Are You Called to Be a Pastor?
I’ve often thought of doing a joint interview by email, where two people receive the same questions and provide independent answers, then the results are published together.
Well, procrastinate long enough and someone will beat you to the punch! Here’s a great interview with Derek Thomas and Carl Trueman.
What counsel would you give to a young man considering and assessing a possible call to the ministry of the Word of God?
DT: Put yourself firmly and securely under the oversight of a competent session (elders) and don’t believe Aunt Joan who thinks you’re the best thing since sliced bread. Don’t think that the church is going to put out its arms to welcome you, seeing you as the hero it has been looking for. Ministry is service, Jesus-shaped service, which means humbling oneself, considering others more important, and a call to suffering if needs be. Please don’t say, “I need x amount of dollars or I’m not even going to consider you as worthy of me.” Read John Owen on Mortification, Calvin on Cross-bearing and Self-Denial (Institutes, Book 3) and several biographies of missionaries (like David Brainerd, John Paton, Jim Elliot).
CT: First, you need an internal call, a desire to teach and preach the word but you also need more than an internal call.
Have you external evidence that you are being led in this direction? Have you had opportunities to teach and preach? Have they been well-received?
Look at the qualifications for eldership in Paul’s Pastorals. Do you meet the criteria? More important, do other people think you meet the criteria?
Second, do not rush. When you are in your twenties, a year can seem a long time but it is not really so. Paul clearly assumes most people in church leadership positions will be older—family men, men established in their communities, men who have a track record of godliness and spiritual reliability. So go and receive the appropriate ministerial training but do not necessarily assume you should then go straight into a pastorate. I am taking on my first pastorate this year, aged 45 with 28 years of being a Christian, a decade of secular work experience, a decade of teaching at seminary, a marriage of nearly 22 years, two more or less adult children and service on two kirk sessions behind me. I hardly feel qualified now. I could not have done it aged twenty-five!
You can read the whole interview, about a variety of subjects, here.
For those wanting a more in-depth exploration, the best resource I know of is now Dave Harvey’s Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry . J. I. Packer writes, “This is the fullest, most realistic, down-to-earth, and genuinely spiritual exploration of God’s call to pastoral ministry that I know. I recommend it most highly.”