How to Overcome the Fear of Being Unqualified

“I don’t think I’m qualified.”

That was the response he gave after I proposed that he consider joining our student ministry team and disciple young men. He had just shared his testimony about God’s faithfulness in his life, including some deeply vulnerable and authentic moments. So what was the hesitation?

I asked him what he meant. He responded that his story wasn’t a perfect one, that he had made all sorts of mistakes in life. What if a student asked him a question about the Bible, and he didn’t know how to answer? What if a teen found out about the mistakes he had made? In his mind, he compared himself to the other leaders and pastors, and he came up short.

None of us is qualified.

The twelve disciples certainly weren’t. Uneducated fishermen, tax collectors, and zealot revolutionaries, this ragtag band of men were the leftovers and outcasts in their culture. Many were probably teenagers themselves, a group of adolescent boys being led by a carpenter from Nazareth. The Apostle Paul called all of his worldly qualifications “garbage” and “refuse” (the Greek word he uses is probably better translated “sh*t”). By both worldly and spiritual standards, the first disciples were far from qualified. That’s what made them so perfect for the job.

When inviting others to volunteer and disciple students, I’m learning to recognize that many people don’t feel qualified. There is a fear and insecurity that they could potentially make a mistake, that they don’t know enough, that they aren’t as cool or wise or outgoing as that other leader. I encourage them to take a risk by recognizing that they truly aren’t qualified. Yet they have the Holy Spirit and a community of believers to help them along the way, and if they remain faithful and teachable, then God will use them in incredible ways in the lives of others. If it were up to their own strength and wisdom, then yeah, they’d probably fail and screw everything up. But it’s not up to them; it’s up to Jesus working in and through them.

Discipleship doesn’t require perfect people; it requires people willing to follow Jesus. In that sense, we’re all qualified. If we have the Holy Spirit and we’re trying to follow Jesus, that is enough. All we need is to invite other unqualified people alongside us for the journey.

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Joel Mayward
Joel Mayward is a pastor, writer, youth worker, and film critic. The author of three books, he has written for numerous ministry publications, including Christianity Today, Christ and Pop Culture, Leadership Journal, YouthWorker Journal, Immerse Journal, The Youth Cartel, and LeaderTreks. You can read his musings on film, theology, and culture at his personal blog, www.joelmayward.com. For his film reviews and essays, check out www.cinemayward.com. Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelmayward.