No one has ever accused me of being overeducated. I often tell people, “I have received an education from the world’s classroom and an honorary degree from the school of accumulative and applied experiences. Don’t look them up on the internet or contact the government to see if these are accredited schools. They do not have a physical location or a system of accountability to make sure they are successfully preparing students for the real world.” For some this is the only education they have, for others this phrase only takes away from their many degrees. For me, it injects a little humour around a difficult topic.
I made some choices that now seem stupid. Two months after being accepted into a highly regarded theatre school, I left. There were two things that influenced this decision. The first was the feeling of completion. Not the course, I had only just started the three year course. It was because I had made it as far as I wanted to go, proven what I felt I needed to prove. I was one of thirty-five students chosen out of thousands who auditioned across Canada, the rest seemed anticlimactic. The second and strongest influence on my decision was my renewed faith in God and the call He had placed on my life. I enrolled in Bible college the next semester and thought I was well on my way to becoming a pastor.
Calling and commitment must partner to achieve God’s plan.
I walked away. I didn’t return to Bible college the next year and worse still I walked away from God. I loved the idea of being a pastor but I was not committed enough to my relationship with God or fulfilling His calling on my life to stay on the right path. The details of this are for a different day and a different blog post but the basics are this: it took close to ten years for me to return to God and another year or so to step out in faith and serve Him in full-time ministry. By then I had 2 children and no money. Returning to Bible college was not an option.
I covet my neighbour’s education and envy their degrees.
It has been twenty years since I answered God’s call with the level of commitment needed to live God’s plan for my life. I still don’t have the education needed to impress anyone. Coveting and envying are hyperbole but I do wish I had more letters after my name so people would look at me differently. I will most likely never complete a Bible college degree because of some health issues, but many who have a degree or seventeen will never experience the total reliance on God that I am forced to have.
To know about God is different than to know God and rely on Him.
Before I go any further, I am not against education and believe there is just as much damage done by undereducated pastors and church leaders as there is by overeducated pastors and church leaders. Education is not at issue, commitment to God’s leading is. To learn from those that came before us as well as our peers is how we are stretched in our thinking. From formal education leading to a degree, to blogs, books or seminars that lack any official recognition, we all need to learn, but what we learn does not reach its full potential until we rely on God for its application.
What I know can never tell me what I need to say.
Paul, the apostle most educated in the things of God through formal training, said this in his letter to the church at Ephesus, “Pray for me also, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak — that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:19-20 NET). His years of education and his interactions with other followers of The Way did not come close to filling his need for God’s intervention when he was called upon to speak as an ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven.
When you rely on what you have learned instead of on God, you are overeducated and underprepared.
Whether you are an honours student or a regular attendee at Bible study, lead a church or go unnoticed sitting in the back row, retain everything you see or need a cheat sheet to recite John 3:16, do not consider yourself too good or not good enough for God’s inspiration. Instead, pray with humility for God to give you the message and the boldness to speak it.