One of the most frequent and wonderful questions that I am asked as a pastor is how to know if one is "called to the ministry". I love this question on many levels. First, it brings me back to when I prayed over this issue, I want to refrain from using the word "struggle" because it gives the wrong impression. When I caught my first Redfish, I struggled to get him in the boat, but it was an exhilarating struggle. The same goes for the struggle with the ministry. It was a hard, deep, soul-searching experience. But was it a joyless struggle? No indeed! It was a struggle that taught me who I am in Christ, and I have enjoyed every moment of the process.
I take this question most seriously from those who ask because I recognize that there is much more at stake in this than vocation. This is a search for identity and purpose. This is the quest to find how one fits into the body of Christ. I encourage this journey, and I love to walk it with others. It does not matter if the road ends behind a pulpit or in a doctor's office or in a public classroom. It is an altogether important and worthwhile trip, and at journey's end (or beginning), one can live and serve with a sense of peace about God's will for one's life.
Let's begin with the basics. Our text to look at is 1 Timothy 3:1-7. First, a person called to be a pastor/overseer/shepherd/elder must be a man. It has pleased the Lord to ordain male headship in the Church of God and in the home. I will not argue this here, though later it is open game. Suffice to say for now, if you are a man, you meet one of the qualifications for pastor.
Secondly, the text here says, "If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work." The bishop is the pastor, and the qualification here is desire. This will drive your ministry from day one, and it is where you should begin your introspection. Do you desire the work, brother?
Because of the mysticism and pietism that floats about our churches today, many young men believe that the call of God must be a mystical experience. It need not be so, and truth be told, I have little confidence in such things. Did you have a dream that God told you to be a pastor? I once dreamed that I was Batman. However, I did not buy the tights and utility belt, nor do I own the Batmobile, much to my dismay. Stick to the text, dear friend; the text, after all, is what the man of God must be sticking to, is it not?
So, I counsel them not to wait for visions, promptings, still, small voices, or for their Holly bush to burst into flame and a voice cry from it, "Dear _______, You must be a PASTOR!" I do not find such things in the qualifications for the overseer. All I see here for him is that he have a desire for the work.
So what is the desire? We can hardly define this desire without defining the work itself, but I will do so here in short. It means that you are the type of person who has an insatiable appetite to know the Lord Jesus Christ, to follow Him to the death, to know His Word, and that you admire the office itself. You love the ministry and you love the office. In fact, I often find that men called to the ministry are in awe of the job, and that pleases me. I find that men often are so afraid of the responsibility that they will try to shirk it by claiming only to be called to "Youth Ministry" or to be an "Associate Pastor". Rid your head of all such notions. These positions are also Pastoral, and you will absolve yourself of no responsibility by fleeing to them. They are honorable and noble positions themselves, and they are by no means inferior or less demanding. Though the mantle of "preaching pastor" has its own level of responsibility, you must be prepared to be thrust into it.
I will end this first part of the series here with a a simple question: Brother, do you desire the work? Do you? Do not be ashamed to admit it. Next we must discern where the desire comes from and if it is a godly desire, and we will learn this by discovering what the work entails.
We Must Do the Impossible
4 years ago