Are You Called To Be A Pastor?

It is important to understand that all believers are called to ministry and all believers are to pursue Christ with all their heart and passion. It is also true that every believer should be diligent to share the Gospel and be in the habit of making disciples. There are those who would argue that there is no call beyond this universalistic call, but the overwhelming evidence of Scripture makes clear the necessity for the office of pastor, and it would be unwise for anyone to enter that office without the invitation of the Chief Overseer. I believe this is significant, because all members need to be more diligent in our churches in helping men understand the call to the pastorate, discern that call in their lives, and to have a confidence in that call.

L.R. Scarborough, the second president of Southwestern, explains,

“A divine call is a spiritual necessity to a Gospel ministry. He who goes out without God’s call has no promise of God’s power. The task is too great for us unless our hearts are assured that God has sent us.”[1]

Spurgeon, the “prince of preachers,” puts it this way,

“In the present dispensation, the priesthood is common to all the saints; but to prophesy, or what is analogous thereto, namely, to be moved by the Holy Ghost to give oneself up wholly to the proclamation of the Gospel, is, as a matter of fact, the gift and calling of only a comparatively small number; and surely these need to be as sure of the rightfulness of their position as were the prophets; and yet how can they justify their office, except by a similar call?”[2]

How can one discern if he has been called to enter into the office of pastor? I believe there are at least three important areas that must be examined. First, one should be able to recognize a God-given desire for the work. Second, the individual must meet the qualifications put forth in Scripture. Finally, the confirmation of a local body of believers is incredibly important in discerning a call to the pastorate.

Desire

In his instructions to Timothy on the qualifications of the pastor, Paul declares, “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work” (1 Timothy 3:1). In this one verse, you have two verb synonyms that are both translated “desires.” One of the verbs, orego, gives the picture of reaching for or longing for something. It is similar to the picture of a runner lunging for the finish line with every bit of remaining effort. The second term, epithymeo, seems to carry an even stronger idea of desire and could even be translated “to lust.” The word describes a desire that does not leave room for any other distractions. Such desire is determined to be negative or positive depending upon the object of the desire. The man who is truly called to the pastorate possesses such a desire for that role. It seems that such a desire would come from the Lord because ministry, as stated by Jimmy Draper, “is a terrible vocation, but it is a wonderful calling.”[3]

Qualification

One could argue, and rightly so, that desire is a very subjective measure and is difficult to discern. The final two areas examined lend themselves to a more objective approach. Even if one has a desire to enter into the role of a pastor, such a desire does not override the biblical qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. The scope of this post does not allow space for a thorough treatment on the interpretation of the qualifications, but we, as those who believe the Scripture to be the very words of God, must recognize that these qualifications cannot be ignored. The Scripture gives us the most clearly objective standard of discerning a call to the pastorate. If one does not meet the qualifications presented in these texts, he can be assured that he is not called to the office. My colleague Terry Wilder exhorts,

“If God has called you to be a pastor, or for that matter, to any place of Christian Service, your call to ministry cannot be considered separately from what God has revealed in His Word.”[4]

John MacArthur agrees,

“The call to the ministry is not a matter of analyzing one’s talents and then selecting the best career option. It’s a Spirit-generated compulsion to be a man of God and serve Him in the church. Those whom God calls will meet the [biblical] qualifications.”[5]

Appointed

An important question that must be answered is, “Who determines if a man is qualified for the office of pastor?” Scripture seems to leave that authority with the local church. Spurgeon exclaims, “The will of the Lord concerning pastors is made known through the prayerful judgment of his church.”[6] The sending of Paul and Barnabas as missionaries in Acts 13 implies that authority for such confirmation has been left with the church under the direction of the Holy Spirit. At the very least, if an individual claims the call of God on his life but does not have the confirmation of a local body of believers, it should cause great hesitation on the part of those who might consider coming under his teaching. Again, Spurgeon is helpful here, as he writes,

“Churches are not all wise, neither do they all judge in the power of the Holy Ghost, but many of them judge after the flesh; yet I had sooner accept the opinion of the company of the Lord’s people than my own upon so personal a subject as my own gifts and graces.”[7]

Are you called to pastor? Do you have a God-given desire to shepherd God’s sheep? Do you meet the Scriptural qualifications? Does your local body of believers confirm their belief that God has set you apart for the work of the pastor? The process presented above takes an individual to the Word of God, places that individual under the authority of a local church, and recognizes the importance of a personal walk with the Lord. Even still, the key is to diligently walk with Christ and in fellowship with His church as He directs our path! We can take great comfort in the words of Paul in Romans 12:1-2: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”


[1] L.R. Scarborough, Recruits for World Conquest (Chicago: FH Revell, 1914), 35
[2] Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), 24.
[3] Keith Collier, “Draper Lectures on Heart of the Ministry,” http://swbts.edu/campus-news/news-releases/draper-lectures-on-heart-of-ministry/ Accessed September 19, 2015.
[4] Terry Wilder, Answering the Call, 14. http://www.mbts.edu/downloads/_future_students/answering_the_call.pdf
[5] John MacArthur, The Master’s Plan for the Church, (Chicago: Moody, 2008), 244.
[6] Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 32.
[7] Ibid.

Tommy Kiker

Tommy Kiker

Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Dr. Kiker is an Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology. He is married to Carol Ann and they have two children - Karis and Caleb.
Twitter: @tommykiker
Tommy Kiker

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