The Church Needs Fewer Men Who Feel “Called” to Ministry

I was a fresh graduate from seminary, with a number of years of ministry already under my belt. I also had an extremely high view of myself.

I approached the senior pastor of the church where I’d been hired recently and asked to be ordained. He was excited and put together a council of pastors to oversee the process. We met twice. The first meeting was more or less a meet-and-greet: I got to know the guys, and they got to know me. The second was a formal interrogation. I felt like Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men—being cross-examined in a military courtroom.

Questions came at me left and right—from the theological to those about philosophy of ministry. I wish I could say all my responses reflected wisdom and reflection. They didn’t. Instead, I handled the barrage of inquiries with the precision of a toddler putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Nonetheless, the room was on my side and approval was inevitable.

Then came the final question: “What if we say no?” I answered: “I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.” I wish I’d stopped there, but I didn’t. “Who are you to tell me what God has or hasn’t called me to do?” I pontificated about how the entire ordination process was meaningless. (I know, if it is meaningless, why was I doing it?) I was thoroughly convinced that my calling was personal, subjective and ultimately between me and God. Additionally, I thought the biblical qualifications of elders were easily met the moment I experienced a subjective calling from God.

I was wrong.


In his first letter to the young pastor Timothy, the apostle Paul explains how a church ought to identify future elders and pastors: “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim 3:1). Paul doesn’t say “if someone is called to ministry”; he says if they “aspire.” I fear we have taken Old Testament language about the calling of prophets and superimposed it on the office of elder. Instead, we must reclaim the biblical language of “aspiring.”

We need fewer men who feel “called to ministry” and more men who aspire to the office of elder. But if we dump the language of calling, how do we know if we should pursue ministry? Here are five indicators:

  1.  You love the local church. To be a maturing Christian is to increasingly love what Jesus loves. Jesus loves his church. If you don’t love the local church, you should not aspire to the office of elder. Period. If you do love the local church, maybe you should aspire for the office of elder.
  2.  You have good character. The dominant qualifications for eldership provided in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 have to do with character. For example, Paul tests elders on matters like money management (do they needlessly saddle themselves with debt?), home life (do they love their wife and children well?), and the respectability of their lives (do they live above reproach?). Of all the qualifications Paul lists, only one has to do with preaching ability.
  3.  You can teach. Aspiring pastors should possess an ability to teach the Bible. This doesn’t mean you have the preaching abilities of Charles Spurgeon, it simply means you can explain the Bible in a way that God’s people can understand and apply it. To be clear, this isn’t a static gift but an ability that can grow over time.

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Source: Church Leaders