The Most Important Qualification :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

The Most Important Qualification

Jon Crocker
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Are you considering whether God would have you be a missionary? Get good training. Keep up on biblical philosophy of ministry. Practice sound missiology. Do the very best you can with the capacities God has given you. But real Christian ministry must flow from a heart transformed by God’s Spirit through the truth you are attempting to proclaim. Therefore, as Paul exhorted Timothy: “Pursue godliness” (1 Timothy 6:11, NASB 1995). Make this your highest, most urgent, relentless pursuit.  

The Bible gives many answers to the question, Why is godliness important? Consider one answer, revealed in these words from 2 Timothy: “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5, KJV).

“Fake godliness” does exist. A totally lost person can read the Bible, get through a prayer list, memorize passages, use clean language, restrict himself to acceptable entertainment, teach Sunday school, preach, evangelize, “be nice to people,” and many other good and right, even biblical things. Yet a lost person would be doing all of those things from an unchanged heart. Real godliness goes beyond the mere form and reaches the depths of the heart with power. It demonstrates that something powerful has happened to us. This “thing” is far outside the reach of our own feeble efforts at self-improvement and religious activity. True godliness results from the supernatural work of God within us. Externals matter (and some matter a lot), but they must demonstrate what God has done and is doing to transform our hearts.

Here is the importance of godliness: True godliness displays the power of God in the soul.

Consider the significance of this heart godliness in ministry. The New Testament places far more emphasis on character than on ability, on who we are than on what we can do. For example, of the 15 pastoral qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1–7, only one has to do with ability (“apt to teach,” v. 2, KJV). The other 14 focus on godliness. Why? Because godliness displays the power of God in the soul. It displays the reality of what we minister to others. When you give a tract, a truly godly life adds this testimony: “This tract explains the message that gave me new life in Jesus Christ!” When you go about “teaching them to observe all things” that Christ commanded (Matthew 28:20, KJV), a transformed heart cries out, “And I have experienced these things!”

Anyone can “do” the externals of ministry. Let’s use the example of preaching. Occasionally as I am preparing a sermon, I look at my notes and force myself to reckon with some uncomfortable realities. First, any well-trained person with access to good resources could produce my outline or manuscript (or better!). You don’t have to be a Christian to discern the meaning of words and phrases, evaluate the syntax and grammar, and carefully and accurately exegete the full text. Even an atheist with the right books could produce true, orthodox content. Second, a skilled rhetorician would be able to craft the message in a clear and engaging way, with good logic and progression, helpful illustrations, and even biblical and appropriate applications and exhortations. Third, a professional orator could capably and persuasively present the message and capture the audience with calculated technique and impeccable speaking ability.

As I mentioned above, these truths make me uncomfortable. I gave many years of my life to acquiring a good formal education in Bible, languages, theology, and ministry, all for the sake of serving Christ and fulfilling the Great Commission. To think that a lost person could prepare and present good sermons is not pleasant.

So why do I force myself to do this uncomfortable exercise? I do this because it obligates me to remember that real preaching is more than all those things. I desperately need God! I need the Holy Spirit to illumine the text so that its truth grips my heart. I need God’s own wisdom to organize the message in a clear way with the applications and exhortations that my hearers will need. In delivery, I need more than good oratory and persuasion; I need supernatural power! I can experience these things only through a fervent, faithful walk with Christ and through the heart godliness that results from that walk. Real preaching comes from a heart that is engaged with and transformed by the message being preached.

What is true of preaching is true of all spiritual ministry. It doesn't come down to talent. It comes down to my own personal, transformative experience of the power of the truth I am seeking to minister to others. Are you personally, actively, urgently pursuing godly character? God Himself will combine such character with the capacities He has given you, and He will use you in the fulfillment of the Great Commission—for His glory!