• Richard Parrish

Competency Or Character?



Self-examination, I believe, is an essential practice of leadership. And, I suspect it is largely neglected by many of us.


It’s not that we do so intentionally. However, in our attempt to improve our serve, strengthen our weakness, and develop our competency – attending to our character, can easily be pushed to the “back burner.”


Jesus spent three years doing ministry. He spent thirty years preparing for ministry. That’s a 10 to 1 ratio. The question is:


What was the focus of Jesus’ preparation?


It’s difficult for me to assume Jesus needs thirty years to concentrate on skill development. Throughout Jesus’ ministry his emphasis has more to do with character transformation than aptitude improvement.


The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12) (often referred as the “Be-Attitudes”) summarizes how followers of Jesus are to “be.”


Jesus has been announcing the coming of a new kingdom (Mt. 4:17). The only standard of measurement provided to the people was from the Scribes and Pharisees – a model that demands perfection (competency).


So, the natural question of any Jew at the time was: “Am I eligible to enter Messiah’s kingdom? Am I righteous enough to qualify as a citizen of this new kingdom? Is my competency sufficient?


However, the qualities Jesus mentions in his list (“poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, etc.”) are not attributes produced by Pharisaic righteousness. These are virtues of character, not competency. I admit…


… It’s more comfortable (and convenient) for me to work on improving my skills than attending to my character.


However, as a follower of Jesus and citizen of His kingdom, our character transformation is always more critical than the improvement of our capability.


Carey Nieuhowf writes:


“Think about what gets transformed in your life when you commit to the development of your character: Honesty. Love. Kindness. Faithfulness. Trustworthiness. Humility. Compassion. Courage. Faith. Resiliency. Patience. Perseverance. Self-control. Self-discipline. It’s these things that form your character, which in turn, ultimately determines your capacity.”[1] [Emphasis, mine]

Jesus sees these character virtues as essential. And, our character cannot be changed without intentional soul-searching.


Nieuhowf also reminds us: “Competency gets us in the room. Character keeps us in the room!”


Even after thirty years of preparation for ministry, Jesus continually pulls himself away from “doing” ministry to attend to “being” with His Father.


If it’s essential for Jesus, it’s critical for us!


[1] Nieuwhof, Carey. Didn't See It Coming (pp. 59-60). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.