I was recently looking back at some of my journals, and to be honest, there were times in my journey I have struggled to know if God called me to pastoral ministry.
Every follower of Jesus is called to be a minister. Not one disciple of Jesus is exempt from the task of disciple-making. However, there is such a thing as the role of a “pastor” (Philippians 1:1) and some are called to that specific ministry of the office of pastor.
Here are three factors that one must consider before entering pastoral ministy:
1. Confronting Reality
The pastoral calling is truly a calling from the Lord. Otherwise, nobody would want to do it.
If I had to be honest, it is not a very rewarding calling. When going into pastoral ministry the reality is that you will not make much money (from the eyes of secular culture), nor would you receive the applaud of men. One of my worst nightmares growing up was the role of a pastor. “Pastor is the worst role in the world,” I often thought as a little lad in kindergarten.
One would perhaps seek elsewhere for better profit as the ministry is really tough! Reality hurts, but ministry is not so fine-and-dandy or a beautiful picture of serving and loving people that seminary painted.
There are many times I wondered and wrestled with the question, “Did I make the wrong decision?”
However, praise God that’s not all of what entails in the calling to pastoral ministry.
2. Compelling Desire
The sign of the heavenly calling is intense, all-absorbing desire for the work because of the yearning passion and compelling desire to serve God’s people.
You must respond like this:
“I have no other calling; I cannot simply picture living my life in a secular business setting in an office as a businessman. I long to go to those needy and poor, those who have yet not heard the gospel of their own salvation, as Christ send one to me to proclaim His good news. I would love to see myself as Christ Jesus took on flesh in the humblest way, I would like to serve God’s people in such way.”
That is the God-given passion of a pastor.
We should never be ashamed of that calling. There was a young man who came up to me and said, “I want to preach the gospel as a pastor. But that’s not right because I have to be humble and I shouldn’t desire that. That’s pride.”
If it’s good and godly, then why not go for it? Satan never tempts one to preach the gospel. We can be assured of that. The apostles Paul says, “Desiring the pastoral ministry is a good thing!” (1 Timothy 3:1) It is a good thing one feels called to serve as a pastor.
3. Confirming Affirmation
In 1 Timothy 3 and Titus, we also see the calling of affirmation and confirmation of the qualification of a pastor. One must meet the criteria of above reproach, (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6,7) husband of one wife, (1 Timothy 3:2,12; Titus 1:6) hospitable, (1 Timothy 3:2) able to teach, (1 Timothy 3:2) …. etc. and the list goes on, that is a reality of confirmation of the pastoral calling!
Also, the local church must recognize and affirm these gifts in a one’s own life. Self-assessment (personal calling and desire to preach) is not enough.
As Charles H. Spurgeon himself brilliantly said,
“The will of the Lord concerning pastors is made known through the prayerful judgment of His church. It is needful as a proof of your vocation that your preaching should be acceptable to the people of God.”
The call of pastoral ministry is completed only when the body of Christ affirm that call as a pastor. It is recognized in the community, not simply in isolation of one’s own desire.
Pastoral Calling as a “Gift?”
An important factor that we so often miss in regards of the call to pastoral ministry is this - that there is no such thing as a gift being a pastor, instead, pastors and teachers are the gift to the church.
The too common of a view that many believers hold onto is this, the pastoral gift is that some believers are invested with the ability to “shepherd.” This may be partially true, yet it is not entirely true.
It is not one’s own confidence in their ability to change things that they can bring into the ministry. There are men who are much capable of preaching and are much more knowledgeable than me.
When we see the 12 disciples that followed Christ alongside with Him, they were all failures who sure did not have a good ability to become a pastor. And some of them exercise in the context of an “elder/overseer.”
The book of Ephesians mentions this, “Pastoral ability is described as a “gift” in only one of Paul’s lists, where it is linked with the ability to teach (Ephesians 4:11)
What we must remember in this specific context, the emphasis is not on the fact that God gave the ability to be a pastor, so much as it is on the fact that He gave the church individuals who function as pastors and teachers.
An Ordinary, “Nobody”
Soon when I entered into the pastoral I recognize that the position that I so desired after my conversion at age 16 was different from what I envision in my mind. Indeed, this role as a “shepherd” is given from God above.
And the truth is that nothing magical that happens when I am in this position. If our being and who we are before was a jerk then we will continue on being a jerk.
Sometimes we have this idea that because we take this role of a pastor there is this process of regeneration that takes place, and we are suddenly changed and our personalities then become supreme saints. It is just not the fact.
As I have the Holy Spirit lives in me and dwells within me, it still doesn’t mean that I will be a totally new person. Under the role of a pastor, there is just a simple ordinary person of who that person is.
So, Am I Called?
Is he calling you? My prayer is that you will know whether you are called to pastoral ministry in light of the clear guidance that He has given in His Holy Scripture.