God’s gift to the world.
It is sickening to see these prideful leaders strut around with their titles before and after their name – it is nothing but a load of pomp! You may offer to pay me substantial amounts to have titles and letters preceding and subsequent to my name, and yet it wouldn’t interest me one iota. Many act as if they’re little god’s, but I can tell you they certainly don’t belong to God! Credentials impress the world but makes no impression on heaven whatsoever; heaven’s eternity impressed on one’s heart is what empowers a minister to preach and reach a dying world.
If you want to know a person’s credentials, get to hear them pray; anyone can debate, speak the spiel, casually or formally pray but get them to extemporary pray and move heaven and there you’ll have a man of God in your midst. I’ve been to some services where doctrine has been tremendously expounded and that could not be faulted but the prayer meetings were seriously lacking in life and vigour to an embarrassing degree.
Many intellectually ‘scrutinise’ God and still don’t know Him; many graduate with high grades but spiritually disintegrate. You may have walked the corridors of seminary but what God looks at is whether you’re walking in the Spirit; two different kinds of people, but a combination of the two together is a graduation from a set curriculum and a continuation in God’s school – that one has no completion until we all reach glory. It’s so simply said and so easy to recall, but profoundly and frequently forgotten.
Am I knocking Bible colleges and seminaries? I’m certainly calling into question what kind of men are being produced today. Certainly such training institutions have their place, but they are not the substitute for God’s calling and empowering, and yet that is what’s evident in most cases today; most men I have met are self-centred than Christ-centred; egotistic than Christocentric. There was once a time when such facilities sent men of God to shepherd churches; now, you may get the odd one or two but that’s about it.
You can learn just as much at home if you have a mind and discipline to read and study. Don’t go to Bible college because you want to learn; go because God has called you to preach, but in the process never lose sight of God. If you want to go to bible college just to gain a head full of knowledge, save your money and learn at home. There are so many resources via books and the internet more than ever, but discern what is good, surround yourself with godly men and women – such who really know God.
Are credentials in this area essential? I believe they have some importance but they are not the qualifying aspect for being a herald of God’s eternal gospel. For almost a century the Church, through the realm of academia, has deeply impressed on the world that it can think and reason intelligently, but God’s standards are not the ways of this world, neither are God’s ways reduced to the level of philosophy; the Church has been guilty of reasoning through the ways and power of man. So what if we look foolish and weak in the eyes of the world as the apostle Paul did! It is always the subtlety of Satan’s ploy to have us look impressive to the world; that will win over the attention of many to us but never to the Son of God. No way am I advocating that we abandon our intellect, but rather that we seek God’s method and strength through which our minds become the vehicle of His order to effectively communicate His Word to a dying world, whereby He opens the eyes and hearts of many to behold His sovereignty. The one qualification is recognising and experiencing His power made perfect through our weakness.
Posted on June 14, 2012, in ♣ Devotional and tagged ‘The King’s Speech’, Bible college, Bible seminary, called to preach, Church of England, credentials in theology, Credentials Non Essential, devotional, ecclesiology, George Whitfield, God's strength, graduates, High Renaissance artists, King George IV, Leonard Ravenhill, Leonardo Da Vinci, Mark Anthony Williams, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Michelangelo, ordained minister, preaching, preaching empowered, prideful leaders, qualification to preach, qualifications, Raphael, spiritual fervency, unqualified, unrecognised, world war one. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.