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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.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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