Pesky Prerequisites

“You do not have the necessary prerequisites to take this course. Please consult your program before registering for this class.”

Prior to attending my alma mater–the fabulous University of South Carolina–I had some pretty lofty ideas as to how my college experience would go. My class schedule was going to suit the lifestyle I wanted as a 17 year old woman. All of my classes would have value and be incredibly interesting to sit through. Surely my time in the lecture hall would add to my future endeavors as a teacher.

As a thumbed through my registration packet, a sheet labeled “Degree Requirements” made its way into view.  Suddenly, I found myself in a college calculus class at 8:00 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Clearly, this was not the ideal.

I didn’t become a Christian until the end of my junior year of college. By that time, those inconvenient prerequisites had been checked off of my to do list. I was well into my internships within schools, using the skills and knowledge I had accumulated throughout the last three years. Yet, that helpful information did not come from my college calculus class. In fact, I ended up with a “C” in that class, bitter that it impacted my otherwise great G.P.A.

If you are anxiously waiting to hear that years later I was able to use my mediocre calculus skills to lead a group of anxious freshman to Christ, I am sorry to disappoint. I still haven’t figured out why that class was necessary, and probably never will. I didn’t leave that class filled with a new appreciation for math and I most definitely didn’t complete the course in the hopes that it would contribute to my G.P.A.

Instead, this notion of “qualified” and “unqualified” began to sneak its way into my vocabulary, coloring the way I thought about the learning process.

I’ve been a Christian for about four years now and this insecurity of mine has been something I have had to wrestle to the ground time and time again. I can distinctly remember the first time someone tried to teach me how to share the gospel and how nervous and unsure I was. I wasn’t qualified for this. I didn’t grow up in church and I didn’t have a decent knowledge of the Bible. In my shame and fear, I can still give you reasons as to why I am not in a position to share the truth with anyone.

In 1 Corinthians 2:1, Paul says, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

Sometimes I read over this passage and I think to myself, “Oh Paul, you are just being modest. Surely you knew that there was something great about you and God had to use you to advance his gospel.” This idea of him going to and fro sharing the gospel while trembling is not at all the image first comes to mind when I think about the man that wrote much of the New Testament. Yet, Paul says this is the truth and as a result people are able to place their faith in the power of God, not the power of man.

Every time I am tempted to think that I have reached that point where my speech and abilities have the power to convince and change hearts, I am in need of a serious heart check. As I continue to die to myself daily, I am begging the Spirit to fill me deeply and completely so that God may make His power known in spite of my fear, shame, and broken life.

Now as a seminary student, I could easily slip back into that unbiblical mindset.

“When I take those apologetics classes, then I will be able to defend the faith.”

“When I get that promotion, then I will be able to positively influence others.”

“When I have been intentionally discipled for a few years, I will be able to effectively disciple another.”

These things are good things, but they aren’t requirements for an effective ministry. What is essential is that we love God and others. When we do this, we will continue to lay ourselves aside for His service, relying on the Spirit to guide us. I don’t have to wait around until I complete a particular class to ensure I will be an effective minister of the gospel. As Christians, we are capable to taking the good news to the world because it is God who doing the work within us!

We breathe a sigh of relief knowing that He will remain faithful to his mission to reconcile those who are lost to themselves. We can have courage that His message of redemption will go forth regardless of how prepared we feel. He has given each of us everything that we need for today.

Christina Paparella is a former elementary school teacher who is currently pursuing her M.Div in Apologetics. She is passionate about challenging women to pursue and cultivate healthy relationships within their homes, churches, and community.  When she isn’t reading G.K. Chesterton or C.S. Lewis, you can find her teaching one of the Zumba classes on campus or sipping an iced mocha at a local coffee shop.

 

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