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Why Competency isn’t Enough

What images come to your mind when you hear the word “training?” An athletic setting? A corporate on-ramp? A server shadowing another at a restaurant?

In their excellent book on the nature of ministry called The Trellis and the Vine (available at the Grace Bookstore & Café), Colin Marshall and Tony Payne argue that the English word we use for “training” differs from the Greek word that the biblical writers used. When we speak of training, we usually think of activities done to build competency for a specific task. It is common, for example, for companies to train their employees through teaching, online modules, case studies, and apprenticeships so these employees can function properly in the environment in which they will work. When the biblical writers speak of training, Marshall and Payne note, their emphasis is not usually on competency, but on two other “Cs”: conviction (understanding and trust of God and His Word) and character (moral qualities).

Consider 1 Timothy 4:6–8: “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (emphasis added). Similarly, 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, in listing qualifications for officers in the church, list many character qualities, such as “self-controlled,” “hospitable,” “not quarrelsome,” “not a lover of money,” but only one competency: “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2).

Building competency in disciples is important, and that is why we’ve created resources such as our seven Disciple Making Training Lessons. These lessons train believers in sharing their testimonies, sharing the Gospel, prayer, leading group Bible studies, and so forth. Competency is not the core of training for disciple making, though. Without conviction and character, competency is hollow, superficial, and lacking in spiritual power. Training disciples is primarily about who people are, and secondarily about what they do.

This is where relationships become critical. We cannot train people in the biblical sense if we view them as means to an end. Christ’s Kingdom doesn’t advance by looking past a person to what that person might accomplish. The growth of God’s purposes happens through people as we obey Christ’s commandment to love them as He has loved us. Character and conviction form when people know we care about them at a depth that others don’t.

If you want to become more effective in the mission of Christ, you’ll need to be a disciple and train others to make disciples. And if you want to do this, you must love people in such a way that they see it. It is only in this seedbed of love that character and conviction grow, and only in those with character and conviction does competency mean anything.

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2 Responses

  1. Eric Neifert says:

    Great contrast between character, conviction, and competency, never quite thought about it like that with regards to church leaders.

    Thanks,

    • Beau Stanley says:

      Glad you found this helpful, Eric. This threefold understanding of training as conviction, character, and competency, with the first two being primary, seems deeply biblical to me, and consistent with experience as well. Great to hear from you.

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