HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU’RE CALLED TO PASTORAL MINISTRY?
The Apostle Paul had a direct encounter with Jesus that defined his call to ministry. As far as we can know from the silence of the Bible, Timothy, his protégé, had a different experience. But it’s important to understand that Paul gives Timothy authoritative direction on how to evaluate a call to pastoral ministry. We can see there are at least three critical dimensions to calling from the Bible’s pastoral epistles.
In the heart of the man being called into pastoral ministry is a desire to serve the church as an overseer. Scripture encourages such an ambition, telling us, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim. 3:1). If this desire can’t be shaken, then it must be taken seriously.
The Apostle Paul had a direct encounter with Jesus that defined his call to ministry. As far as we can know from the Bible, Timothy had a different experience.
Too often, our conception of a call to ministry takes on a mystical element that the Bible doesn’t require. It is more objective and measurable than that, according to the Scripture. It is a noble desire residing in the heart of a man who loves the church and wants to serve as a leader.
Desire alone doesn’t validate a true ministry calling. Character and competency are just as important. There are qualifications all pastors must meet, according to 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:5–9. A man who believes he is called to pastoral ministry must undergo serious examination by qualified pastors. The man who has been tested and validated in meeting the biblical requirements for the office of pastor, and who has an unwavering compulsion to serve the church, is two-thirds of the way towards being called.
A call to ministry is a noble desire residing in the heart of a man who loves the church and wants to serve as a leader.
The Apostle Paul warned Timothy not to neglect serving according to his gifting and commission: “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you” (1 Tim. 4:14). The practice of the laying on of hands is depicted several times in Scripture. A common outcome of this act is that those being touched are deployed for service. Deacons are commissioned to serve by the Apostles in Acts 6. Paul and Barnabas are commissioned for mission in Acts 13.
A man who believes he is called to pastoral ministry must undergo serious examination by qualified pastors.
Likewise, those who are called to ministry are to be both qualified and commissioned. A pastor without a commission is like a man who claims to be a professional football player without a team. He is suspect.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Far too many pastors are leaving ministry today. Jesus has redirected some. Maybe others became discouraged and quit. But I have known some former pastors who now insist that they were never truly called into ministry in the first place. They regret the past. And those they served are worse off in the present. A pastoral calling must be taken very seriously and carefully evaluated—for the sake of the pastor and, more importantly, for the good of the church.