It is undoubtably true the character precedes competence. It is equally true that character cannot preclude competence. Both character and competence are necessary in the pastoral ministry. The Pastoral Epistles provide a rich vein of apostolic insight into the teaching of character and competence in the pastoral ministry. When character and competence are exercised for the glory of God in for the good of the church The kingdom is advanced and human beings flourish.
This is a brief sketch of Pauline teaching on competence in the pastoral ministry. For a more complete picture of competence teaching, this cursory review of 1 Timothy should be expanded with line by line reflection on both the method of communicating (direct and indirect), as well as the object.
As I urged you cwhen I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some dthat they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.
This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
able to teach
6 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.
Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality. Do not lay hands on anyone hastily . . .
[The Apostle Paul often taught towards the goal of pastoral competence by way of the unfolding of wisdom and experience (of course, the Holy Spirit has orchestrated these things for the “inscripturation” of His Word). Note how competency in pastoral assessment and diagnosis of the pathologies of the human soul is expected. Yet, Paul establishes this criterion for ministry by way of indirect teaching.]
Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden.
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
1 Timothy demonstrates that the Apostle Paul unequivocally mandates the necessity for Christian character in the pastoral ministry. However, the reader also witnesses that Christ-like character, including the cultivation of pastoral graces and spiritual gifts, must be wed to gospel competence in the exercise of pastoral ministry.
Therefore, we who are called by God to be ambassadors of that Word from another world must remain students in personal godliness as well as pupils in pastoral competency so that we may be found faithful in life and ministry; and that our lives become legacies of holiness, and our ministries fruitful unto the salvation and sanctification of human souls.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be; World without end. Amen, amen.
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Dave Ellinwood says
Dear Dr. Milton,
I recently lost a friend who passed away suddenly for reasons yet to be determined. I shared the article above through electronic means and it may have been the last thing she read from me for she died the next morning…she may have been more ill than she let on and I wouldn’t know for sure because she was an American living in Jamaica and we mostly communicated virtually. Just trying to make sense of it and trusting that your words in the article in addition to biblical teaching washed over her in her final hours. If you care to reach out I would welcome the gesture. Thank you!
Dr. Michael Milton says
Dear Dave, I am so sorry for your loss. Your note is most moving to me. I do know that we can entrust your friend to the Lord Jesus Christ and to rest our hearts in His love and compassion. We can commend her spirit to the One who made her, knows her better than she knew herself, and whose grace is greater than our imaginations or hopes. I pray for you and ask the Lord to bring healing to you. Thank you for being a witness for the Lord in her life. Sometime ago I lost a friend and I delivered this message which subsequently became an article. I hope it will be of some support to you and others. The Lord bless you and keep you. https://servantsofgrace.org/death-thou-shalt-die-what-god-has-done-to-death/