Throughout my time as a pastor I have had several conversations about the call to the ministry. God calls all men to vocational ministry, that is to use our vocations as a ministry and for His glory. Some of us are called to set aside our full attention to pastor a local church. All of these callings, whether in the church or in the marketplace, are noble. It is common that many Christians feel that the only way they can really serve the Lord is by being a pastor. This has led to many people entering into ministry which results in either a defilement of the office or to great disillusionment and burnout for them. Before entering pastoral ministry a person should take some time to ensure that God has called them.
Sent or Called
The bible uses two words to describe ministry responsibilities. It is essential to place a distinction between these two separate words. The first word is 'sent.' This word refers to the duty that all believers have to minister to the Lord. The second word is 'called.' This duty is unique as it is used to describe someone who is set aside for full time pastoral ministry and serves with the Lord.
Being a pastor is truly a calling from the Lord. I must point out that this calling is not something unique to the New Covenant pastor. All throughout the Scriptures, God has called individuals into His service to fulfill His eternal will and purposes. Since this is a calling from God how does a person know if they have this calling? There are some standards by which we can assess if a person is truly called to this work.
First, there are objective elements to a call to the ministry
1. Meeting the biblical requirements laid out in the Word of God (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9).
2. Having confirmation from the church.
Second, there are subjective elements to a call to the ministry:
1. Desire: Paul states that he that desires the work desires a good thing (1 Tim. 3:1). This desire is for the work of the ministry, not just for the position of the minister (3 John 9).
2. Providential leading: The one seeking to enter the Christian ministry must be able to see the hand of God in calling and in equipping them to serve in the body of Christ as a pastor.
The Importance of Teaching About the Calling
If the true biblical teaching about the calling to the ministry is not taught it will do much damage to the body of Christ. Men who are not suited for or equipped for the ministry will enter in it just like any other profession. Without clarity about the minister's office the pastor will perform his duties without real authority. Confusion rather than order will be prevalent in the church. Finally, if a person is not truly called they will easily give up during times of discouragement and one can be assured that these times will come often. So, if a person desires to serve the Lord in full time ministry it is a good thing, but that person better be absolutely sure their calling is from the Lord.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.