What is Needed for the Ministry: Three Absolutes

There are three absolutes that one considering the pastoral ministry must evaluate in his life as he seeks God. The first seems fairly obvious, but must be acknowledged. The man who seeks to enter pastoral ministry must be a child of God. Second, he must be called of God, and third, he must rightly discern that call so that it is sealed in his heart, mind, and spirit. Over the next few weeks we will discuss these three absolutes.

Child of God

There should not be need to even explain this necessity. How could one hope to be a pastor who has not yet come to a place where they have been born again?  However, there are those that have sought, been encouraged, pushed, or compelled into a career in ministry that have not had a genuine salvation experience and thus have no possibility of a genuine call to ministry.

There are many things that a minister must make certain before entering the ministry, but it is paramount that he has a confidence in the eternal work of Christ having been accomplished in his heart and life. Richard Baxter exhorts pastors, “See that the work of grace be thoroughly wrought in your souls.”[1]

Call of God

Nearly as dangerous as entering the ministry unredeemed, would be entering a ministry without a divine mandate. In using the terminology of “call”, I am speaking mainly concerning a call to ministry leadership, and even more specifically the call to pastoral ministry.

L. R. Scarborough argues, “A divine call is a spiritual necessity to a Gospel ministry. He who goes out without God’s call has no promise of God’s power. The task is too great for us unless our hearts are assured that God has sent us.”[2] Edwin Lutzer adds, “I don’t see how anyone could survive ministry if he felt it was just his own choice. . . . They (ministers) are sustained by the knowledge that God has placed them where they are. Ministers without such conviction often lack courage and carry their resignation letter in their coat pocket. At the slightest hint of difficulty, they’re gone.”[3] Finally Spurgeon, the “prince of preachers”, writes, “In the present dispensation, the priesthood is common to all the saints; but to prophesy, or what is analogous thereto, namely, to be moved by the Holy Ghost to give oneself up wholly to the proclamation of the gospel, is, as a matter of fact, the gift and calling of only a comparatively small number; and surely these need to be as sure of the rightfulness of their position as were the prophets; and yet how can they justify their office, except by a similar call?”[4]

There are those that would argue there is no such thing as a specific call to pastoral ministry. Some would argue that one could decide in his own wisdom that he or she should enter the ministry. Others would argue that all followers of Christ have a call to ministry (and rightly so), but in doing so negate the need for a specific call to pastoral ministry, thus overstating their argument. The Scripture gives many accounts as evidence for the necessity of a specific call to ministry assignments. My next post explores this evidence.

[1] Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (London: Paternoster Row, 1808), 4.

[2] L. R. Scarborough, Recruits for World Conquest (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1914),  35

[3] Edwin Lutzer, Pastor to Pastor, (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2008), 11

[4] Spurgeon, C. H., Lectures to My Students, Reprint (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), 25.

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