Character or Competency?


A few weeks ago I started preaching through the qualifications of a Pastor, and Deacon in 1 Timothy 3. It just worked out I finished the “Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” podcast while finishing up on last weeks message from 1 Timothy 3:8-15. That podcast was actually a great illustration for the message, because it emphasizes how much of Christian culture places a priority on results above character.

Of course those in the ministry (Pastors or Missionaries) should be successful in achieving results…..

But defining a successful ministry based on results is dangerous!

It’s dangerous because someone can receive a ministry position because of their competency (organizational skills, education, leadership skills, confidence) while their character is overlooked. Obviously competence is a part of being in the ministry, but it must be built upon a foundation of character.

It’s interesting to look at the qualifications of a Pastor in 1 Timothy 3

  1. He must be blameless (no unconfessed sins in life)
  2. He is faithful to his wife (Sexually pure)
  3. He is vigilant (On the lookout, Clear Headed, not lazy mentally)
  4. He is sober (focused, disciplined)
  5. He is of good behavior (Respectable, has integrity)
  6. He is given to hospitality (Cares for Those in Need)
  7. He is apt to teach (an excellent teacher)
  8. Not a striker, but patient, not a brawler (Doesn’t resort to violent anger)
  9. Not greedy of filthy lucre, not covetous (not greedy for money)
  10. An integrity from their family life (1 Timothy 3:4-5)
  11. An integrity from their maturity (1 Timothy 3:6)
  12. An integrity from their reputation (1 Timothy 3:7)

All of this means God cares about your character much more than your competence!

The response for all of us (Pastors and Missionaries especially) is to develop character through a close personal relationship with God. Competency or results can then come not because we are working hard, but the Lord is blessing our commitment to Him.

More importantly, when we care more about results than character, things never end well.

Richard Baxter in his book “The Reformed Pastor” has a quote that describes the need for character well….

“One proud, surly, lordly word, one needless contention, one covetous action, may cut the throat of many a sermon, and blast the fruit of all that you have been doing.”

Charles Spurgeon also points out the importance of character so a minister lives the truth as well as preaching it.

Spurgeon describes as a good preacher but a bad Christian: he “preached so well and lived so badly, that when he was in the pulpit everybody said he ought never to come out again, and when he was out of it they all declared he never ought to enter it again.” (from lectures to my students)

This can be applied to the lives of ministers as well. We can make competency our focus by emphasizing hard work and results, or we can make character our focus by emphasizing study of Scripture and prayer. The true question is what do we invest our time in? Activity, or fellowship with God?

There is nothing wrong with competency and success

But character must come first.


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