Question and Answer
Have I been called to pastoral ministry?
How does one go about determining if he is called to pastoral ministry? What is required? What is he to do if there are no adequate seminaries located near him? Can he study at the seminary level under the guidance of his pastor in order to be approved for the ministry? Any information would be very helpful and appreciated.
A call to the gospel/pastoral ministry is certainly a matter for careful consideration, and I will do my best to help you in this consideration.
Psalm 37:4, says, “Delight yourself also in the LORD; and he shall give you the desires of your heart.” So let’s begin here. Assuming you have found delight in the Lord through Jesus Christ, do you earnestly desire to serve him as a pastor? If this desire is weak or not there, then probably this is not to be your calling. But if you do desire it, then there is a likelihood that God will give you the thing you desire, overcoming any obstacles that hinder you. Over time this desire should increase, not diminish. 1 Timothy 3:1, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop [i.e., overseer, elder], he desires a good work.”
But of course, this likelihood of a call ultimately has to be confirmed. A wise minister once told me that God leads us by inner conviction and outward circumstance in accordance with his Word and Spirit.
Outwardly, one’s desire must meet reality. A man who cannot physically speak will not be a preacher, though he may be a writer or engage in some other ministry. More to the point, God orders circumstances to bring about his will. Have you discovered you have a gift for public speaking? Circumstances usually bring this to light. Are you a good student? Ministers generally have to study hard and for many years. Are you in circumstances where others have observed your spiritual life and exercise of spiritual gifts and have encouraged you to pursue at least some form of Christian service?
I encourage you to return to the OPC website and go to the Christian Education Committee’s section and the items in its section on Ministerial Training. There you will find a document called, "A Suggested Guide for Taking Men under Care of Presbytery.” (In most Presbyterian denominations being “taken under care” means one is starting the process of becoming a minister.) Within this document are a number of questions that you can ask of yourself that may be helpful as you consider the pastoral ministry. It is of great importance that other, mature believers share your sense of call. You might also benefit from reading Chapter XXI of the OPC Form of Government (available in hardback from the Committee on Christian Education).
As for the inward call, it is vital to pray and search the Scriptures, expecting that the Holy Spirit will bring a conviction regarding the direction you should take. Romans 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” As we find ourselves sharing the Lord’s compassion for the lost and his love for his people, we can be sure the Spirit is helping us find our place in the Kingdom. Acts 17:16, “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” Ephesians 5:25, “… Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it …” 1 Corinthians 9:16, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” These sorts of elements are subjectively (inwardly) present when the Lord is calling us to service, especially to the ordained ministry.
If you find yourself located far from strongly biblical, conservative seminaries, it may be possible to follow a “distance learning” program. Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary have such courses. Check the internet. As far as study under a pastor goes, I’m sure this could be a blessed experience but in most cases will not meet the requirements of most reformed denominations, which include four years of undergraduate and three years of graduate (seminary) education.
I pray the Lord will give you the desire of your heart.
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