Has God called you to pastoral ministry? Three essential elements help answer this question:
- Internal call
- Manifest approval by God’s people
- Confirmation of the church.
1. The Internal call
Any man seeking to enter the ministry should have an internal sense that God has called him to be a pastor (Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1). One must feel that burden, that tug of the heart, that nagging, piercing prod from the Lord that he has indeed been called to this holy task. Some will have a stronger sense of calling than others. That shouldn’t discourage. Some lean more toward introspection, and doubt can quickly enter their minds. Others have seemingly always known that God called them to labor as pastors. Whether one doubts or is supremely confident in his internal call, the other two essential elements of discernment are necessary and helpful.
For the doubter, the other elements reassure him of the call on his life. For the supremely confident, these elements help by either confirming his certainty or providing the necessary outside voice against his perceived calling.
2. Manifest Approval by God’s People
Simply sensing an internal call does not provide sufficient evidence of God’s call on one’s life. There also must be an external call, which is provided by those within the church (the people of God) and by the church herself (through the offer of a formal call). The people of God must agree that he possesses the gifts and biblical qualifications for the ministry (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1). Do those who sit under his teaching, preaching, and leading attest with approval that they see these gifts in the young man? Have others in the local church benefited from his ministry? Has fruit been borne?
3. Confirmation of the Church
The final confirmation comes in the form of the courts of the church (local congregation, elders, presbytery, etc.) who, by extending a formal call, confirm that they also believe he possesses the gifts and qualifications for a pastor (Acts 15; Titus 1:5–9). The church confirms the internal call and the approbation of God’s people.
A legitimate call manifests itself both internally and externally. It is not enough to have a sense that one is called if no one else confirms it. Neither is it sufficient that a group of individuals or even a church believes a man has the gifts if he senses no call of God on his own life.
Often, during difficult seasons of ministry, I reflect back on the internal call I sensed in those seminary days. But even more so, I look back to the approbation of his people and the formal call I received from a church court (local congregation and presbytery) as confirmation of God’s calling on my life. The internal call wasn’t a figment of my imagination; others also believed it to be true.
As MRN, we are prayerfully hopeful that the Lord will help us find men with such a call upon their lives, men of character, who have some sense of an inward call. As an organization, we desire to come alongside of these young candidates for ministry with a desire to help prepare them for the rigors of ministry and eventually to receive that external call by a court of the church.
*This article has been adapted from a book authored by Pastor Jason Helopoulos and published by Baker Publishing entitled, The New Pastor’s Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry
Pastor Jason Helopoulos