Dear Church: Do we over-value degrees?
I have always loved studying Peter, probably because I am a lot like him. I too boldly told Jesus I would never leave him! I did for a season. I won’t be so bold again.
Last week our lesson in church was about Peter and the leader ended with this verse:
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13 ESV, emphasis mine)
I wanted to raise my hand and start a discussion, but time did not allow. I wanted to examine whether or not the church allows “uneducated, common men” in church leadership anymore. Has the church gone the way of the world and gravitated toward titles being a qualifier, perhaps even more than character and being filled with the Holy Spirit?
My guess is that the initial of most church leaders would be, “Of course not, we always consider character and a Spirit-filled walk!” Yes, I would expect that. But here’s the follow-up question. Is the character of an individual considered after qualified applicants are determined by degrees, or the other way around? As I pointed out a few weeks ago in my post about discrimination, the church can slip into societal trends unintentionally.
There has been a trend in our culture toward increasingly valuing degrees and titles.
In the late 70’s, I remember my friend Amy graduating from university with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy that qualified her to be a physical therapist. In the 90’s, a Master of Science degree became required for an entry-level position. Now a Doctorate in Physical Therapy is required for entry-level positions.*
This trend has included nearly every career choice in our country. In 2009, a person with a Master’s degree could be hired as an instructor to teach in an accredited community college. As of today, I am hard-pressed to find any academic position that does not require a PhD, even at a community college.
There is a tendency to believe that if the degree is not there, the skill is not there either.
Has the church slipped into the same mentality, even by accident?
Because here’s the truth:
- The Holy Spirit is as beautiful through everyone – equally beautiful through everyone.
- Not everyone in society can get the education levels required, so that automatically disqualifies groups of people like the poor. (Even if someone gets a degree from a more affordable college, that college may not be esteemed as highly as another, so we prioritize based on institution as well.)
- If discipleship in the church as it should be, then aren’t people being trained up in the church and becoming qualified “in-house”?
I wonder. I wonder if the church can also slip into posting a job on-line, receiving applications from around the country, comparing degrees and letters…
and missing the faithful, qualified, “uneducated” person right under our nose who walks closely with God, is filled with His Spirit…
and can astonish people with his or her boldness.
I think we need to be careful, church.
I think we need to be intentional.
The Holy Spirit is our greatest qualifier for Kingdom work and He resides in each believer.
Dear church, let’s keep this qualifier front and center.
*To read about the influences that led to additional degrees in physical therapy, read here.
Picture explanation: We dedicated our son to Jesus when he was a little boy. Last week, on his own accord, he decided to be baptized because he “wants the whole world to know [he] is a Christian.” I don’t know what degree this young man will earn, but I do know this. His ability to be used mightily by God will not be because of his degree, but because of the Holy Spirit that resides in him. I pray that he lives his life verse: But we have this treasure [the Holy Spirit] in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
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