The “Call” of God for the Pastoral Office
1) Biblical definition? The Word of God records the distinct call of God that was given to many men to perform certain tasks for Him. Moses, Elijah, Peter, and Paul all received very obvious commissions from the Lord. The Old Testament declares that God is the one who would give them shepherds that would lead to glorify Him (Jer. 3:15). In Ephesians 4, we see that God has given pastors and others in ministry as gifts to the Church. This shows that God has chosen them to fulfill His purposes in ministry, and these individuals were given certain gifts to fulfill these roles. Scripture indicates that God is the one that gives certain individuals the call to ministry, but the body of Christ is able to recognize the calling of God upon the individual (it is not a mystery or a surprise). God also brings burdens/desires about in the life of the individual being called through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in that individual’s life (Acts 13:2; 20:28). The individual “called” by God will also attain to the requirements set forth in Scripture for those in ministry positions (1 Tim. 3:2-7; Tit. 1:5-9). The calling of God will be obvious to the body of Christ, the individual in question, and the individual will be Biblically qualified.
2) The role of emotional responses and “feeling called”? As a result of being emotional creatures, many times emotions play a role in our decision making process. Spurgeon once challenged a group of young men pursuing ministry, “if you can do anything else and be happy then go do it.” I think that even though this cannot be the only litmus test, it is a good start. If God has called you to do something, then you will either willingly go do it, or you will be most miserable until your will conforms to the will of God. Also the Scriptures state that a man should only pastor a church of his own free will, it should not be something he does out of duty to his fellow man, or because no one else offered to do it. He accepts the call to ministry because it is God’s will for him to do so (1 Pet. 5:2). I believe that from personal experience and the testimony of the Bible that God will help our desires to conform to His. If we are called to ministry, then we will “feel called”, but it will be something that the body of Christ will recognize. Other Christians will be able to see the working and calling of God in our lives.
3) Clarifying Scripture? Ephesians 4 speaks of pastors being gifts that God has given to the Church, 1 Peter 5:2 speaks of pastors willingly serving and leading God’s flock because it is God’s will for them to do so. God will only call individuals whose lives are in conformity with His qualifications (1 Tim. 3; Tit. 1).
4) An outline answer for inquiring young men?
a. The individual will have a clear God-given burden to pursue full-time ministry (Acts 13:2; 20:28; Eph. 4:11; 1 Pet. 5:2). If they can be happy doing anything else, then it would be apparent that God has not placed His distinct call on them for pastoral ministry.
b. The individual will be Biblically qualified for the ministry that God is “calling” him to (1 Tim. 3; Tit. 1). God would not place someone in a ministry in which they do not meet the standards He has set forth for that position.
c. The individual’s call to ministry will be confirmed by the body of Christ if he is really called by God (Phil. 2:19-30; Acts 11:21-26). If God has called an individual to ministry, it will not be a mystery to the rest of God’s people.
d. The individual having the confirmation of the local church will be sent out by that local church for ministry (Acts14:23; I Tim. 4:14; 5:22).
5) There is not much else that I think can be added to the chapter. The only other thing that I can possibly think of is Biblical training for the ministry. There are not many in our circles that would think of entering the pastorate with no preparatory training, but it is necessary to learn in-depth from other men how to really be a pastor. But, in thinking about this “suggestion”, most times this training would or should follow the confirmation of the call in the individual’s life by the local church.