Discerning the Call: The Qualifications

After looking at the idea of a call to Christian leadership from a practical and a biblical perspective, may I suggest the following as a helpful definition of a call to ministry:

A directive received as one walks intimately with the Lord and is obedient to His leading. It will always be in agreement with and in no way contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture. A call is more than a “leaning” or a “feeling” but rather a conviction that would be sinful to disobey.

I certainly do not suggest that the conversation is over and the definition of a call to ministry has been settled. However, if one is convinced, that there is such a thing as a call to pastoral ministry or some other specific Christian ministry, the next logical question would be how one would discern such a call. Charles Bridges writes, “The two grand combining requisites for this ‘Divine vocation’ may be determined to be a desire, and a fitness for the office.”[1] The focus of this post claims the qualifications for pastoral ministry are the greatest tools in discerning the legitimacy of a call to pastoral ministry in our life and the life of others.

If someone thinks there is a call of God on their life to pastoral ministry the qualifications given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 can certainly test the genuineness of that call. John MacArthur writes, “The call to the ministry is not a matter of analyzing one’s talents and then selecting the best career option. It’s a Spirit-generated compulsion to be a man of God and serve Him in the church. Those who God calls will meet the (Biblical) qualifications.”[2] When discerning a personal call or even the call of someone else we must not let feelings interfere with biblical truth. Gerald Cowen writes, “When there are things in one’s history that disqualify one from serving, subjective feelings should not override the qualifications given in Scripture.”[3] Terry Wilder, Professor of Greek and New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary argues, “If God has called you to be a pastor, or for that matter, to any place of Christian Service, your call to ministry cannot be considered separately from what God has revealed in His Word.”[4]

Our call is most accurately discerned not by human emotion or circumstances, but by a clear examination of our fitness to the call based on the qualifications given to us in the authoritative Word of God.  The next couple of posts look more closely at each specific qualification, followed by a synopsis of Spurgeon’s classic method of discerning a genuine call.

1st Timothy 3:1-5 “This saying is trustworthy:“If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work.” An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy— one who manages his own household competently, having his children under control with all dignity. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and fall into the condemnation of the Devil. Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the Devil’s trap.”

[1] Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry (London: Seeley, Burnside, and Seeley, 1844), 94

[2] John MacArthur, The Master’s Plan for the Church (Chicago: Moody, 2008), 244.

[3] Gerald P. Cowen, Who Rules the Church (Nashville: B & H), 30.

[4] Terry Wilder, Answering the Call: Examining God’s Call to Christian Service (Kansas City:Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2010), 4.

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