5 Traits of a Revitalizing Pastor: Pt 2- An Unquestioned Call to the Ministy

Joe BuchananYesterday, in the first part of this five-part series we looked at the fact that a revitalizing Pastor must have an unwavering commitment to the gospel.  Today, I want to add the second trait, which is an unquestioned call to the ministry.  The simple truth of the matter is that if you are not sure about your call to ministry, you need to take the time to work this issue out before taking on the role of being a Pastor.  The work of revitalization is often difficult and there will be times when all you have going for you is your commitment to the gospel and your call to ministry.  Very often, I see guys drop out of ministry simply because they were never sure of their call in the first place.  With that in mind let me share a few thoughts about how you can be sure of your call:

1.) Can you do anything else and be happy?

This was a question that my Pastor asked me when I surrendered to the ministry and that I ask anyone who tells me they feel called to the ministry.  It is actually a question that is derived from Charles Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students.”  The point of this question is that the call to preach must be like an all-consuming fire in your life.  Those who are genuinely called find that they simply can’t do anything else.

2.) Has God-given you a clear Word from His Word?

The night God called me to preach our Pastor was preaching from Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” The moment I read these words, they thundered in my soul and I felt that God was speaking directly to me.  At the moment I had the overwhelming sense of God’s call to preach the gospel wash over my heart and I knew I could do nothing else.  I received a clear Word from God’s Word.  When I talk with men who feel called to the ministry, I always stress the importance of being able to hang your call on specific passage of Scripture.  God speaks to us from His Word!  I am not saying that the call will not be accompanied by a strong emotion or experience of grace, but apart from a clear Word from the Word of God, we are prone to misunderstand or misinterpret.  If you feel called to ministry, search the Bible until you have a clear Word from the Word to confirm your call.

3.) Do you meet the qualifications?

The qualifications for ministry are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-16.  I am not going to get into the specifics of these qualifications in this post, but I do want to say that anyone who is called to preach must meet these qualifications before they assume the office of Pastor. I am not saying that any of us are perfect and at times we all falter or come up short in some of these areas, but generally I am seeing far too many men going into the ministry trying to explain away or minimize these qualifications.  Whenever I meet someone who does not take these qualifications seriously it is evidence to me that they are not called.

4.) Has the congregation affirmed your call?

Receiving the affirmation of the church is perhaps the single most important step in confirming your call to ministry.  In my denomination, we have a two-step process of first licensing a man to preach and then later ordaining.  In both of these steps, the affirmation of the church is crucial.  In licensing, the church affirms that they see the gifts necessary to be an effective minister in the life of the candidate.  They are essentially saying, “We think there is some potential here and want to give the candidate opportunities to demonstrate their call.”  Usually what happens then is the person who feels called will get some opportunities to preach and minister within the local church.  This provides the church the opportunity to examine his qualifications, his gifts, and frankly, whether or not he can preach.  Eventually, if all goes well and the candidate is called to a church he will go through ordination.  Which involves being questioned by and ordination council and then affirmed by the calling church.

My counsel to young men going into the ministry is to seek as much advice from other members of the church as possible.  In my experience, they are usually in a better place to objectively evaluate our call to ministry.  The bottom lines is this, if you are called to the ministry the church will see it.  If you can’t convince the church you are called, then you are not called to the ministry.

5.) Can you minister for the applause of God alone?

What I mean by this statement is that in the ministry you cannot be a people pleaser.  Your only job is to please God and do what He tells you to do.  This means that you will often be unpopular or even hated for preaching the Word of God.  If you desire the applause of men more than the applause of God, you are not fit for the ministry.  You will cave to popular opinion and be unwilling to say the things that may make you unpopular.  As a preacher you must be willing to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2)  You must be willing to be faithful even when that will make you unpopular. Can you minister for the applause of God alone?  If not, don’t preach!  If so, then PREACH! PREACH! PREACH!


Building Better Preachers Part 1: It Starts with the Call

Christ Church StellartonThis morning I want to start a new series of blog posts that I am entitling “Building a Better Preacher.”  These posts come out of two strong convictions that I have concerning the role of the Pastor.  First, I earnestly believe that the health of the church can never rise above the health of it’s leadership.  If we want stronger, more vibrant churches we need to produce stronger more vibrant Pastors.  Second, I believe that we need a fundamental change in the way that we train and prepare ministers (more on that later this week).  For today, however, I want to focus on one of the most fundamental aspect of a Pastor’s ministry — His call.

Over the past twenty years of ministry I have had the opportunity to mentor several men who have felt the call to ministry.  Some of them are still serving today but others have fallen away for one reason or another.  In addition to those that I have personally mentored, I have had the opportunity to watch dozens of other men who have initially surrendered to the call but later washed out of the ministry for one reason or another.  I believe that a large part of the problem with those men who washed out has been that the church did them a disservice in helping them to discern their call.  For the most part, especially in Southern Baptist life, we have reduced the call to ministry to an individual and very subjective  process.  Basically many Pastors when dealing with a young man who senses the call to ministry have taken the position that, “If God is calling him, who am I to stand in the way.”  While I understand this sentiment to a certain degree the fact is that God has placed the congregation in a key role in discerning the minister’s call to preach and I would like to suggest the following process for helping men who feel called to ministry to confirm their call.

1.)  Pastoral Interview- Once a candidate feels like they have been called to the ministry their first step should be to talk with their Pastor.  As a Pastor I have three basic responsibilities here.  First, I need to help the candidate have a clear sense of why they think they are called.  Second, I want to give them a clear process by which they can confirm their call.  Third, I want to give them an honest picture of what the ministry is going to be like.  My goal here is not to discourage or encourage but to simply inform.  If they desire to continue then we move to the second stage.

2.) Meet with Church Leaders– As the Pastor I am only one voice in the church and my desire is to have as many people as possible involved in confirming a man’s call to ministry.  After meeting personally with the candidate my next step is to have them meet with some of the key leaders of the church.  My personal preference is to make this an informal rather than a formal process.  I will go and talk to 3 to 5 key leaders in our church and ask them to get together with the candidate and to talk to them about ministry and their call.  My personality is such that I don’t like to rush or hurry things so this process can take 4 to 6 weeks or perhaps as many months.  I will especially tend to hit the brakes and slow the process if the candidate wants to hurry.  The goal here isn’t to move fast to be deliberate, prayerful and thorough.  Once the leaders unanimously agree concerning his call it is time to take him before the church to be licensed.

3.) Licensure– In our church licensing a man to preach means three things.  First, the candidate has sensed the call to ministry.  Second, our Pastoral staff and leaders have met with them and agree that there is a possibility that God has called this man to the ministry.  Third, we are requesting that the church give him the opportunity to use gifts and to further explore whether or not he is called.  Notice that we are still in the process here of determining whether or not he is called.  This is a key point in the track towards ordination, because here the congregating is going to get much more involved and I think that this is one of the more important times in the process.

4.) Watch-care– I am referring to the next period of time as watch-care because this is the period in a minister’s life when he is still working under the care and watchfulness of his home congregation.  The goal here is twofold.  First, the prospective minister is given the opportunity to explore various ministry opportunties within his local congregation and to use his gifts.  Second, the church is going to watch over him and care for him while at the same time examining his abilities and the qualities that will confirm his call.  While he is under watch-care the prospective minister should also be training for the ministry (more on that later this week) and be given opportunities to explore and utilize his gifts in real ministry situations under the supervision of an experienced Pastor. Much of what I write about in the next two days posts will deal with how we can utilize this watch-care period to train better ministers in the future.

5.) Church Call and Ordination– Once the prospective Pastor has completed his training and examination during the watch-care period it is time for him to begin to explore calls to serve in a local church.  This is really the final step in the initial process of a ministers training.  We will talk more about it in a later post.