He’s out there. Sometimes he’s perceptive of the stirrings to preach, sometimes he’s clueless over the call upon his life. But he’s there. He may still be in seminary, or college, or happily settled in a job…but he’s there. God’s commitment to build the church (Matt 16:18) and see the gospel preached in all nations (Matt 28:18-20) ensures His commitment to call men for the mission. So they’re out there. The question at the heart of this post is: How does a pastor find potentially called men?.
Here are some practical steps.
Build the Culture for the Called
The first step involves creating a culture in our churches where pastoral ministry is defined and affirmed without being exalted. How does this happen? Start with the pulpit; it’s our steering wheel. We teach on the nature of pastoral ministry. In other words, we explain from Scripture why God has given pastors to the church. We talk specifically of the biblical job description for a pastor (1 Peter 5:2-4). This instruction should begin with the church’s membership process so those coming in the front door know what we believe about pastors and why finding men for the mission is so important.
Remember whatever we affirm we reproduce. Installations, ordinations, new hires, or appointments are all opportunities to reinforce the purpose and value of ministry. We can also look for ways to affirm the importance of ministry roles through various messages or illustrations. This not only has the benefit of educating the whole church on why leadership exists, but it also helps establish a culture where leadership is valued. Yes, we certainly need to talk about the important role of a congregation, but that’s another article. Bottom line here is that we want to make sure that the aspiration for ministry is not instinctively interpreted as a godless power grab, but as a noble thing worthy of desire (1 Tim 3:1).
If we want our churches to be an incubator for leaders, we must build a culture that wisely values them.
Stoke the Aspiration
Paul seems to have assumed that God would be at work in the churches of Ephesus and Crete, granting grace to certain men for leadership. 1 Timothy and Titus both include sections that tell these men (Timothy and Titus that is) what to look for when selecting men for ministry. But the assumption seems clear – God goes before us by igniting desire in some men and then supplying the necessary grace to fulfil the requirements. These qualities then become self-attesting; they tell the church that God has bestowed grace upon the man to lead. Yet it often starts with a seed of desire (1 Tim. 3:1).
Prior to entering ministry, I felt a growing, God-inspired desire to lead God’s people. This wasn’t an aspiration I manufactured, this was something God sparked in my heart. We should expect God to be doing similar works in men in our churches. Our job as pastors is to encourage men to express these desires, and then shepherd them through a process which evaluates the accuracy of the desires.
How we handle a man who expresses his desire for ministry can either catapult or confuse him. Remember, it’s a good thing when God gives a man a desire for ministry. He needs a shepherd willing to help him steward that sense of call. Instead of feeling threatened or being dismissive, a good pastor affirms the nobility of the desire, and then finds wise ways to help him assess his call.
In an upcoming Am I Called podcast, Michael Horton tells a fascinating story. When he was thirteen years old, he attended a theology conference which was being led by the renowned pastor/theologian James Montgomery Boice. During a break, Horton approached Boice and told him that he too wanted to be a reformer, just as Boice was. Remember, Horton was only thirteen at the time…and he was talking to Dr. Boice, one of the most respected men in evangelicalism! But Boice didn’t dismiss Horton. Instead, he invited Horton to share the packed lunch he was about to eat. This led to a lifetime mentorship between Horton and Boice.
When a man comes to you with a desire for pastoral ministry, don’t dismiss him or feel threatened by him. Instead, come alongside him and help him think biblically through his desire. Remember, the next Michael Horton could be standing in front of you!