I received an e-mail from a young man who sensed God’s call to become a pastor. He felt like he was at an impasse, not having much money and needing guidance on where, when and how to answer this call. I thought perhaps my response could be helpful to others.
If God has laid this on your heart and gifted you to be a pastor, it will be a matter of timing for it to come to fruition. God does not always bring about what He calls us to do immediately. Look at examples in Scripture … Moses, the 12 disciples (spent 3 years with Jesus), Paul.
If God has laid this on your heart and gifted you accordingly, He will provide for what is His will. Do not let a lack of money deter pursuit of God’s will in your life. Learn early on that pastoral ministry is not a means of “great gain” (1 Tim. 6:3-10). It is waiting on Him and trusting Him to bring about His desires. If you don’t learn to do that now, you could find pastoral ministry very difficult. You must patiently wait on the Lord so that ministry is about Him and done according to Him. It is not about you and your ideas. It is His church. He is the Head.
If God has laid this on your heart and gifted you accordingly, He will prepare you to serve in this way. While this will undoubtedly include formal training, His preparation will involve so much more.
The “where, when, and how” will fall into place and be more obvious when He has more fully prepared you and it is His timing. Let me caution you against trying to make it happen or thinking others can tell you all this. God will make it clear when the time is right. Look at examples in Scripture. God did not reveal all ahead of time. (Ex. – Abraham – Gen. 12:1 – “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.'” God merely told him to go. He didn’t provide all the details.) We step out in obedience one step at a time as God directs us. We must be faithful in what He has given us now and trust Him for what is to come.
Following are some suggestions to begin doing now. If God is calling you into pastoral ministry, these things will serve to intensify that prompting in your heart. If that doesn’t happen, you should question if it really is God’s leading or simply an emotional reaction or self-imposed expectations.
- Spend time in God’s Word and in prayer consistently. You need to be in tune with the Lord, to know His heart and ways, which will be a guiding factor now and in future ministry. If you do not learn to constantly rely on God now, it will cut into ministry effectiveness. (See Jn. 15:1-7, especially verse 5 where Jesus said “Apart from me you can do nothing.”)
- Ask God to continually search your heart (Ps. 139:23-24) and mold you to be the person with qualities in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Character is very important in pastoral ministry.
- Ask God to continue to prepare in your heart a love for Him and His people. According to Matthew 22:37-40, love is the greatest in God’s book. According to 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, without love, you have and gain nothing. According to 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, love is what should compel us. Jesus told Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep” (Jn. 21:15-17). Pastoral ministry needs to grow out of a love for God which spills over into a love for people. If you are having a hard time loving anyone, work that out now through His power and grace.
- Take time to specifically study God’s design and purpose for the church. A pastor needs a philosophy of ministry based on the Word of God.
- Involve yourself in a variety of ministry opportunities to get hands-on experience of the various facets of church ministry. A pastor has a servant’s heart. You are not going to be a servant if you do not serve. (Mk. 10:42-45; Lk. 9:23-26; Jn. 13:1-17; Phil. 2:5-8) Being an example, which is part of this calling, should begin now. (1 Pet. 5:1-4; 1 Tim. 4:11-16)
- Seek out a respected pastor who would be willing to take you under his wings, to mentor/disciple you. This will help to give you a realistic view of pastoral ministry and it will also give opportunity for someone else to observe you and identify evidence of God’s calling. If God is the One calling you to pastoral ministry, certainly others will recognize God’s hand in your life this way. We have the example of Paul and Timothy and others Paul took under his wings. Also see Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 20:18.
- Begin now to offer pastoral care to others and to communicate God’s Word to others. You do not need a title or position to begin using gifts He has given you. The more you do, the more this passion should develop within you if God is calling you to pastoral ministry. (Gal. 6:1-5; 2 Tim. 2:24-26)
As you do these things, God will be preparing you for any specific ministry He has in mind for you when the time is right — character / heart preparation, philosophical preparation, and skill preparation.