The Pastor’s Toolbox: The Call to Ministry

As a young pastor, I am constantly looking for resources to help me to grow in my understanding and effectiveness in the ministry. Recently, I ran across the book “Practical Wisdom For Pastors” by Curtis C. Thomas. I immediately took note of the following summary:

“As a pastor your job is filled with blessings and satisfaction, as well as unique challenges and pitfalls. Here a ministry veteran covers virtually all of those areas with a wealth of practical insight culled from 44 years in the pastorate. Blending his deep love of the Word and commitment to biblical ministry, Curtis Thomas offers a rich source of help and encouragement that will enthuse and benefit you whether you’ve pastored for five years or 50.”

This is exactly what the book offers “a rich source of help and encouragement”. With that in mind, I thought it would be a help to us all to turn this book into a series of blog posts in which we will call “The Pastor’s Toolbox”. This series will primarily be made up of small sections of the aforementioned book.

Our hope is that this series will help to equip and encourage you as you seek to serve others. Furthermore, we want to hear from you. At the end of each post we will leave a question (or questions) to create an opportunity for you to share and encourage other pastors along the way.

-Pastor Gary Chaffins

Our Call: How Can We Know It is Authentic?

Whatever “call” a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry. (Charles Spurgeon).

“The call to ministry has been described in many ways. Some say they have received a direct revelation from God telling them audibly that He has chosen them for their special work. Others describe their call as coming to them in a dream or some mystical experience. Another will say God actually appeared to him in a vision to call him into the ministry. Some preachers say their call was an overwhelming compulsion to become a pastor, or the feeling that they were a misfit in every other occupation and thereby could not find happiness until they “surrendered to the ministry”.

Thus one can see how the general public would be very confused by what has been designated “the call to the ministry”.

Let’s look for a moment at the Scriptures. First Timothy 3:1 says that the elder (pastor) must desire or reach out for the office. First Timothy 5:22 says that we must “not be hasty in the laying on of hands,” meaning that we should be careful about whom we recognize as candidates for the ministry. First Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-4 teach us that to fill the office, the person must be qualified by certain moral characteristics. In the 1 Peter passage the person must be an example to the flock. First Timothy 4:9-16 tells us that the pastor’s “life and doctrine” must be sound. That would require that the church make an assessment of the men who reach out for the office. And 1 Timothy 5:17-21 gives us instructions on how to correct an elder who sins and, by implication, does not measure up to the office.

So, to summarize: The biblical concept of a “call to the ministry” does not include a vision, special revelation, or mystical experience. Rather, it involves factors such as: (1) Does the man reach out for the work? (2) Is he qualified biblically? (3) Does he possess the gifts necessary to fulfill the functions? (4) Do the elders and the church think he is gifted and morally qualified? (5) Are his life and doctrine sound? (6) Will he live as an example before the flock?

It is true that in the Old Testament and in the first century of the Christianity, God did intervene directly and call men to ministry. But today His revelation has been completed by the New Testament, and it is our reliable guide. Therefore, a local church should be able to take God’s Word and help the candidate assess whether or not he has been called to the gospel ministry.”

When did you first recognize this “call” in your life?

Source:  “Practical Wisdom For Pastors” by Curtis C. Thomas.

Gary Chaffins, is co-pastor at The Grace Community Church at Bigelow in Portsmouth, Ohio. He has a beautiful wife, two rotten kids, a big-white dog, and carries a large NASB.

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