Flee Intellectual Arrogance; 2 Cor 11:6

If I'm not careful I can be quite prone to intellectual snobbery. Not that knowledge is bad, nor even valuing the pursuit of it for its own sake (though that can become bad - knowledge puffs up, whereas love builds up). The problems come when I assume that my knowledge somehow makes me a more acceptable to God as a leader. My training therefore becomes a badge of status rather than a means for service.

It seems that the "super-apostles" who were leading the Corinthians astray were doing so on this kind of basis. They were commending themselves to thne Corinthians for their "wisdom" (10:12), their trained speaking ability (11:6) and their heritage (11:22ff). In response Paul could perfectly well have advanced his own education as evidence of his own qualification for leadership, but he doesn't. He advances his sufferings in the service of Christ (11:23ff), his weakness (12:5), divine revelation (12:1ff) and apostolic miracles (12:12ff). 

Now, I don't want to be heard saying something daft at this point, such as leaders don't need good doctrine or that being an intellectual somehow disqualifies you. No, no. But I do want to take issue with the idea that what qualifies Christian leaders is education. This leads to a mentality in leader training that assumes tnhat we can take a person who isn't a leader and turn them into one by giving them a base of theological knowledge, and that is just plain wrong. In turn it feeds into the idea of a professional caste of clergy or preachers who assume their own right to lead, not because of their spiritual gift and their service, but because of their education. I have a great dislike of church notice boards that herald the degrees and doctorates of their minister - as if those were in any way relevant to whether or not they are godly leaders. 

I was brought up very sharp a few years ago when I met some African pastors in a missions context, who had been severely tortured for Christ. Two things were obvious: that they had nowhere near my level of theological education or acuteness; and they knew the Lord much better than I do. I can speak from the Bible more accurately than they, but they have had their finger nails pulled out for Jesus and have endured joyfully through intense suffering. For sure I think I might be able to helpfully impart some things to them, but in terms of real gospel service I have far more to learn than to give. When they start to talk about knowing God I want to sit at their feet, even bow to them.

Basically you don't become a godly missional leader in the classroom. Like Nigel Lee used to say, you learn to fish on the river bank not in the lecture hall. The things that qualify Paul are not the things that I and many of my friends tend to advance as our qualifications for leadership. We need to pray that God will do these things in us, and that we will flee the temptation to be like well-educated super-apostles.