Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo Perspective on Church and Missions. This is episode 91 of Missions on Point. This is number four of a 14-part series on church-based missionary training. And today's topic is going to be defining character.

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Today we're going to look into the scriptures and show how important character is as the primary qualification for Christian workers, but we'll also use a mnemonic called Six Cs, that's a letter C, six Cs, to help show missionary qualifications in general. We'll get more specific about qualifications other than character in other episodes.

 As we like to do, let's start with the scriptures. 1 Timothy 3 is probably the most extensive listing of qualifications of church leadership, specifically in the offices of elder and deacon. Elder is a term that is used and translated equivalently as overseer. It is also equivalent to pastor. In some older translations it says bishop.

 Our understanding in the New Testament is that a plurality of elders is the biblical standard for church leadership and spiritual direction. This is what it says in 1 Timothy 3. "The saying is trustworthy. If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well with all dignity, keeping his children submissive. For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?"

"He must not be a recent convert or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil." Deacons likewise must be dignified and so forth.

 The list of deacons basically is very similar to the listing for elders or overseer or pastors, except for the able to teach part. These qualifications obviously focus on character, reputation, faithfulness, diligence, and a well-rounded sense of respect in the workplace, in the home, in the community, and especially in the church. It's my contention that this character standard should be the goal of every mature Christian man in the church.

This is not simply reserved for church leaders, although it is a requirement to hold that office, but every Christian man ought to aspire to the kind of character that's listed here. Certainly it is the character standard for Christian workers and vocational Christian workers like paid pastors or missionaries.

 The equivalent passage is in Titus chapter one, and Paul is helping Titus understand what it takes to organize the churches on the island of Crete, and he talks about elders this way."If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer as God's steward must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."

 Similar qualifications are found in the letter we refer to as first Peter in chapter five. Peter writes, "So I exhort the elders among you as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferance of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed. Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly as God would have you, not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock."

 We see similar short descriptions in the early church before they were so well defined, but in Acts 6, when the apostles and church leaders in Jerusalem needed assistance in managing some of the affairs of the church, particularly administration and logistical things, they said, "Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute full of the spirit and of wisdom whom we will appoint to this duty."

 On Paul's second missionary journey, in Acts 16, he appeals to the church in Lystra and Iconium for a helper for his missionary team. Acts 16:1, "A disciple was there named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium." Then in Acts 20, Paul is saying goodbye to the Ephesian elders. Here's the words he has for them, starting in verse 28.

"Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure, fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears, and now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified."

"I coveted no silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who are with me. In all things, I have shown you that by working hard in this way, we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He himself said it is more blessed to give than to receive."

 Now, the point of these passages is that the core of qualifications for leadership in ministry has to do with personal character. It has a lot to do with working hard, of integrity, of a sterling reputation and of a consistency in ministry so that these leaders are able to minister the word of God both effectively and accurately.

 So then let's talk about the six Cs. The first one is calling. The first C of ministry qualifications includes both the internal compulsion that God is calling me to the mission field or I feel that this is something I must pursue unless God shows me otherwise, and it involves the external validation or verification of one's calling by the local church leadership.

I love Michael Griffith's quote on this. "The most that an individual can do is express his willingness. Others must determine his worthiness. The individual may be free to go, but only his church knows if he is really fitted to go." The verification of one's calling is something that takes place over a significant period of time of observation, counsel, and experience.

The second C is character. We've talked about this in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1`. As a missionary, the individual will be a representative of Christ, the gospel and their sending church. You don't want to send anyone out that you wouldn't hire on your church pastoral staff, so be careful on this character bit and get to know your missionary candidate well.

The next C is conviction, and this speaks in a generic sense of the missionary candidate's understanding of the word, one who understands a sound framework of theology and knows how to apply it in real life. The candidate knows the gospel well and its implications for life and ministry. He must have an unshakable confidence in God, in the Bible, and in the gospel.

 So although the scripture doesn't specifically mention formal education, formal theological and biblical education is a fantastic shortcut to understanding a lot of theology and Bible in a short amount of time. Even if your missionary candidate is doing their basic theological and biblical training within the church, it does need to have a sense of rigor in its academic discipline and breadth of knowledge of theology and Bible.

Next C is competence, and this is a shorthand term for solid ministry experience and skills. Through exposure and experience and mentoring in ministry within the church, the candidate should have proven that they know how to minister God's word, that they're able to take some leadership and have some organizational skills With regard to ministry. You need to see them active in evangelism, in discipleship, teaching, training, even mentoring in leadership development.

If you haven't seen them do this in a healthy church setting, you can't expect them to do it on the field. If they're going to be involved in church planting on the field, it is almost required that they understand the highest level of church leadership and how elders are produced and recognized. It's also important that they have church planting experience, even if it is an internship or residency with someone local as a church planter, so that they can see the ups and downs, the twists and turns, the basic foundational questions that have to be answered for every church plant. And if they can do it in a cross-cultural context, all the better.

 Part of competence is the trait of initiative. Most missionary situations don't allow for the missionary to punch the clock, so to speak, or have someone in direct management authority over them checking on how they're doing their work. They need to have initiative. They need to be self-starters so that they can start and finish a project that they can conceive of, a plan and a goal and go after it and accomplish it.

Someone with initiative is someone who sees a need and meets it without being asked. They have an idea and start working on it without expecting others to do it for them. Someone who comes up with solutions rather than just criticism or identifying problems.

The fifth C of our six Cs is chemistry. This is interpersonal skill. Certainly the biblical record for qualification shows that leaders get along with other people and they shepherd them tenderly. They correct those that need correction, but it involves social graces and a value for growing, keeping and enhancing relationships, someone who is a team player.

 Ministry on the field is so dependent on individual's ability to communicate with others, working through issues with others, learning how to have grace and extend liberty on secondary issues, to resolve interpersonal conflicts and apply all kinds of grace with others in their family, in their marriage, with their colleagues, and with the nationals. Clear communication, gracious and loving servanthood, ability to work with others are essential.

The last of our six Cs is cross-cultural capacity. So while this missionary candidate may dream of living in a foreign culture and context, it's another thing to actually do it. You would think that this particular qualification wouldn't even have to be stated, that if a missionary wants to go to a foreign field, that they're willing to make the sacrifices it takes to live in another culture and language.

 But it's amazing how many new missionaries arrive on the field and claim to just not like the food here or say that my tongue and language ability is incapable of producing the language or just find problems with, it's too dirty here and other kinds of criticisms. They want to criticize the culture and find it to be difficult if not judged as sinful, rather than embrace the wonderful things about each culture that they may encounter and learn how to incorporate that into their own life and family.

So the candidate needs to value the dissonance of different cultural values, sounds, sight, smells, et cetera, even before they go to the field. If they don't, they're in for some traumatic adjustment or they'll leave the field. So make sure you get them exposed and monitor them in those situations. Make sure that they have an inclination to love other cultures and all that goes with it. Don't just send them because they say so.

 I'm going to close with this great quote from David Livingston on missionary qualifications, found in the 1882 edition of the Regions Beyond Magazine, which was a missions journal. Here's what he wrote. "Missionaries ought to be highly qualified in every respect, good education, good sense, and good temper are indispensable. A sound mind and a sound body, independence of character, strengths of judgment, aptitude, both to learn and to teach are of great consequence."

"An ability to acquire and retain languages, tact in managing others so as to conciliate and yet to retain proper dignity and self-respect are of great importance. There should also be an intrepid spirit of enterprise. Decision, cool courage to meet sudden emergencies and to overcome dangers, gentleness, powers of endurance and temperance. We want our best, most able and greatest men to do the highest and most important of all work, making known Christ's gospel, where it has not been hither to heard."

 Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, Please preferably consider supporting this to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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