A Plea for the Ministry
A Plea for the Ministry
There are four churches among our body of churches searching for a minister at the moment. Hopefully, there will be more soon. (By this statement, I mean that, under God, I hope there will be Reformed Churches that will be planted other than the ones already in existence.) Some of these churches have been without a minister for a while, and they would be able to tell you that the search for an under-shepherd is not an easy one. There are vacant churches in Australia too, I'm not sure how many at the time of writing, but they too will bemoan the lack of men in the ministry in our churches.
This article is not an apology for the Christian ministry; it is a plea from the heart for the men of the Reformed Churches to consider the Christian ministry. As a minister, it might seem to some that I am over-stressing the importance of ministers to the church – after all, doesn't the Brethren denomination manage quite well without them? 1 However, it does seem that the New Testament envisages a man who is the equivalent of a minister in the church. See for example Ephesians 4:11, where the "pastors and teachers" are named, and this is just the task of the minister of a church.
The ministry is a definite calling, like other callings, and entry to it is not so different from them. There must be certain gifts evident in someone who is considering the ministry. These include some aptitude or ability to teach, and to speak in public. However, what is essential is that the gifts be there, to be developed, even if they are not very well developed at the time of seeking entry. But they must be there: theological college cannot give a man gifts he does not have. There is a fair amount of hard study in preparation for the ministry, and so there must be an ability for this. There is a lot of writing to be done in the ministry, as well as at College, so you must not be afraid of putting pen to paper.
The two greatest qualifications are a love of God and a love of people. The minister must love God first and foremost and know Him himself, and a love of God will be evidenced in a love for His Word too, so a call to the ministry cannot be separated from a desire to explain and teach God's word to others. A love of people is essential because the main work of the ministry is with people. It is true that a minister spends a fair amount of his time with his books, and behind his desk, but this is only as a preliminary to his explaining the word of God which he has been studying to people. He must have the love Christ has for the flock. He must have enough experience of life to gain the confidence of those he ministers to.
It is essential to be called to this work by God and by the church. This is perhaps where most difficulties arise in the minds of those who are considering a call to Christian ministry. What constitutes a call from God? We do not believe that we have a hotline to Heaven, where God communicates to us in distinct words, or visions or the like, yet there must be a distinct call from God before a man can enter the ministry. Often this comes as a desire to do so, and this sense of call has scriptural backing. 1 Timothy 3:1 says that if anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task, which I take to mean that wanting to become one is part of becoming an "overseer", or minister.
Testing the Call←⤒🔗
This sense of call must be followed up with prayer, and further study of the scripture. It sometimes comes as a feeling, probably quite undefined at first, that you want to serve God in a more definite or positive way than you are doing at your daily job. Feelings do come into it, though we can get carried away by them, and they need to be tested, and we do serve God in our daily jobs, but there may be a sense of desiring to do more than the constraints of your job will let you do in the Lord's service. People with gifts usually have opportunity to use them in their local church, and so it is typical that someone who is called to the ministry and has suitable gifts has already been involved in the life of his church, perhaps in leading Bible studies, perhaps as an officebearer, or in other forms of work in the church.
Now comes what is probably the most difficult part of deciding about a call to the ministry. It is that the local church, of which you are a member, must also approve of your call. Someone could desire to enter the ministry, yet his desire was not from God, but from his own heart. This is not wrong in itself, but would not constitute a real call of God. The people he worships and works with are often in a better position to judge about his gifts and suitability than the man himself. His life's circumstances may not permit him to train at the present time. The confirmation of the call must ultimately come from the local session, with input from the wider church in the form of the College Deputies and the Synodical examiners.
So much for the background to entry to the ministry. Let me take you back to those vacant churches. Who will shepherd God’s flock? My brothers, consider that God may be calling you to fulltime Christian service. Please don’t dismiss the thought out of hand; pray and ask God if he might be able to use you. Continue in prayer if you are not clear in your mind, talk to the session of your church. May the Lord raise up "shepherds after his own heart, who will feed us on knowledge and understanding" (Jeremiah 3:15). It is the Lord who loves you and whose you are you will be serving.
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