“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (ESV). — Matthew 10:38-39
Has God called you to the ministry?
After being raised by Christian parents and attending evangelical churches for 17 years (my whole life), I repented and trusted in Christ alone for my salvation. A year later, I believed I was called to ministry, made this belief public at Gum Springs Baptist Church in Walling, TN. Following a 10 month internship, and after being called to serve at another local church as youth pastor, Gum Springs ordained me to the gospel ministry. I can remember the excitement of my first ministry position. I was amazed at the privilege of preaching the gospel, and I couldn’t wait to help other Christians use their spiritual gifts, and make hundreds of disciples. My bubble was burst pretty quickly. I soon realized that not everyone in the church wanted to use their gifts to build up other Christians for God’s glory. I also realized that I had no power to bring sinners to repentance and faith in Christ.
So, you think you’re called to the ministry? Based on my experience, and in light of Scripture, here are three thoughts to consider before you enter the ministry:
1. Don’t be naive. The Greatest Pastor who ever lived and who still lives today — Jesus Christ — was abandoned by His church as thugs took him to be crucified. He was betrayed into the hands of His enemies by his friend (Judas), a friend who called Him “Teacher” (Matt. 26:48-49). Do not be surprised when something similar happens to you. It’s only a matter of time. Pick up your torture device (cross), deny yourself and follow Jesus (Matt. 16:24). All Christians and their leaders are called to this living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2).
2. Don’t expect more of yourself than God does. Don’t put some arbitrary worldly burden upon yourself concerning church growth. There is no “quota” in Scripture concerning church growth that you must reach every day, week, month, year, 10 years, etc. You must remain faithful. Don’t make ministry harder than God does. Preach the word and love God’s people.
Furthermore, don’t add qualifications for pastoral ministry to Scripture. As long as you meet the pastoral qualifications of Paul’s letters (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9), and other believers affirm your qualifications, you’re qualified for pastoral ministry (also see David Murray’s Article “Am I Called to the Ministry”). You don’t have to be like Jerry Vines, Steve Gaines, Matt Chandler, David Platt, etc. to be qualified for pastoral ministry. Strive to guard your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses, but don’t disqualify yourself from ministry if God says you’re qualified according to His Scripture.
3. Don’t base your joy on your ministry. You may lead a church that is growing and flourishing, a true picture of God’s will being done “on Earth as it is in Heaven”; or, you may lead a church that is more like the church of Corinth in Scripture: immoral, immature, selfish, etc. Enjoy God regardless. Don’t buy into the American Dream and read that back into Scripture. God has called you to come and die, to come and bleed for His glory, for the sake of leading His people (1 Thess. 2:7-8). Consider it a privilege and a joy, even though the average American would be miserable in your vocation. The joy of ministry is not found in what you can see and evaluate, but in Whom you serve. He is unchanging. Therefore, rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4).
A few years after I entered the ministry, a man older than me shared that he believed God had called him to preach. He wept as he shared how unworthy he was of this privilege. I rejoiced with him, encouraged him, left and repented, for I had lost some of the awe of the privilege of shepherding God’s people. Ministry is a privilege; and God’s grace is sufficient to sustain you, regardless what your “thorn in the flesh” may be (2 Cor. 12:7-10). The “thorn in the flesh” reminds you why you’re in ministry to begin with (God’s all sufficient grace).
Moreover, pastors are called to minister in some of the most joyful and sorrowful times in people’s lives (weddings, funerals, in health, in sickness, etc.). An emotional roller coaster can quickly ensue, and one’s heart can become calloused, lacking no real mutual joy or empathy (Rom. 12:9-21; 1 Cor. 13:1-8; 2 Tim. 2:22-26). You should never become too familiar with the joy or sorrow of other Christians that you are incapable of mutual joy or empathy. There needs to be a real sense that when other Christians weep, you weep; and when other Christians rejoice, you rejoice (Rom. 12:15; 1 Cor. 12:26). This reality is true for all Christians, but ministers are often more intimately involved in these joyful and sorrowful situations.
Knowing the above things are true, do you still want to enter the ministry? Then God has probably called you. Rejoice and minister for His glory alone.
What are your thoughts?