Ryan had an accounting degree he had earned in the 60s; had worked with several firms in the 70s but had left to go into sales. He recently applied for a job with an accounting firm, desiring to return to the field he was degreed in. He was turned down because he lacked expertise in the maze of new technology being used in accounting firms today. While he had the basic knowledge of mathematics and other facts about basic accounting, he lacked the skills to translate them into today’s methodologies required in accounting. He was a dinosaur relative accounting expertise needed today.
Ministers are faced with this same challenge. There is a difference between core, fundamental and eternal Bible truths, which never change, and the expertise required in application to today’s ministry. While we grow deeper in understanding Bible truths, which is a form of change; the methodologies required for ministry today, unless continually updated, soon expire. Ministers can become dinosaurs relative to methodologies.
Because you were successful yesterday, and maybe even today, it doesn’t mean that complacency and obsoleteness isn’t setting in. A visiting missionary wanted to show his work to a congregation, when inquiring about a slide projector, he was told they hadn’t had one in ten years—power point is now the thing. Don’t fool yourself by thinking you and your present expertise (i.e. methods) will survive and flourish in a world that is changing faster that the speed of light—you will become an antique.
Here is the question for minister-leaders who plan to stay ahead of the status quo or obsolete curve: Am I still relevant in my ministry methodologies? Relevant minister-leaders keep growing in (1) knowledge, (2) skills, and (3) character.
There are some minister-leaders who represent themselves as knowledgeable and experts; or let others assume they are experts. Some are considered experts because of their “fame”, title, or position. Just because someone researches a few lessons on leadership, or other subjects, and delivers them, doesn’t mean he is an expert relative to practicing. I know preachers who travel across the brotherhood teaching “church growth” who have never lived in the trenches and grown a church. Likewise, some are teaching leadership who have never had an original leadership thought or experience.
What is expertise? Expertise (n) “1 expert skill or knowledge; know-how; expert opinion; 2 a person with a high degree of skill or knowledge of a certain subject; credibility of a person because of specific knowledge or skill; being the best—the opposite of unskilled.” For example an expert witness is a professional witness or judicial expert, who by virtue of education, training, experience, or skill, is believed to have expertise in a subject or area beyond that of the average person; a person who may be trusted or relied upon.
Keep in mind I am emphasizing expertise in skills—methodologies—“doing” (James 1:22-25). This kind of expertise comes through various learning experiences:
- Specific discipline related to a skill or subject.
- Acquiring specific knowledge related to a skill or subject.
- Years of specific practice of the skill.
- Continual adjustments related to the skill.
- Making changes needed for improvements.
- Specific thinking and planning related to skill.
- Relevant testing and usage of skill—trial efforts.
- Recognition and affirmation by others.
- Adjustment of routine and practices.
- Results become predictable.
- Experience gained though teaching and training others.
- Daring to try new innovations.
It is interesting that professions such as the medical, legal, nursing, accounting, teaching, counseling, etc. require continuing education units to keep their skills and expertise relevant, but continuing education isn’t required of minister-leaders. Why? It may be because we confuse knowing book-chapter-and-verse with knowing how to apply it—it is talk without walk. Another reason is because of the emphasis most churches place on the pulpit skills of the minister-leader. It many congregations it is the basis of being hired and keeping the job. This is ironic in light of the many ongoing needs, such as counseling, conflict management, change, marriage and family issues, in congregations not handled from the pulpit.
On a personal note, the methods I was taught over 45-years ago are antique today. This is why I am a lifelong learner; both knowledge and skills wise. There is a possibility that your expertise is expiring relative to ministry methodologies. Here is a little self-examination exercise to help you zero in on your expertise in some essential ministry areas. Using a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent and 1 being very poor, indicate where you believe you are relative to expertise in these areas
__1. Expertise in counseling.
__2. Expertise in handling congregational conflict.
__3. Expertise in exegetical skills.
__4. Expertise in communication: writing, speaking, teaching, etc.
__5. Expertise in developing leadership teams.
__6. Expertise in balancing your personal life—stress management.
__7. Expertise is developing a learning church through Bible school.
__8. Expertise is church growth through evangelism.
__9 Expertise in personal spiritual practices—“doing the word.”
__10. Expertise in managing and organizing self, others and church.
__11. Expertise in leading in change.
__12. Expertise in motivation and persuasion.
If you have any 3s or below, you need to seriously consider doing something about improving your EXPERTISE in those areas. And even the 4s and 5s will “expire” if you don’t keep them up to date. This is why I am highly recommending you investigate the Master of Biblical Studies degree through World Bible Institute: www.worldbibleinstitute.com It will help you develop new areas of expertise and will enhance those you already have.