God is calling me

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God is calling me

  1. 1. © 2008 by Jeff IorgAll rights reservedPrinted in the United States of AmericaISBN: 978-0-8054-4722-4Published by B&H Publishing Group,Nashville, TennesseeDewey Decimal Classification: 253.2Subject Heading: LEADERSHIP GOD—WILL PASTORAL WORKUnless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from theHolman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002,2003 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. HolmanChristian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federallyregistered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 12 11 10 09 08
  2. 2. ContentsA Conversation about the Question ........................ 11. Defining the Concept of Call ............................. 52. Three Types of Call Experiences ........................173. Three Ways God Calls.....................................314. Who God Calls.............................................455. Discerning God’s Call ....................................576. The Effects of God’s Call .................................717. The Call to Missions ......................................858. The Call to Pastoral Ministry .......................... 101Continuing the Conversation ............................. 113 ix
  3. 3. The Callto Pastoral Ministry Chapter 8A call to pastoral ministry is another special way God calls to a specific ministry assignment. The phrasepastoral ministry can refer to anyone who is called to pasto-ral leadership in the church. This can include the personsometimes called senior pastor or lead pastor or any of thevarious kinds of pastors or associate pastors in churchestoday. While God calls to many pastoral roles, the focus ofthis chapter is on God calling a person to be the pastor—the person with the general spiritual oversight of a localchurch. You may not think this chapter applies to you, particu-larly if you are fairly certain you are not called to be a pas-tor. Keep reading for two reasons. First, you may be mis-taken. God may want you to be a pastor, and you need tofurther investigate this kind of call. Second, if you are nota pastor, you will have a pastor. Or, you may be involved 101
  4. 4. Is God CallInG Me?in selecting a pastor for your church in the future. Eitherway, understanding the call to pastoral ministry is impor-tant for whatever future relationship you may have to thepastoral office in your church. The call to pastoral ministry—or the call to preach, asit was sometimes called in a previous generation—was formany years the standard way to express God’s call. This isno longer the case. Today, God’s general call to ministry isusually understood as a call to ministry leadership insteadof a particular role or office. Like a call to missions, a callto pastoral leadership often emerges from a general call toministry leadership. This shift in how God’s call has been described is notintended to diminish the importance of a call to pasto-ral ministry or to preaching. It is, instead, an attemptto understand God’s call in a more general sense, thusincluding the many different kinds of ministry leader-ship roles in God’s kingdom today. This book embraces aprogressive understanding of God’s call, moving from ageneral call to ministry leadership and then to a specificcall to a role or assignment. Nevertheless, it is impor-tant to consider the call to pastoral ministry as a unique,necessary, and significant call from God. The pastoral callmust be lifted up as a significant leadership call amongthe varied options in the kingdom. An alarming issue today is the decreasing percentageof men who attend seminary with a focused commitment 102
  5. 5. the Call to pastoral Ministryto become pastors. While many problems with pastorsand pastoral leadership (immorality, fiscal irresponsibility,doctrinal errors, etc.) are evident in the church, the mostdistressing problem for the future may be a shortage ofpastors. Part of solving this problem is elevating the pasto-ral call to its appropriate role and importance. This chapter addresses two aspects of pastoral callingthat, when properly understood, underscore the impor-tance of this kind of call. First, we will look at the unique-ness of the call to pastoral ministry. The pastoral office,along with the qualities and qualifications for those calledto pastoral ministry, is the most clearly defined churchleadership role in the New Testament. This enables usto understand many different dimensions of this kind ofcall. Second, in this chapter we will address the com-mon reasons people who are called to pastoral ministryresist this call. These may include some of your concerns.Our discussion of these two aspects of pastoral callingwill be based on the description of the pastoral office in1 Timothy 3:1–7.The Pastoral Call Is a High Calling The pastoral office is a “noble work” to which a per-son “aspires” (1 Tim. 3:1). This lofty language describesthe dignity, honor, and prestige attached to pastoral min-istry. The office itself, regardless of the person holding it, 103
  6. 6. Is God CallInG Me?is significant, elevating the status of the occupant ratherthan the other way around. Pastoral ministry is a worthy calling, though not every-one agrees. When I was in college, the vice president of amultinational company asked me about my career plans.I said, “I am going to be a pastor.” He replied, “Why wouldyou want to waste your life doing that?” He thought noth-ing could be more irrelevant than leading a church, havingthe care of souls, and representing the gospel to a com-munity. The Bible has a different view. The pastoral officeis honorable and worth giving your life for. African-American churches often elevate the pasto-ral office in tangible ways. In many churches there is onepulpit for the pastor to speak from and another smallerpodium for all others to use. A friend took a youth groupto Los Angeles for a mission trip in Watts. The groupvisited Mt. Zion Baptist Church to hear Dr. E. V. Hillpreach. After the service, one of the boys considering acall to pastoral ministry wanted to have his picture takenwhile standing behind the pulpit. As he neared the pul-pit, a deacon intercepted him and kindly (but firmly)said, “Young man, please step away from the pulpit. OnlyDr. Hill stands there.” The pulpit in that church is a power-ful symbol of the office, the man who occupies it, and thechurch’s respect for both. While every culture expressesthis understanding differently, all should find ways tohonor the importance of pastoral ministry. 104
  7. 7. the Call to pastoral Ministry Pastoral leadership is also important because of whois being led. The church is “the administration of the mys-tery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Eph.3:9). God reveals his “multi-faceted wisdom . . . throughthe church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens”(Eph. 3:10). The church is God’s ultimate prize, his final“purpose of the ages” (Eph. 3:11). When you considerthe exalted position of the church in God’s plan, you willunderstand the high office pastors have. The President ofthe United States is more important than the presidentof the Rotary Club because of the power, influence, andscope of who and what he leads. Pastors lead God’s mostprecious creation and possession—the church!The impor-tance of their office is magnified by whom they lead. Some people in today’s society diminish the impor-tance of the church, considering it irrelevant and passé.Ineffective, spiritually cold churches might confirm thisimpression. Be careful about jumping on this bandwagon!God will sustain his church. He will sustain an organized,visible expression of the church until the end of time. Thechurch may need reform, may take new forms, and mayexperience major changes in our generation, but its pre-dicted demise is greatly overstated. God promises that hischurch will survive until the end of time—then for alltime with him. That church, like any organization needsleaders—pastors who respond to God’s call and assumethis high office. 105
  8. 8. Is God CallInG Me?The Pastoral Call Is a Character Calling Most descriptions of pastors in the Bible relate totheir character, not their skills or training. Paul describeda pastor as “above reproach . . . self-controlled, sensible,respectable, hospitable . . . not addicted to wine, not abully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy . . . [with]a good reputation among outsiders” (1 Tim. 3:2–7).These character qualities raise a high standard of personaldeportment and emotional control. Pastors are required to be examples of Christiancharacter and Christian character development. The firstphrase, “above reproach,” is a daunting standard. Pastorsare to live in such a way that others can emulate theirattitudes and behavior. Frankly, this is one of the reasonssome people resist the call to pastoral ministry or wantto interpret their call in more generic (and less stress-ful) terms. They simply don’t want the pressure of being amoral example in their church and community. Some people caution against elevating pastors andexpecting them to live exemplary lives. The Bible indi-cates otherwise. Pastors are expected to live differently,to be above reproach. This does not mean pastors shouldbe placed on the “perfection pedestal.” No pastor is per-fect, but neither is he expected to be by any biblical orreasonable standard. Part of modeling Christian charac-ter, of being above reproach, is modeling the transpar- 106
  9. 9. the Call to pastoral Ministryency to confess sin, be forgiven, and take responsibilityfor the consequences. Although pastors are not expectedto be perfect, they are expected to live circumspectly asexamples to their church and community. One friend hasa small plaque that says: “Others may; I cannot.” It’s a sim-ple reminder that he is called to live differently, that whatothers may do he simply can’t do and still remain abovereproach. Another aspect of this character calling is that pas-toral ministry will test your character. Being a pastor isa tough job! Pastoral leadership is a crucible for charac-ter development. God uses the role as a refining fire tosmelt out impurities. Pastoral ministry is also challeng-ing because pastors work with people as shepherds of aflock. And some sheep bite! Several character qualities,such as “self-controlled . . . hospitable . . . not a bully butgentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy . . . a good reputa-tion among outsiders” (1 Tim. 3:2–7), are best developedand demonstrated in relationship with difficult people.If you answer God’s call to pastoral ministry, prepare tohave some challenging times of personal growth as youlead people. God will use these experiences, and you willultimately be grateful for them, but they are painful whenthey occur. Being a pastor requires exemplary character,and the role will test your character. 107
  10. 10. Is God CallInG Me?The Pastoral Call Is a Family Calling Pastoral ministry, like many other roles in ministry,often involves the entire family. Paul acknowledged thisfact when he wrote that a pastor must be “the husbandof one wife . . . [and] one who manages his own house-hold competently, having his children under control withall dignity” (1 Tim. 3:2, 4). The focus on these passages isusually on analyzing “husband of one wife” and clarifyingwhat Paul meant by “under control.” While those discus-sions are important, they are not our focus as they relateto this kind of call. The overarching point of these phrases from Scriptureis that a pastoral calling is a family calling. There is noescaping the reality that a pastor’s family is significantlyinvolved in his work. Some men reject their call to pasto-ral ministry because of fear that it will harm their family.Pastors must take precautions to preserve their family’sidentity and each person’s participation in the churchwithout inappropriate outside pressure that negativelyimpacts the family. But it is very difficult to lead a churchwhile keeping your family entirely isolated from your pas-toral responsibilities and function. A pastor’s wife must be supportive of his call. Hersupport can take many forms, and stereotypes must beavoided. If a pastor’s wife is resistant to his being in pastoralministry, he will not last long. Similarly, a pastor’s children 108
  11. 11. the Call to pastoral Ministrymust be taught that they have been born to parents whoshare a pastoral call and, in appropriate ways, God intendsfor them to share and enjoy that environment. Knowingall that is involved in their father’s role, God creates thechildren born into a pastoral family and places them in thatsetting. One young man resisted his call to pastoral ministrybecause he didn’t want his children to grow up with hisserving in a pastoral role. He had heard the “war stories”about how hard it is to be part of a pastor’s family, and hebelieved the stories without really analyzing what he washearing. There are some hard things about growing up in apastoral family. But there are also hard things about grow-ing up in a physician’s family, a plumber’s family, a politi-cian’s family—and in every other kind of family. On a more positive note, there are also some spe-cial blessings a pastor’s family gets to enjoy. These areoverlooked when people focus only on the challenges orproblems. Here are some benefits our family experiencedthroughout our years in pastoral ministry: • Your family gets to go to work with you and see what you do. When I left pastoral ministry to work for the denomination, my preschool son asked, “What does Daddy do now?” He felt a great loss in not seeing his father do ministry and sharing in it weekly. 109
  12. 12. Is God CallInG Me? • Your family benefits from your flexible work schedule. As a pastor, I was often the only father present for midday school functions. In addition, as I traveled to preach at conferences or other engagements, my children sometimes traveled with me, going places many of their friends never visited. • Your family gets to know, on a more personal basis, the best people on earth—church people! Sure, sometimes they can be difficult, but most of the time, church friends—surrogate aunts, uncles, and grandparents—and fellow pastors are the very best people in the world. When I had can- cer, church people rallied around our family in remarkable ways. Our children have never for- gotten the love they were shown by so many who cared for them during those frightening days. • Your family gets to see God at work.Your family, even though you are discreet and honor confidential- ity, knows more details about how God is chang- ing people than the typical church member does. They see God at work, up close and personal. • Your family will get to know other Christian leaders (like guest speakers in your church) more person- ally than the average church member ever will. These are just some of the benefits of being in a pas-toral family. A pastor’s family is part of his ministry. If you 110
  13. 13. the Call to pastoral Ministryare called to pastoral ministry, celebrate the blessings ofbeing in ministry with your family around you. Don’tshy away from this call based on misplaced or overstatedconcerns for your family. And whatever you do, don’t useyour family as an excuse to reject God’s call to pastoralministry.A Pastoral Call Is a Community Calling Pastors have the opportunity to spiritually shepherdand impact their entire community. Paul recognized thisinfluence by emphasizing that pastors “must have a goodreputation among outsiders” (1 Tim. 3:7). After servingin a community for several years, it was not unusual forpeople to introduce me to friends as “my pastor” eventhough they had never once attended my church. Whenyou work in the community, make a spiritual impact atcommunity events, and serve the community’s spiritualneeds, people come to think of you as their pastor. When a respected pastor has long tenure, he canhave a significant community impact. Unfortunately,the reverse is also true. When a pastor sins morally orethically, his failure becomes a community issue. Becausepastors have community influence, these sins damagethe reputation of the church and Christianity in general.Sometimes the stain lasts a long time. Once when I askedfor directions to a certain church, I was told, “Oh, that’s 111
  14. 14. Is God CallInG Me?the church where the pastor killed his wife in the par-sonage.” Although it was true, it had also happened morethan fifteen years before. A pastoral calling is a commu-nity calling, a stewardship that must be protected andnurtured as part of the opportunity God gives pastors toimpact the culture. Pastors, because of their calling and office, are rec-ognized community leaders. They can use their influencefor good.Their sins can have a disproportionately negativeimpact. The pastoral calling is a call to community serviceand responsibility. If you are called to pastoral ministry,honor the office and guard its integrity. Make sure you liveabove reproach and bring honor to your church, commu-nity, and Lord through your leadership example. The call to pastoral ministry is a high calling. The spiri-tual leadership of a church, any church, is an awe-inspiringresponsibility. If you are sensing a call to ministry, inves-tigate to determine whether it is a call to pastoral minis-try. God is still calling pastors, and he needs the best andbrightest to lead his church. Despite what was once saidto me, giving your life as a pastor is not a waste of time.It is an investment in God’s most cherished possession—the church! Don’t limit God’s work in your life by refusing toconsider his calling to be a pastor. It’s a tough calling—but worth it as you obey God and experience his pleasureas a pastor. 112

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