QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
Am I called?
Determining a call is not necessarily “cut and dried.” It is not the same as determining God’s general will for everyone (things presented in Scripture like love your neighbor as yourself, do not commit adultery, etc.). To start, someone who thinks they have a call to ministry should first be seeking to follow God through the things that are already plain in Scripture. Apart from that, there are two things that help test to see if someone has a specific calling to ministry:
1. An internal sense of call. People experience this differently, but in general it is a compelling inner drive to devote oneself to ministry. Individuals often wrestle with this and try to ignore it, but it continues to come back. Both Paul and Jeremiah seem to bear witness to this compulsion to preach (1 Cor 9:16; Jer 20:9).
2. An external validation. Some people want to say an internal call is all that is needed, but Scripture points to the importance of the community of faith validating one’s call. Paul, for instance, leaves Titus in Crete in order to appoint elders in the church (Tit 1:5), tells Timothy not to lay hands on anyone hastily (1 Tim 5:22), and gives both of them instruction on who is fit to be a leader in the church (1 Tim 3; Tit 1). In Acts 13:1-3, it is the community of gathered believers who receive direction from the Holy Spirit to set aside Paul and Barnabas for the work of missions (Acts 13:1-3).
To those who think they may be called to a ministry, it is important to determine in themselves to do whatever God asks of them, to continually seek God through prayer and fasting about the matter, and to seek the prayerful advice of other Christians (pastors, teachers, holy men and women -don’t try to determine your call alone, do it in Christian community). It is also helpful to “test the waters” by involving oneself in some facet of that ministry. God often leads people to where he wants them as they step out in faith with what knowledge they have. He often leads by opening and closing options and providing a sense of “fit” through the Holy Spirit when the person is where he wants them.
What kind of training is required?
If you are part of a denominational church or association, your denomination or association will have guidelines as to what training is needed. Sometimes very little is required, sometimes a bachelor’s degree is required, and sometimes a seminary (master’s) degree is necessary. Ask your pastor. If you are not part of a denomination, there are no definite requirements, but any church you serve will likely want to see some level of education. Regardless, anyone who enters into ministry should do all they can to be prepared for that ministry and to keep on learning. Paul tells Timothy to “make every effort to show [himself] approved, a workmen who does not need to be ashamed” (1 Ti ). BLI offers pastoral training ranging from short-term certificates to four-year bachelor degrees.
What is ordination?
Ordination is the process (and ceremony) of recognizing an individual as being called into a particular ministry, such as pastoral ministry. In the early church, the act of laying hands on someone seems to have fulfilled this role (see, for example, Acts 13:3; 1 Tim 5:22). Some denominations have strict guidelines and requirements related to ordination. Some independent churches will themselves ordain their pastor after examination and prayer. While Biblical Life Institute does not ordain people, we have connections with church associations that do.
What is life like as a pastor?
The life of a pastor can be very rewarding, since you are fulfilling your call, advancing the Kingdom of God, and helping people. At the same time, it is a very challenging, often stressful life. Although you are accountable to your church, denominational leaders, and ultimately God, pastors typically operate like self-employed entrepreneurs, setting most of their own hours and schedules. However, pastors are typically on call 24 hours a day for emergencies.
As a pastor, expect to be studying and preparing sermons and lessons on a weekly basis, providing visioning and strategic planning, developing relationships with people of all ages, visiting people who are sick, offering counseling to couples and individuals, engaging in administrative tasks, leading people in a mostly volunteer/nonprofit setting, performing ceremonies like weddings and funerals, and praying a lot. Depending on the needs of the church you serve and your specific pastoral position, you may focus on some of these tasks more than others or need to be involved in additional work. Also, some pastors choose or need to work a secular job as well, and some pastors are involved in creative forms of pastoral ministry. These things will change the dynamics of the pastor’s life.
How do I get started?
If you think you are being called into ministry, you will want to be praying and talking to trusted Christian friends, family, and leaders. These people can help you discern God’s call on your life. A good place to start is with your pastor or youth leader. You will also want to read portions of the Bible that give guidelines for church leaders, such as 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. You might also consider doing some pastoral things, such as teaching a Sunday School class, going with your pastor on visits, becoming involved in church leadership, or even preaching a sermon at church (if appropriate in your church setting). As these experiences begin to strengthen your call, you will want to consider pursuing formal training. BLI can help!