One of the great things about doing a ministry traineeship for two years before coming to college as I did is that the ‘real’ experience of full-time ministry provides you with plenty of questions! One of my questions that I’ve raised before (here and here) is how to deal with weakness and insufficiency in ministry.
My question goes something like this:
I’m at college for three years in order to be equipped (or start getting equipped) to serve and lead God’s people. Among other things, this seems to include:
- becoming more competent at things like ministry skills, handling the Bible, etc.
- gaining self-understanding of my own weaknesses and how to minimise or compensate for them.
The thing is, I’m still trying to work out where being competent meets with God using the weak. For example, no one holds up Moses as an example in preaching class or Samson in the class on professional ethics. Similarly, very few books on burnout use the apostle Paul as the pin up boy.
My question isn’t “Can God use me, though I am weak?” It’s more one of trying to work out what place to ascribe to skills and strengths; but also, how to think about sin and its impact on ministry.
This is an issue that I think goes deeper than the standard ‘be good at what you do, just make sure you’re humble’. Similarly ‘do it in God’s strength’ seems cliche. The NT provides a few guidelines for leadership – like being in a polygamous relationship rules someone out, for example. But what about being mentally ill (say, depression)? And how mentally ill do you have to be before you’re unsuitable for ministry? (As downcast as Jeremiah; or as manic as Ezekiel?) Same deal with people skills or preaching – how bad do you have to be before that’s it?
So that’s my question – kind of convoluted but hopefully you get the drift! I’m looking forward to spending some of my summer thinking about this. I reckon 1 and 2 Corinthians will be good places to start in the Bible. Where else might I go, do you think? What are good books to read? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too. Stay tuned for more in this series!
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.