This article was first published in the Baptist Bulletin (March/April 2008) and appears here unedited. Used by permission. All rights reserved. See also What Churches Owe Their Pastors by the same author.
Two thousand years ago the apostle Paul, church planter and pastor par excellence, declared that he was a debtor to those to whom he ministered. He sensed an obligation to discharge, a duty to perform, and a debt to pay—both to the unsaved and to the saints in Rome (Romans 1:11–15). Ministers today are expected to labor with that same sense of indebtedness to their congregations. Why are they so obligated? The answer lies in an understanding of the dual calling of pastors.
A dual calling
First, there is the calling by God to this specialized ministry of shepherding a local congregation (Ephesians 4:11). Being a pastor is the most notable vocation known to man. Paul expressed this initial calling by testifying, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Timothy 1:12). One of the primary reasons for the recruitment of an ordination council is to determine whether the candidate is actually called and equipped by the Lord for this lifework. The certainty of such a special calling also provides the motivation for an effective and enduring ministry.
Second, there is the calling by a local congregation. According to Baptist polity, each church is congregationally governed and autonomous. So each church must, by the vote of its members, call the man of their choice, believing that the Lord is actually involved in the placement of the man of God. Pastors consequently experience a dual calling, and for these two reasons, they are under obligation to a given congregation. How then is this obligation discharged? In addition to the normal ministerial responsibilities of including his wife in ministry (and she needs to keep herself involved as well), keeping confidences, maintaining regular office hours, and providing the membership with clear goals and plans, there are four Scriptural ways to fulfill this calling. Read more...