A Journal for Bible Teachers

Wanted. Men of Character

Wanted. Men of Character

More than ever before, God is looking for men of character—men who have the maturity, integrity, and ability to lead the people of God. In the lives of those whom God calls to be His ministers, God places a higher priority on what they ARE than on what they can DO. Bible standards have not changed; the fruit produced by a person’s character (Matthew 7:20) is a more reliable guide to their stability than their possessions, words, or even their actions. Without a doubt, the major reason for failure is deficiencies in character that the enemy is able to exploit in any one of many different directions—pride, immorality, dishonesty, and others.

In churches, Bible schools, and seminaries throughout the world, perhaps this is the question that should be asked most of all as we train people for ministry: What character traits does God value in those He calls to ministry, and what is the most effective way of producing those?

 

God Our Source

The only way to do God’s work is God’s way. Only what is born of Him will overcome the world. The amazing thing is that God has decided to use man at all, but He has. Right from the very beginning, man has been distinguished from the animals by the fact that he was made in the image of God. If we trace the roots of our character right back, we arrive at our Creator. Even the Fall did not change God’s desire to make man His agent on earth. God has shown the world His love through the sending of His Son (John 3:16). Even though redeemed man still has faults and shortcomings, we are still His representatives. In fact, God is going to show His wisdom to the world through the Church. God has placed His ministers as His delegated authorities to help bring the Church to perfection (Ephesians 4:11,12). In this process each of these ministries—apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher—has a vital part to play, and the measure to which the character of God becomes formed in their lives will be the measure of their success.

 

Jesus Our Example

It was necessary for God to reveal Himself through the written word to the people of Old Testament times. The law of Moses (Exodus 2 0:1-20) was more than just a collection of rules for the people of Israel to live by; it was also a revelation of the character of God. However, this could only demonstrate to man how far he fell short of God’s will (Romans 3:20-23). God had planned a far more effective way (but also more costly to Him) of revealing Himself to man through the Incarnation.

This was the tremendous difference between telling people what to do, and showing them how to do it by becoming like them in every way. Jesus did this while still embodying all the characteristics of the Father before their eyes (John 10:30, 1 Peter 2 :21). One of the things we tend to overlook in our “do-it-all-now” world is the long years of preparation Jesus went through before He entered any public ministry. He learned obedience by the things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). No doubt He learned faithfulness in natural things in Joseph’s carpentry shop.

Perhaps the most severe test of the character of Jesus was His temptation in the wilderness by Satan (Luke 4:2-14). He was tested in the three major areas of life—physical, mental, spiritual—but each time He refused to please Himself.

Satan can duplicate miracles and counterfeit gifts, but he cannot produce moral character. Therefore, his greatest attacks will be attempting to corrupt the character of God’s ministers. May we follow in the footsteps of Jesus to such an extent that we can say, with Him, that Satan can find nothing belonging to him in us (John 14:30).

 

Divine Executive

Even if we know that God is the source of all we have and are, and that Jesus is our living example, the Christian life can still be a frustrating experience if we do not properly understand the role of the Holy Spirit. When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Saviour He dwells within us by the Holy Spirit.

One of the main tasks of the Spirit is to glorify Jesus (John 16:14). He accomplishes this by reproducing within us the life and character of Jesus. He is, as it were, the “Divine Executive” who enables us to progress from the ideal of Jesus’ life, to its growing reality within us. The Spirit sets us free and brings a continuing transformation of our lives from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:17, 18).

The gift of the Holy Spirit is not given as a reward for our maturity, neither does He bring us instant maturity when we receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Rather, it is as the Spirit empowers, teaches, and leads us, and as we respond in faith and obedience, that we experience freedom from the dominion of sin. In trials and testings the Spirit administers the grace of God to us so we can respond to them in a right attitude. As we yield to the Holy Spirit rather than to the desires of our old nature, the Spirit can bring forth the fruit of Christ’s character in us.

 

Time to Respond

When we consider the character qualifications of a leader, we usually think of the lists Paul sets out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. However, if we try to measure up to such standards in our own strength, then we are doomed to failure. True character and genuine leadership will develop out of our personal relationship with Jesus, not as we mechanically attempt to fulfill all the conditions Paul says are necessary in leaders. God’s calling is vital. We have not chosen Him, He has chosen us (John 15:16). Notice that when God calls us, He makes no mention of our skills and abilities. Nowhere does He say that only those with great physical strength, much education, and the right social graces, need apply. He often chooses the very opposite (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). God prizes those who are yielded and available to Him, whatever their background. Let us “not frustrate the grace of God” (Galatians 2 :21) which He makes available to us every time we are faced with the kind of choices that build our character. Let us determine to cooperate with God as He puts us in different situations to give opportunity for Christ to be formed in us (Galatians 4:19). God aims His attention at the inward man—the heart—not the outward appearance (1 Samuel 10:7). The main thrust of the Sermon on the Mount is the transforming of attitudes and it is summarised by Matthew 4:48: “You, therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Amplified).

That is, growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity! The qualifications listed in Timothy and Titus are like a “final examination.” We cannot look into the heart to evaluate the suitability of potential leaders, so we are given these external criteria to be able to decide. (Read 2 Peter 1:4-8).

 

Time to Develop

Just as fruit does not mature and ripen overnight, so there is no short-cut to becoming a man of God. Instant formulas do not produce lasting results. This is why Paul emphasises in 1 Timothy 3:6 that a new convert should not be considered for leadership: He has had neither the time nor the opportunity to develop a good reputation and prove himself morally and ethically. Too often we put young Christians in positions of leadership which they are not mature enough to handle. If they fall we must bear at least part of the responsibility.

Those in their teenage years and early twenties have enough major adjustments to cope with without any additional burden. It is not enough to say that the need for leaders and pastors is very great—it always will be. Any church that is producing daughter churches by evangelism should also be producing potential leaders for them by discipling and Bible-based teaching. Among the fast-growing Pentecostal churches of South America, before a man is appointed a full-time pastor, he must serve his church in many different capacities from street preacher to Sunday school teacher and elder. Many have over 40 years “apprenticeship.” They are mature and their churches strong. Men of God are made, not born. The calling may be there from the beginning, but the necessary character is only developed over many years. Our circumstances and situations are planned and/or allowed by God. May we recognise each of them as opportunities for the character of Christ to be developed within us. Despite the treacherous behaviour of his brethren, Joseph saw past that to a God-given opportunity to prove the faithfulness of God. God eventually honoured Joseph, restored his family to him, and prospered him beyond measure. Of Joseph, it was said, “Joseph is a fruitful bough. His branches run over the wall.” His faithfulness and character development bought tremendous fruitfulness and blessing.




About the Author

Dr. Brian J. Bailey is the President of Zion Fellowship International, Zion Ministerial Institute, and Zion University. He is also Senior pastor of Zion Chapel in Waverly, New York. He has traveled to over a 100 countries during his ministry of over fifty years, teaching in Bible colleges and preaching in leadership seminars. He is a prolific author of over 50 Christian books that have been published around the world and translated into many languages, including Chinese, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, and French.

Dr. Bailey hails from London, England and left there on his first missionary trip to France. From there he went to Switzerland and became co-founder of a missions fellowship called “Croisade Missionaire.” It was there he met his wife who was herself on a missionary trip to Europe and North Africa.

After a pastorate in Washington State, the Baileys were invited to be on the faculty of Elim Bible Institute. Later they were invited to New Zealand where they had an extended ministry and participated in the national awakening that the country experienced. In 1973 they served for more than five years with World MAP, a missions organization that conducted leadership training seminars in many nations throughout the world. This led them to travel and minister in many nations. Then the Lord directed them to establish Hebron Missionary Fellowship at Waverly, NY which is now named Zion Fellowship International.

Dr. Bailey received a Doctor of Theology, Th. D. from Hebron Bible College. He received a Ph. D. in Biblical Studies form Vision Christian Bible Seminary. He also received a Doctor of Divinity, D. D. from Canada Christian College.

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