Why Credentials Are Meaningless

Not Everyone is a Professional

My wife takes x-rays. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists have certified and registered her every year since 1980. ARRT says

Certification and registration is the recognition of an individual who satisfies certain standards within a profession. Employers, state licensing agencies, and federal regulators look at the ARRT credential as an indication that a person has met a recognized national standard for medical imaging, interventional procedures, and radiation therapy professionals.

Her credentials do not guarantee that she is a “good” x-ray tech because that is measured by her behavior. We can ask her patients and co-workers if she is good. However, her credentials are necessary for her to be considered a professional in her field. Her good behavior does not negate her need to be credentialed.

I am an ordained minister with the General Council of the Assemblies of God. My credentials do not guarantee that I am a “good” pastor because that is measured by my behavior, by how I practice within my ministry. On the other hand, if I am a good pastor, it does not negate the necessity for me to carry credentials.

Everyone is a Minister

I have been told that papers and titles are meaningless in ministry. Perhaps this negative opinion is based on some positive principles found in the New Testament.

It is also helpful to know that the New Testament noun for minister is the same word for servant and the verb for minister is the same word as serve.

The Church is a priesthood of believers. It says, “…you also, as living stones, are being built up into a spiritual house as a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5)

Every Believer is a minister. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have been given the responsibility of ministry. “All this is from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation,” (2 Corinthians 5:18)
The simple act of a financial offering is called ministry. “Meanwhile, through the performance of this ministry, they glorify God for the profession of your faith in the gospel of Christ and for your liberal sharing with them and with all others.” (Second Corinthians 9:13)

No license is needed to serve (minister) as a believer. Credentials for ministry are meaningless in this context. God calls every believer. Every believer must respond to God without hesitation.

Examination, Accountability, Authorization

The early church examined those who desired a role in leadership.  The church leaders expected accountability from leaders in both personal life and their ministry as leaders. The early church authorized some believers to represent the Church.

In Acts 9:26-31, the disciples were reluctant to accept the leadership of Paul until Barnabas provided a reference and presented Paul to be examined by them. In Acts 11, Peter reported to the leaders in Jerusalem to give an account of the salvation of Gentiles. In the same chapter, relief funds are distributed very carefully; Barnabas and Saul are authorized to deliver them to qualified leaders called elders. In Acts 13:3, a Spirit-led selection accompanied by prayer and fasting precedes the laying on of hands upon Barnabas and Saul. In Acts 15:4, the apostles and elders in Jerusalem serve as an authorized body to receive and examine Paul and Barnabas. We would have a very different history of the early church if Paul had told the church leaders that he did not need their approval, had refused their examinations, and had denied their authority over his ministry.

Paul authorized young Timothy to serve in a larger role than the ministry common to all believers. Paul authorized Timothy to be a spokesman and a representative. When young Timothy’s credentials were doubted, Paul wrote that the gift of God was in Timothy through the laying on of Paul’s own hands. This reflects back to when the elders laid hands on Paul. Paul gives Timothy a lot of instructions about choosing and authorizing church leaders. The process of cautious examination of leadership seems to be a theme in the letter of First Timothy. Paul warned Timothy not to be too quick to lay hands on anyone who desires to lead. He expected Timothy to examine candidates for leadership before granting authority to them.

 

Conclusion

A credential for ministry is meaningless for those that want to follow Jesus. A credential for ministry is meaningful for those who want to lead others in Christian ministry.


Here are some legal issues to consider: housing allowance1 and consecration of marriage.2

1. A church should be prudent about providing a housing allowance to employees that are not duly ordained, licensed, or commissioned ministers, even if that church calls that person “pastor”. The IRS is not likely to consider non-credentialed staff as eligible for a housing allowance (income that is excluded from taxable income). If the church is knowingly providing tax reductions to employees/contractors that are ineligible, this may be an issue that the IRS would consider worth investigating. Proper credentials would clarify much.

2. In Indiana, IC 31-11-6-1, indicates who is authorized to solemnize marriages. The legal code states that, in my case, I must be a member of the clergy of a religious organization. It does not say that I can merely be a verbally-designated pastor with authorized based upon my recognition by my local Christian fellowship. For example, when I was the pastor of an independent church located in Valparaiso, Indiana, the church was legally recognized as a church in the State of Indiana with a Constitution and By-Laws that made a provision for the church to choose and ordain their own ministers. Therefore, the church board and body ordained me for ministry within their body. In my current situation, in order to legally officiate at weddings, I would be required to be credentialed through the General Council of the Assemblies of God by the Indiana District Assemblies of God, the religious organization to which my local church belongs. If I were not credentialed appropriately, I would not solemnize marriages.

How Spontaneous Emotionalism Bestows the Gifts of the Spirit

I thank my God that I speak in tongues more than you all. Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. Brothers, do not be children in your thinking; rather be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.
First Corinthians 14:18,19

 Paul did not want people to speak in tongues in the church.

This is because he preferred that people would understand what was being said in the church. He wanted teaching in church so the hearers would grow and become mature Christians. Speaking in tongues does not help the hearers grow spiritually.

However, Paul spoke in tongues …apparently a lot.

So when and where did Paul speak in tongues a lot? Well, Paul says that praying in tongues is praying in the Spirit. Look at the Scripture, Paul prayed in tongues …a lot.

Let him who speaks in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding.
First Corinthians 14:13-15

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses, for we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26-27

Pray in the Spirit always with all kinds of prayer and supplication. To that end be alert with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. 19 Pray for me, that the power to speak may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.
Ephesians 6:18-20

But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith. Pray in the Holy Spirit.
Jude 1:20

Let’s be like Paul and pray in the Spirit …a lot.

Paul asked people to speak in tongues when they did not need to be the center of attention.

Paul did not indicate that speaking in tongues was less important than some of the other gifts. He did say it was less informative than teaching.

Paul wanted believers to participate in church. He wanted them to be prompted by the Holy Spirit to share their spiritual gifts with everyone.  I feel confident that Paul would not have approved of the spontaneous emotionalism that is practiced in some modern churches.

The gifts of the Spirit are not generated by human emotion.

When I was at Zion Bible Institute, I remember one of the leaders of Tuesday chapel services saying, “We did not prepare anything, so that the Spirit can move.”  This was sometimes followed by students spinning in circles, making shrill bird noises or running violently around the perimeter of the chapel. Based upon this principle of the moving of the Holy Spirit being hindered by preparation, some students wrote a little chorus. “Why study when you can pray? Trust Jesus, you’ll get an A…”

The Tuesday chapel meetings provoked me to look deeper into the Scriptures for an understanding of the “moving of the Spirit” and the Pentecostal experience.

Boom!

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Acts 1:8

In this passage, the word for power is dunamis. This is where we get our modern word for dynamite. So the picture of the gifts of the Holy Spirit has been drawn to look like an explosion of a log jam. This is not accurate.

Dunamis is power, strength, might, ability and capability. It is the source of our modern word “dynamic” which indicates a force that results in effective action. The picture in my mind is of someone trudging uphill under the weight of a heavy load. This person will not make it without the strength, capability, force necessary to result in effective action. This is the working of the Holy Spirit that I see in the New Testament. As the burdens of life became unbearable for human strength, the Holy Spirit empowered believers to act effectively.

The power of the Spirit is not for emotional freedom. It is for people to live dynamically within an impossible cultural climate or under normally unbearable factors. The power of the Spirit creates overcomers on Monday through Saturday in homes and workplaces, wherever and whenever He is needed. It seems wasteful to only be filled with the Spirit once a week for an hour while the band is passionately belting out a sentimental song. Okay, that was harsh, but I hope my point is clear anyway.

I don’t need the power of the Holy Spirit so much in church when everyone is happy. I do appreciate that power when I am talking to one of my lost friends or when I am called to visit a terminally ill patient. Boom! Then I feel that supernatural power kick in.

The early Church was not as spontaneous as the modern Church.

Modern Pentecostal churches, in my experience, practice the gifts of the Spirit as spontaneous interruptions of the church meeting. Since the speakers are not prepared, the listeners receive emotion-based, whimsical outbursts that take the place of well-prepared exhortations based upon Scripture.

The pattern of the early Church is seen in the New Testament. Their meetings were not interrupted by emotional outbursts. Paul said to only allow a couple of interruptions in tongues. The Church heard a message of sound teaching. Then they prayed about it. They practiced it. They let the Holy Spirit empower them to live it.

Through the week, as they prayed in the Spirit and meditated on that message of sound teaching, a believer might sense that the Holy Spirit was giving him or her a revelation, a word of wisdom, a prophetic utterance, or an interpretation of tongues. This gift was presented to the church elders who acted as witnesses to confirm whether or not it was indeed from God and should be presented to the Church. They judged it by the word of God. If it was silly, self-exalting, or empty emotionalism, then the gift didn’t make it before the Church.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. If I give all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.

…Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. If anything is revealed to another that sits by, let the first keep silent. For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

Paul to the Church at Corinth

…and when you think about the Holy Spirit working through you, don’t be surprised if you have an emotional response.