Have you felt a calling to become a pastor or preacher? How do you become one? How can you know for sure you are called?
Before even considering the call of the pastorate, the Bible is clear on just who can be biblically qualified. If someone cannot pass these qualifications, then they have no right to think about this call being from God or from within. Paul tells Timothy and Titus that an overseer (a bishop or pastor) must be above reproach, be faithful to his wife, not greedy, know how to run his own household, not be argumentative or be violent in nature, be pride-filled, conceited, quick –tempered, or have a tendency toward drunkenness. They must also have self-control, not be arrogant, and be able to rebuke church members when they need it. Peter adds a pastor must not be domineering and doing it only for “shameful gain” (money). If a person believes that they are being called and is not able to fulfill what these Scriptures say, then they may not actually have a calling from God.
First Timothy 3:1-7 “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not be a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
Titus 1:5 “if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
First Peter 5:1-3 “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”
Threefold Confirmation of the Calling
I believe and have heard other pastors and preachers say that there are three different confirmations that should come to the person who feels that are being called to become a pastor or preacher. I use these two titles, pastor and preacher, as one in the same, because every pastor is a preacher but every preacher may not be a pastor. They may feel more comfortable as an evangelist; that is speaking at different churches and not just at their home church.
There are three confirmations of a calling. One is the strong, inward sense that is almost overwhelming (covered more thoroughly in the next section “Have a Calling”). They should have such a burning desire within them that they cannot contain it much like Jeremiah had (Jer 20:9). Another is that people are confirming this to you. I had others tell me that “You ought to be a pastor somewhere.” I heard this several times and kept telling people that I didn’t qualify…I just had too much baggage, but I discovered later that this is actually a good sign. If a person feels that they are unworthy (not the same as being biblically unqualified), that makes them more likely to have to depend upon God because this is exactly how Jeremiah and Moses felt and look how God used them! If a person feels that they are worthy or that they’d be perfect for it and are fully equipped, then God may not be able to use them. God will never fill someone who is already full of themselves, but if you have people say that they could see you being a pastor/preacher, this might be further evidence of your being called.
So first you have that passionate desire that is like fire burning within you (Jer 20:9) which is an inward call, then you have others telling you that they believe you would be a great pastor (an outward call), and lastly, but most importantly, you feel God is calling you. If God is calling you then He will surely open doors of opportunity for you to preach, fill a pulpit, fill in for the pastor, or maybe speak at other churches. This tri-fold calling is first inward, then outward, and finally upward.
Having a Calling
There is one thing that is out of human hands in my opinion and that is being called into the ministry. First and foremost, this calling comes from God and not the person themselves. I remember being called and the church that I was Outreach Coordinator of had just had their pastor retire and I kept resisting this urge for a long time. When they asked if I could fill the pulpit because they had been using a pulpit supply that they were very unhappy with, I reluctantly agreed to do so. I was terrified at first, of course, and felt nauseous and felt like I was going to get sick my very first time up there. The pulpit was up on a stage and I felt so uncomfortable being so elevated above everyone else and they all seemed so far away so the next time I preached, I moved the pulpit onto the floor, saying that “the foot of the cross was level ground and since I was no better than anyone else there, I needed to be on the same level as everyone else was. I have been there ever since. This requires much prayer and counsel from older, more experience men of the pulpit so never do anything major like this without bathing it in days and months of prayer and seeking good, godly counsel from others.
The main thing about becoming a pastor is that you must feel 100% thoroughly convinced that God is calling you to this. I told the church that I was a “train wreck” and would surely be a “pastor of disaster” but strangely they said that is why they wanted me. I taught Sunday school for about three decades and loved to teach but the last two or three years I was teaching I felt that something was missing. I felt completely miserable and that I needed to do something more. I had such a burning desire to learn and then to pass on this learning so I started researching the Bible and writing Christian articles but that still left a huge, gaping hole. The church finally asked me to become their pastor and so the church called me to the front of the sanctuary and they made a direct call to have me be their pastor and laid hands on me (primarily the elder and deacon but others too) and then the church voted to confirm this calling and it was (surprisingly) unanimous. To be a pastor, it must be an uncontrollable urge that compels them to become one. My main resistance when they first asked me to fill the pulpit was because I was a former drug abuser and had spent time in prison and but after I told them my story, they were still insistent. I believe that a church calls a pastor as part of the Body of Christ but God first calls and compels that man to become one as well. It was useless to “kick against the goads” so to speak so that was my first step in becoming a pastor was in having an overwhelming sense to do more than just teach. When my church called me to the pastorate, this was another confirmation to me that this was to be my calling.
I feel that this step could come earlier and even before the inward calling of God because I started working on my BA in theology long before I was ordained and entered into the ministry during my master’s work, but even if a person hasn’t completed or started a degree in seminary, I would urge them to get some training at an accredited university like I did. I very much enjoyed Newman University (BA) in Wichita, Kansas and also Southern California Seminary and Moody Theological Seminary (Masters), all of which are accredited. I am not saying that an accredited seminary is better than those who have no accreditation but the standards are usually higher and the better theological education one can get the better. Having said this, it could actually help to begin as an associate pastor before becoming the lead pastor but circumstances sometimes dictate differently. Each situation is different. I will say this; God anoints men and not diplomas but this doesn’t mean that biblical education is not important. It is but the best Teacher of all is the Holy Spirit. I would be very cautious with websites that advertise “Become a Pastor” and then you take a test and then get your ordination certificate. I do know that some of the greatest pastors of all time like Charles Spurgeon never attended seminary but speaking from my own experience, there is nothing better than a biblically sound theological seminary.
Acquire Counseling Education or Training
You will have a lot (and I mean a lot!) of counseling about marital problems, people considering suicide, substance abuse, alcoholism, pornography addiction, and other strongholds that having training in family and individual counseling will be invaluable for your pastoral position. The problems can sometimes seem overwhelming to you so the person who wants to become a pastor should talk to an older, more experience counselor about what to expect. It is better to not do what I did….dive right into the ministry without having the time as an associate pastor or having any formal training as a counselor. There are times when you must admit that you are not able to counsel someone with their particular problem and so you should know when to pass on giving counsel. When you recognize that it’s beyond your training or experience there is no shame in referring them to someone who is better equipped or more specialized in their particular area and remember you must always do what is best for those you serve. For example, I give a lot of marriage counseling (4 times as much as anything else) and there were times when I felt that it was beyond my means to help some couples so I would sometimes recommend them to good Christian marriage counselors (a married couple) I know because they have more specialized training and greater experience in marital counseling than I do. It’s okay to admit that you can’t help some and then recommend someone who can. That is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength (honesty).
Passion for the Lost
Finally there should be a great desire to reach those who are lost. If you don’t care about the lost you may not be saved yourself. At least that’s what Charles Spurgeon thought. There are two quotes that Charles Spurgeon gave that every preacher of the gospel should agree with: “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that” and “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” If you have no desire to be help in the rescue of the perishing then you do not have what the apostles and the early church and even into the 19th century pastors/preachers had…a passion for the lost that seems to be missing today. D.L. Moody had this same desire and vowed to God to witness to at least one person a day for the rest of his life.
If you qualify biblically, have that three-fold calling, have been called or ordained by a church, have a hunger for and seek biblical education, have sufficient training or education in counseling, and have a great passion for the lost, you may well be the next pastor of a church or even your own, local church. May you take this final bit of advice; seek to glorify God in all you do, all you think, and all you say for we were created for His glory. That is our purpose and that should be our goal.
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon