A person's character--not giftedness, talent or skillfulness--determines the effectiveness of his or her ministry in the kingdom of God.
The offices of the fivefold ministries possess authority and power. How a person in that office exercises spiritual authority and power unmasks that person's character. True character is rarely revealed until stress, conflict, problems and difficulties arise.
I have the privilege of observing the people who occupy these offices either by calling, self-appointment or election. Without a doubt, most are very gifted, skilled and talented. Without question, they exude the vestments of position and prestige accompanying each office.
But how they exercise the authority and power accompanying each office reveals who they are not what they do.
COVERING OR CHARACTER?
The desire to be accountable to one in a position of spiritual authority has given rise to us seeking out a "spiritual covering" in ministry. Those in apostolic networks or denominational structures find security and authority in defined organizational flowcharts that assign roles, tasks and responsibilities.
But too often the politics of power and authority that arise out of the interfacing of those in offices neglect the more weighty matters of character.
Upon meeting a fellow colleague in ministry, I am eager to get beyond his or her office, title and role and get to questions of relationship:
**How is your walk with the Lord?
**How are you and your spouse relating in covenant marriage?
**How are you and your family relating in honoring and loving one another?
**Do others esteem you more highly than you esteem yourself?
We need officeholders who exercise spiritual authority and covering rooted in Christ, spiritual power birthed by the Spirit, and spiritual character tried and refined as they seek to be sensitive to do and say only what the Father directs them to do and say.
THE TOOTHPASTE TEST
Squeeze a tube of toothpaste and what comes out? Toothpaste, I hope, not mouthwash or soap. Squeeze an apostle, prophet, teacher, pastor or evangelist and what comes out? If God has truly placed them in that office, what begins to flow out of their hearts is love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
Under pressure, when what's opposite to the Spirit's fruit comes out, godly people repent and reconcile instead of rising up in defensive pride. In other words, the character of Jesus is revealed. But if people, tradition or election has put them in office, squeezing such officeholders often pushes out pride, anger, offense, control, legalism, manipulation and intimidation.
Let's begin to esteem the character of Christ within those holding office and forsake the need to flatter, flaunt or favor the person who values his or her office over authentic and loving relationships rooted in the fruit of the Spirit.
Church government without friendship will always use and abuse people. Spiritual authority and power without love will always control, manipulate and intimidate people. Apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists and teachers without godly character will always become sounding brass and clanging cymbals.
The true character of those in church offices is more likely to be revealed as they draw closer to real power. Exercising spiritual authority with humility, love, justice and mercy marks God's appointed person.
When I'm covered by officeholders who walk and talk like Jesus, I am empowered to imitate them as they imitate Christ. Then, together, we can fulfill the Great Commission beginning in our families, moving into our cities and ultimately going into all the world.
Larry Keefauver, D.Min., is executive director of Your Ministry Counseling Services (www.ymcs.org), teaching and equipping internationally with his wife, Judi, on the topics of family, parenting, marriage and spiritual growth. They have pastored for more than 30 years and have written more than 40 books, including 77 Irrefutable Truths for Marriage (Bridge-Logos).