How Can I Tell If I’m Called to Pastoral Ministry?
I’ve been asked the question many times, and I’m not sure I agree with it. The question often assumes that pastors, unique among all the vocations of the world, will (and sometimes must) have a powerful, divine, subjective call to ministry that overwhelmingly points them in their God-ordained direction. I don’t see support for that sort of normative experience in Scripture.
But I understand what young men are looking for. They understand that pastoral ministry is weighty work, not to be entered into lightly. So naturally they want to know that their inclinations are not self-serving and their direction is not a fool’s errand. They are looking for a few signposts along the way to show them that they’re not obviously on the wrong road. That’s a commendable impulse.
Here are several questions you should ask yourself as you ponder a call to pastoral ministry.
1. Do I meet the qualifications laid out in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1? This is the place to start. If your character is not mature, stable, and (in a non-perfectionist way) exemplary, then you are not ready to be a pastor. This does not necessarily mean you are on the wrong path if you don’t yet have victory over certain sins (like pornography), but it means you won’t be ready until you meet the Scriptural standards.
2. Do the Christians who know me best consistently affirm my gifts for ministry? The most important call is the objective call of your church encouraging you to pursue pastoral ministry.
3. Do I like to teach all kinds of people in all kinds of settings? Most people thinking of pastoral ministry are excited to preach. I want to know if they are excited to preach at the Rescue Mission and excited to teach catechism to five-year-olds.
4. Do I find myself stirred by good preaching? If a man is called to preach the gospel he should be thrilled to hear it preached. The content should move him, and he should find himself thinking “Oh, that I could proclaim this good news.”
5. Do I find myself stirred by bad preaching? The last point was obvious. This one is less so, but just as important. I think there ought to be a fire in a man’s bones when he hears the word of God handled badly.
6. Do I enjoy being around people? Some pastors are extroverts; many are not. I’m sort of the middle. I look forward to being with people more than some pastors I know, but not nearly as much as many men I admire. But whatever your personality, you won’t be a good pastor if you don’t like people and recoil from them as much as possible.
7. Do I make friends easily? This is a subjective test (like so many of these questions), but a lack of meaningful friendships is not a good sign. It could be an indication that you are too harsh, too much a loner, or frankly too awkward to be effective in pastoral ministry.
8. Do I like to read? Thankfully there is no GPA or SAT requirement for pastoral ministry. And yet, if we are to be “apt to teach” we must be eager to learn. Preaching grows thin and ministry get stale without time in the Book and the books.
9. Have I thought about doing this for more than a few months? Often when students or adults come to Christ they quickly assume that because they are zealous for the Lord they ought to go seminary and prepare for the ministry. This is usually misguided, sometimes because of pride and sometimes due to misplaced zeal. There’s a reason the Bible insists that church leaders not be recent converts.
10. Do I still want to be a pastor if I never write a book, never speak at a conference, and never have a big church? Our passion must be to feed the flock, not feed our egos.