Credentials for Christ?

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Disclaimer: I am not writing this because I am bitter or I am judging others. I am writing this to jot down some thoughts I have when it comes to following Jesus. The thoughts may not be complete and often, I am still processing. And that’s okay. It is all about the journey. So if you are a minister, or studying your M Div or PhD or writing a book, this is not a post judging against you. It is just a self-reflection on the need to stay humble.

A long time ago, when I was still an early Christian, my church had two candidates to become an elder. At the end of the service, both candidates took their turn to go up on the pulpit and described themselves. They listed out all the achievements and the ministry they are part of.

In my mind I thought, if I ever go up and talk, what would I say? To be honest, I wouldn’t say much. Instead of listing my resume (CV), I would simply share I am a sinner saved by grace and talked about how God changed my life.

Last week, I attended a Christian conference. Before the speaker came up, the emcee listed out their credentials. Masters, Ph.D., leader for an NGO or a church, books published and so on. Now, I am not against any of these things. But I do wonder, is this how we decide someone worth listening to or someone is following Jesus correctly because they have done a lot of things?

Is that the right criteria?

So if there is a pastor, one filled with the Holy Spirit, but because he pastored in some remote village in Africa or Asia, where we never heard of, is he not deem worthy for us to listen or be invited to preach or talk?

For me, there is a danger in relying purely on credentials. A lot of times, at least in the Chinese churches, we based one’s spirituality on education. If you don’t have a Masters of Divinity, you are not qualified to be a pastor. This is dangerous because one filled with head knowledge may not be following the Lord in the right way.

If it is not just education, it is ministry size. There is an assumption that the bigger the church, the more credible the speaker is. And we see, how pastors can do things, which may not be Biblical, to draw in the crowd. Prosperity Gospel, anyone?

This reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Why were they cast out? They did all the works. I mean, if there are any credentials, these guys have them. I never cast out demons and I have never done any wonders. Yet, Jesus cast them to hell. Why? Because they never knew Him. There is no relationship.

It is easy to look at credentials and judge them accordingly. Whereas if you want to judge someone’s spiritual maturity by their relationship with Christ, that’s hard. It is hard but I believe that is the right way of doing it. Do I have some checkmarks to judge someone or even myself based on that? Well, I am still working on it. But I will say the fruits of the Spirit is a good checklist to begin with.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Galatians 5:22-26 (NKJV)

Wai Jia and I discuss this often. It is easy and tempting to promote ourselves and boosting ourselves and what we have done for the Lord to get to speak or do something in the church. But this is really self-promoting. We are learning and continue to remind ourselves that we need to let God be the one who opens the door. He had done so in our lives so many times. There is dependence and faith when we live like that.

My hope is that we continue to live like that until we die. By prayers and by faith, God opens doors for us and not us banging and opening doors. The latter is based on self-pride and you know what the Bible says about pride.

18 Pride goes before destruction,

And a haughty spirit before a fall.

19 Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly,

Than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Proverbs 16:18-19 (NKJV)

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By Cliff

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