(An Interruption to the Series) The Call of God

by Daniel R. Brown

The call of God to the gospel ministry, apart from salvation, is the single greatest qualifying mark for anyone who is a minister of the gospel. For this reason, ordination councils examine a man in three separate areas: his conversion, his call to the ministry, and his convictions on doctrine. The call of God is widely recognized as a first order priority by virtually every book on pastoral theology. These authors, crossing every spectrum of theological position, devote a section or an entire chapter to the subject. Most churches will usually ask a potential pastoral candidate to give expression to his call to the ministry.

Even after this emphasis in both our literature and our practice, the call of God has fallen upon hard times. My experience in ordination councils, as well as discussions with pastors and teachers, indicates that a great deal of confusion and doubt surrounds the discussion of God’s call to the ministry.

I believe there are several causes for this increasing lack of clarity about God’s call to the ministry. First, while an abundance of literature addresses the call of God, authors tend to describe the call in their own terms, so that great variety exists in how the call is defined and described. Second, the call of God is confused with a subjective, existential experience equivalent to someone saying, “God spoke to me.” Third, some are openly antagonistic against the call of God to the ministry (e.g., Friesen, Decision Making and the Will of God). This is not an apologetic against that position, but if a man states that he is definitely not called by God, I am willing to take him at his word. Fourth, the call of God is a part of understanding God’s individual will for one’s life. Those who deny that God has an individual will for the life of each Christian will undoubtedly choke on accepting God’s call to the ministry.

A brief word needs to be said about what the call of God is not. The call of God is not special visitation by God to a person via a dream or vision. The call is not happening to open up the right Chinese fortune cookie or seeing an apparition of Christ.

The call of God does involve a subjective aspect, in the same way that understanding God’s individual will for a person involves some subjectivity. We are rightly unwilling to give credence to the subjective, unconfirmed speculations of some. We want believers to be grounded in the objective Word of God. Yet we do understand that there is a subjective aspect to our Christian life. For example, the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:16). This verse indicates that there is an internal, subjective aspect to our assurance of salvation in addition to knowing and claiming the explicit, objective promises of Scripture.

The call of God to the ministry fundamentally includes two aspects. First, the call entails an overwhelming desire which, in my understanding, means a desire to preach. In 1 Tim. 3:1 Paul describes this “desire” with two different words. “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” The first word (oregetai) means “to stretch oneself out in order to touch or to grasp something” (Abbott). It carries the idea of the runner who stretches for the finish line, desiring victory. In this sense, the first word involves an aspiration for the office. The second word Paul uses (epithumei) is often found in a negative context in the NT and translated as “lust” when the object of the desire is improper. The root idea of the term means a “burning upon” or a “desiring with passion.” Here the context is positive, but the strength of the term remains, “he desires (lusts or covets) a good thing.” The “desire” is not a whim or a passing fancy, but a passion that changes the course of one’s life.

The second aspect of the call of God in a man’s life includes an inescapable conviction based on the Word of God. The Scripture will grip a man’s heart and, when coupled with a passion for the ministry, will never release him. As this is an individual aspect of how God leads to His call, no two preachers will have exactly the same approach or testimony.

The call of God does not happen in a vacuum. Christ, in His active role of headship, calls men to the ministry (Eph. 4:11), the Holy Spirit directs the call (Acts 20:28), and the church verifies the call (Acts 13:2-3). The church has a major role in protecting the ministry and, therefore, the church should agree with a man’s call and qualifications prior to his entering the ministry. Thus we can say with Paul, “He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Tim. 1:12).

Holy Sonnet VIII
John Donne (1572-1631)

If faithful souls be alike glorified
As angels, then my fathers soul doth see,
And adds this even to full felicity,
That valiantly I hells wide mouth o’erstride:
But if our minds to these souls be descried
By circumstances, and by signs that be
Apparent in us, not immediately,
How shall my mind’s white truth by them be tried?
They see idolatrous lovers weep and mourn,
And vile blasphemous conjurers to call
On Jesus name, and Pharisaical
Dissemblers feigne devotion. Then turn,
O pensive soul, to God, for he knows best
Thy true grief, for he put it in my breast.


Dr. Dan Brown is Professor of Pastoral Theology at Central Seminary. Prior to coming to Central, he served as senior pastor of Kendall Park Baptist Church, Kendall Park, NJ. He has also served at churches in Michigan and Texas and at camps in Texas and New Jersey. He is a member of the Independent Baptist Fellowship of North America, the Evangelical Homiletics Society, and the Evangelical Theological Society. He and his wife, Mary Jo, have four daughters.

5713 reads

There are 33 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I appreciate an experienced pastor's perspective on this important topic. And I don't envy him the task of trying to take it on in one short essay.
But I'm personally inclined to think that understandings of "the call" will continue to be multiple, diverse and confusing. And the reason is that there is just not alot of attention given to the concept in the NT.

1 Tim. 3:1 is helpful and I agree w/Dr.Brown that desire is a huge factor. But what Paul does not say is that "desire = call" or that this desire must be life-long.

In addition, it's not clear to me what this means or where it is taught in the NT: "The Scripture will grip a man’s heart and, when coupled with a passion for the ministry, will never release him."

I'm inclined to think that the trio of ordination concerns: "conversion, his call to the ministry, and his convictions on doctrine" should be shifted more in the direction of "conversion, why he desires the ministry, doctrinal convictions, character and skills." The "character and skills" part would be my term for the qualifications found in the pastoral epistles, but expanded a bit in the area of application: Can he interact wisely with people and groups? Does he evidence an aptitude for understanding and communicating the Scriptures to a broad spectrum of listeners? In the character arena, it's very hard to answer but worth asking nonetheless: Does he desire the role for the esteem of a large number of people? For the opportunities to exert power over others? For the chance to prove himself in some way? For money?

To me, a focus on "call" in the ordination process tends toward the neglect of more important issues.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Thanks for the article.

I'm struggling a bit with a couple things. If we compare the call to ministry with the call to salvation, does that mean the call to ministry never goes away? Does that mean, perhaps, it can never be forfeited by disqualification (or is it still there, like Jonah)? Or in the case of those who once preached but no longer do, yet not by disqualification - have they dishonored Christ?

If we base the call to ministry on an "individual will of God" does that mean that a man who is not preaching but still serves as a full elder (with equal authority as all other elders) does not have the call of 1 Timothy 3:1?

It is problematic to use Acts 13:2-3 as a support that the church verifies the call of a man to ministry. All the verbs in those 2 verses do not reference the church, but the men of verse Acts 13:1 (they are all masculine plural verbs).

It also seems to me that using 1 Tim. 1:12 for a support (or conclusion) that the church verifies the call is hard to sustain.

As well, does Eph. 4:11 go as far as to teach that Christ "calls men into ministry," or that he equips some men with gifts for the equipping of the body? In other words, does the verse teach offices, or gifts? It seems to me the latter.

However, thank you for the excellent study on 1 Tim. 3:1.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

The tremendous degree of respect I have for Dr. Bauder as a Christian and a scholar gives me great pause on those rare occasions when I find myself in disagreement with him. I am certainly prompted by this article to continue my study on the subject. However, I have found myself at odds consistently with this mystical, subjective brand of Christianity that permeates so much of the church today as seen in this article in both the reference to a ministry call and the reference to an individual will of God. I simply do not see any place in Scripture where we are taught about some sort of "feeling" that God uses to direct our steps - no example to view, no command to look for it, no instruction about how to understand it. Personally, I have been convinced to share the position of the book Dr. Bauder mentions by name, Decision Making and the Will of God, by Friesen. With all of the recent writing by Dr. Bauder discussing the negative impacts of Finneyism (and its highly emotional paradigm) on 20th Century Christianity, I admit I was surprised to find him taking this particular tact on this issue.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Joe Whalen's picture

Hey Chip,

This article was authored by Dan Brown, not Bauder.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Whew, I'm off the hook then. Can't believe I missed that; just saw the usual header for the letter.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jim's picture

In what way (if any) (and this is the crux of my problem with a call to vocational ministry (whether Pastor, missionary, youth pastor, seminary professor, church secretary, crisis-pregnancy center director, Christian day school teacher, etc)), is the vocational call distinct from every saint being called to the ministry?

Ephesians 4:11-14

Quote:
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry (ἔργον διακονίας), for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,

Seems incongruous that the Pastor is called to the ministry (1 Tim 1:12 "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry" - (θέμενος εἰς διακονίαν) in a distinct way but the saints are to do the ministry (while they are not called in the same way!). All the while the noun ("ministry" (διακονία)) is one and the same.

-------- Update --
I just noticed that I basically just repeated a portion of Ted Bigelow's comments above. While it is neither here nor there, I actually read Dr Brown's I.T.N.O.T. Friday and formulated my response at that time (not that my objection is new!) Smile

Bob T.'s picture

Now that everybody carries a cell phone it is easier to receive a call!

As Aaron noted, there is little scripture for the concept of a call, May I say that perhaps there is no scripture. At least not for the special call concept as set forth in this article.

The concept of "a call" is by the Clergy class for the Clergy class. It is part of the structure of a pedestal upon which the Clergy class can stand in order to gain authority not really authorized in scripture. With the Clergy call comes the title of "Reverend." All you Reverends out there please report to the Clergy clothing store for your special collar and black suit.

There are Spiritual gifts of enablement given which includes shepherding and teaching. Such gifts are given to some and the recipients are given to the believers assembly (Eph. 4:11). Such gifts may be associated with some who desire and are qualified for assembly oversight (1Tim. 3:1). However, these gifts are not above the other gifts given and do not constitute a special call different from that received by every born again believer to serve God and other believers. If you want to use the word call then all are called. We are all called to salvation, sanctification, worship, service, and glorification.

The assembly is to give due remembrance and obedience to those they acknowledge are in their oversight and teaching the word of God but such is the assembly acknowledging value and service based upon that received (Heb. 13:7,17). The oversight does not demand such. The assembly must give such. The authority of the assembly is given to those who rule. Those who rule do not take authority based upon a call from God.

Every believer stands equally before God with full access to Him. We are all believer priests. This concept of the priesthood of believers means that the assembly of believers has its authority based on the collective authority of the genuine believers (Matt 18:17-20). The collective authority then chooses and gives authority to those appointed to oversight as elders who are to shepherd. The assembly may select one elder or multiple elders. They should not select any not genuinely qualified for such oversight. All elders must be able to teach. Preaching as declaration is in scripture. It appears to be closely related to teaching God's word and the Gospel. It has been corrupted by philosophical concepts of rhetoric and pagan concepts of persuasion including shouting, prancing, and other attention getting devices.

What we have today in the western churches is the concept of "Clergy call" whereby some vague concept justifies all sorts of unqualified persons (including women) to claim the authority of God and impose themselves on an ignorant created "lay class" who tolerate all sorts of nonsense in the name of God and "God's will." This includes churches (not true assemblies) of all stripes and reference points. It includes Fundamental Baptists with the KJVO pulpit gurus, other Fundamentalists, Conservative Evangelicals, New Evangelicals, and Liberals. We in the western Christian culture suffer from a blight of truth and Biblical truth which is partly perpetuated by the concept of the clergy call.

In the midst of all the false concepts there are those accomplishing great good for the Lord.

However, if you want to receive a real call, keep your cell phone on.

I do not find todays concepts of super teachers on radio and or TV as the part of the model set forth in scripture. Such becomes the easy avenue to disseminate false doctrine or exaggerated pet doctrines outside the authority of the assembly and each assemblies chosen shepherds.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

OK, all fans of Puritanish Reformation thought.... how does all this relate to the idea of Vocation?

I do believe in both individual will of God (how can we believe God works all things acc. to the counsel of His will and not believe that includes individual vocation?) and call to ministry, but I think call to ministry is very similar to call to anything else. That is, yes, there is a subjective element (this is inescapable), and there are special qualifications. But is it irrevocable/permanent and does it take some form that is unique to the role of pastor/elder?
I'm open to that but I don't see strong evidence for it in Scripture.

As for church involvement. I think the case for that is more one of practical necessity. That is, clearly gifts and desire are involved (and desire not based on a craving for power or money--this is evident in Peter's epistles as well as Paul's), but how is the individual going to identify whether he has the gifts? It's difficult to see how that could happen without the feedback of a local church... or several working together.

Bob wrote:
...claim the authority of God and impose themselves on an ignorant created "lay class" who tolerate all sorts of nonsense in the name of God and "God's will." This includes churches (not true assemblies) of all stripes and reference points. It includes Fundamental Baptists with the KJVO pulpit gurus, other Fundamentalists, Conservative Evangelicals, New Evangelicals, and Liberals. We in the western Christian culture suffer from a blight of truth and Biblical truth which is partly perpetuated by the concept of the clergy call.

I think the solution to this is not to throw out the idea of clergy call or God's will, but to put more emphasis on the fact that people's sense of God's will is plain wrong whenever it is contrary to what He has revealed His will to be in Scripture.
Most (all?) of these abuses are solved by comparing "will claims" to Scripture and following the Word... that eliminates the clearly unqualified, the power-mad, the ignorant "lay class" etc. All of these are contrary to plain teaching of Scripture.
But belief in individual will of God is not in any way incompatible with obedience to His revealed will.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Bob T. wrote:
There are Spiritual gifts of enablement given which includes shepherding and teaching. Such gifts are given to some and the recipients are given to the believers assembly (Eph. 4:11). Such gifts may be associated with some who desire and are qualified for assembly oversight (1Tim. 3:1).

Bold added to the quote.

I think this is very important to remember and helps keep proper perspective on how we view our church leaders. Pastors are not the only ones who may possess any specific gift in the church. Furthermore, apart from a couple of absolutely necessary gifts for every pastor (such as teaching), no pastor will have all the gifts necessary to completely care for the church. They are to lead in the care of the flock, but they must not (nay cannot) attempt to provide all the care themselves.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

My dh and I have long opposed the whole idea of kids going to summer camp and surrendering to the ministry or being called to preach during an emotional meeting around a campfire. There is much misunderstanding in churches and especially youth ministries about spiritual gifts, full-time ministry, Biblical requirements of pastors, deacons, etc... It's good to see some strange notions get put to the Scriptural test.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Bob T. wrote:
As Aaron noted, there is little scripture for the concept of a call, May I say that perhaps there is no scripture. At least not for the special call concept as set forth in this article.

I think the basic thrust of the article is correct, that there is both an objective, and subjective element to the call to leadership.

For the objective call, you might start in the O.T. with the laying on of hands for priests, and continue with the call of our Lord to the apostles. Then you have passages like Acts 13:3 and 1 Timothy 4:14. I would also include in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. For the subjective call I like what is written in the article. 1 Timothy 3:1 is pretty potent stuff.

Quote:
Those who rule do not take authority based upon a call from God...

This concept of the priesthood of believers means that the assembly of believers has its authority based on the collective authority of the genuine believers (Matt 18:17-20)

Sometimes I think we get confused where authority in the church lies, and mistakenly believe it is vested in the congregation. I tend to think it can make the sense of call in a man less specific than it ought.

We have a Head that speaks (Jesus!); the body does not speak. Nor does Matthew 18:17-20 teach congregational authority. The church is seen as responding to the 2 or 3 witnesses in Matthew 18:17, and the Father and the Son also testify to the 2 or 3 witnesses in Matthew 18:19-20, not the church. Perhaps its worth looking at again.

Quote:
The assembly may select one elder or multiple elders.

Where in Scripture is there any example or teaching that an assembly may select one elder? Or multiple elders?

Jim's picture

I used to believe in it (the vocational call). In fact I did for a number of years and frankly it carried me through some tough times:

  • Seminary is tough (although looking back at it now it was one of most pleasurable and relatively relaxing times of my life! But it didn't see so at the time. Remember you are called. Hang in there. Ok God got it!
  • The ministry is rough ... there are critics .... the church is not growing the way you had hoped (or is going "south" fast). Remember you are called! OK God ... got it ...
  • Inflation is high. Everything is going up up up! ( http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/L-recession1982.htm 13% in 1980, 10% in '81 ). Your raise one year = 0%. The next 2%. But I am called ... that's OK ... Got it God!

I believed in the vocational call until I did verse by verse Greek work in Ephesians (actually most of the Pauline corpus).

How it is dangerous:

  • Well it is subjective (not that there aren't other subjective elements of the Christian life
  • It's been used to cheat people (not my case mentioned above ... I wasn't cheated!). But chronically low pay for Christian day school teachers. Or even not paying when they were contractually owed
  • It's been used to guilt people. You had better do this ... you are called you know!
  • It's been used to pride people. You are better than those lay ordinary schmoes who work in the secular world where everything is vain and of which all will be burned up.
  • It's been used to confuse people. This is the Pastor's job ... stuffing envelopes is your job
  • It's been used to discourage people. (Not me ... not discouraged!) Examples ... the couple who spend years raising support to go to _______ country as missionaries. They don't make it. Now laboring as painters, secretaries, etc. (has anyone done a study of the "failed" missionary appointee (the ones who start the long deputation trail but don't make it to the field?). Same for the men "called" to go to seminary. Only to find upon graduation that more than half will not find themselves in a paying vocational ministry.
  • It's been used to build the Christian ghetto mentality. The church secretary job is serving the Lord ... the secretary at Fed Ex ... well less so. Working at XYX_Baptist_Bible_College is better than working at (fill in the blank ... secular institution)
  • It's a little mystical. Waiting on God to tell me to go to China, build a building, go to school, etc. (you could add in there find a spouse I suppose)
  • It elevates some views about others. The Pastor's vision is to __________________. He's the called one! Better follow that no matter what.
Paul Henebury's picture

I don't have any time to say much at the moment, but this subject is so crucial that I want at least to give my "two-penneth" as they used to say where I'm from.

First, I want to thank Daniel Brown for writing on this topic. It needs to be constantly before us in these days of declension. I believe there is much truth to the old saying, "As the pulpit goes so goes the [local ] church. As the church goes so goes the community..." We really are suffering from the effects of a lack of attention to the call to the ministry.

The origin of the "desire" of 1 Timothy 3:1 is certainly not to be found in the heart of the natural man. Yet some natural men feel a desire to be in the [evangelical ] ministry and, sadly, find a way into it. And each one of us, though we be regenerate, would be fools to trust every impulse or longing in our own hearts. The origin of the desire of which Paul speaks must not be automatically assumed to be the regenerate heart alone. No, the desire to be an overseer/elder/pastor (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-3) must be placed there by the One who calls and sends (cf. Rom. 10:15). Thus, this kind of call to the ministry must be tested over a sustained period of time. That is what John Newton and Spurgeon and many others held to be almost axiomatic in order for the wheat, as it were, to be separated from the chaff. And that is why Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote that whenever anyone told him he thought he was called to preach, he (MLJ) would see it as his duty to try to talk him out of it.

The Puritan view of vocation-as-calling, which they got from Luther, had to do with whatever employment a person happened to be doing at any particular time (so long as it wasn't promoting sin). It did not, therefore, really touch upon the "desire" of 1 Timothy 3:1.

For what it's worth, I think it is most instructive to remember the limited number of disciples chosen by the Lord, and how small the number of deacons chosen in Acts 6. When one recalls that God called only a tiny handful of prophets in OT history it behooves us to give serious thought to the gravity and, let me say, relative infrequency of the "call" in our day.

God needs the ones He calls. No more no less. The state of the churches in America demonstrate that Christians have foisted upon themselves very many more ministers than God Himself has called.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Charlie's picture

This thread is interesting. When the word "call" is used in Reformed circles, it usually refers to a church calling an already qualified person to serve as its minister. So, I have a friend who has completed his M. Div. and is licensed to preach in his denomination, but he is waiting for a call from a church - an invitation to pastor. When he receives that call, he will be ordained and start serving. The point is that a man is not called until he is, well, called.

However, I gather that this thread is more about sorting through the internal and external aspects of deciding who ought to be an elder/pastor/minister in Christ's church. The Reformed faith indeed stresses the necessity, but not sufficiency, of an internal "call" to the ministry. Wilhelmus a' Brakel speaks thus: http://nathaneshelman.blogspot.com/2008/08/sabbath-abrakel-discerning-in...

Dabney stresses more the objective side, but I think comes to nearly the same thing: http://www.apuritansmind.com/Pastoral/DabneyRLCallToMinistry.htm

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

dmyers's picture

Just to clarify, Freisen's position (with which I agree) does accept that there is an individual will of God. The difference is whether God expects the individual believer to be able to divine His sovereign will in all situations in the individual's life, or whether God instead expects the believer to be guided by God's expressed moral will and by Holy Spirit-aided wisdom, trusting in God's provision.

Ted Bigelow's picture

dmyers wrote:
Just to clarify, Freisen's position (with which I agree) does accept that there is an individual will of God. The difference is whether God expects the individual believer to be able to divine His sovereign will in all situations in the individual's life, or whether God instead expects the believer to be guided by God's expressed moral will and by Holy Spirit-aided wisdom, trusting in God's provision.

Right.

Freisen fully acknowledges God has a will for every single human being that extends not only through all of life, but for all eternity as well (Eph. 1:11). It is unalterable and has been decreed from all eternity. It must happen, and even if we could know it ahead of time it could not be altered.

The author's use of "individual will" might be better recognized by the title "personal will," which he attacks. This is the idea that God has a potential will just for you, His very best for you, which can be missed. It can be missed if you don't read His signs and indicators for you in life, including personal feelings and coincidences. It is incredibly subjective and actually pagan since it tries to "read and interpret" God's providence.

Applying it to this discussion, a man might have a call to preaching. That is God's personal best will for him. But the man might miss it. This is the other side of "God's personal will" that wounds both the man, and the church, so very deeply.

"Individual will" (or personal will) twists our hearts into thinking we should be a pastor (or a missionary) when we probably shouldn't. For many, having been taught to go for God's best (which is either pastoring or missions) men spend years trying to make their ministry work only to leave the ministry discouraged and hurting sheep.

Unfortunately, the author's acceptance and defense of "individual will" on this critical matter of decision making can produce the opposite results of what he hopes for - men in the ministry for all the right reasons.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Ted Bigelow wrote:
This is the idea that God has a potential will just for you, His very best for you, which can be missed. It can be missed if you don't read His signs and indicators for you in life, including personal feelings and coincidences. It is incredibly subjective and actually pagan since it tries to "read and interpret" God's providence.

It's this mysterious aspect of perceiving God's will that I find scary, but is totally accepted in many Fundy churches. And it gives people an excuse for all sorts of tom-foolery, because all they have to do is play the "God led me to _____" card - and who can argue with that?

Quote:
For many, having been taught to go for God's best (which is either pastoring or missions) men spend years trying to make their ministry work only to leave the ministry discouraged and hurting sheep.

What is even stranger IMO is young women who believe they are 'called' to marry a pastor or missionary, or whose parents have forbidden them to marry a man who isn't 'called' into full time ministry because "God told them" that they are supposed to marry a pastor or missionary. Then church leadership just smiles and acts like that actually makes some kind of Biblical sense... and then they expect their congregation to take them seriously on other matters of faith and practice? I'm sittin' there thinking if they have that kind of perception, they should get an 800 number and an infomercial.

JohnBrian's picture

I refer to the personal will idea as "one school/one wife/one ministry for life," by which I mean that God's personal will is that you attend a select Christian college, where you will meet that single person whom He wants you to marry, and will find that ministry that you must do for the rest of your life.

There are so many problems with that idea, but maybe the biggest is that it demands of teenagers greater spiritual maturity than they can possibly have. If they make the wrong decision the rest of their lives they will be "out of the will of God."

I understand this perfectly because I was expelled from a Christian college at the end of my first semester, and was held in contempt by some for my it.

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

JohnBrian wrote:
I refer to the personal will idea as "one school/one wife/one ministry for life," by which I mean that God's personal will is that you attend a select Christian college, where you will meet that single person whom He wants you to marry, and will find that ministry that you must do for the rest of your life.

There are so many problems with that idea, but maybe the biggest is that it demands of teenagers greater spiritual maturity than they can possibly have. If they make the wrong decision the rest of their lives they will be "out of the will of God."


It makes sense to us that every decision has repercussions we can't imagine at the time. The Bible is replete with examples of people who made a wrong turn and never recovered- "What if Adam hadn't eaten the fruit", "What if Abraham hadn't taken Hagar to wife"... but those same examples show us that God is still in control, and that He isn't surprised or derailed by our folly, that His forgiveness and ability to restore is boundless.

I think the idea that if we make 'one wrong move' we are practically doomed for eternity makes us fearful, hesitant, and superstitious- none of which sound like the fruit of the Spirit or of a sound mind.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I appreciate the clarifications regarding Decision Making and the Will of God.. Friesen is often represented by both friend and foe as rejecting the concept of individual will of God. I'm not in a good place to judge (I don't remember and don't have a copy), but I have no reason to doubt how he's been represented in the last couple of posts that refer to him.

I do think there is delicate balance to strike. It seems like I remember a guy in the prayer group in college who thought it was important to seek God's will about what color socks he would put on in the morning. I believe God has a will about these things but it's pretty much in the same category as His will for the position of every atom in the universe. It's planned and decreed but not my concern.
So I think it's helpful to separate the existence of God's will about a matter from our responsibility or ability to identify it. Even ability does not necessarily = responsibility in every case.

You can only spend so much time reflecting and praying and weighing options... sooner or later you have to do something.

To take it back to pastoral call, I think there are few who would deny that we're kind of talking about a soup. That is, there are some ingredients that must be present to constitute "chicken soup," and there are several that are usually pretty important elements, but a wide variety of "chicken soups" are possible... and we usually know it when we taste it.

The approach Charlie mentioned has some appeal. What if people pursued pastoral ministry tentatively based on the evidence of their own interest, desire, gifts, etc., and did not consider themselves "called" until a local church calls them? I think of worse ways to do it. When the church calls, it is either authenticating the candidate's perception that he has God's call or--if you prefer to speak of "congregational authority"--is actually issuing the call (I lean toward Ted's view on that score).

Paul H... I appreciate your observations. It's not clear to me yet, though, that the desire Paul refers to in his words to Timothy is really anything all that special. Certainly it's not the desire of an unregenerate heart. Must it be more than the desire of someone born again? The text itself doesn't seem to require that understanding, but maybe it comes from the larger context of Scripture as a whole/other passages?

Fred Moritz's picture

Has anyone read Spurgeon's chapter on the call to the ministry in Lectures to My Students? He is quite clear and he is also biblical.

Matthew J's picture

My understanding of "Decision Making and the Will of God" is that the author (Friesen) suggests two "wills" of God, the sovereign will and moral will. He also calls points out that we cannot intuitively know the sovereign will of God until after the fact, but we can know the moral will and that is our responsibility. Along with what others have mentioned, I did not see him deny the personal will, but rather note that the individual/personal will is a subcategory (my word not his) of both the sovereign will and moral will. Therefore, God in his supreme knowledge knew who I was going to marry, but I still had to study God's revealed will (moral will) to make a wise choice of the spouse whom I would marry. I apply that (as my wife and I both did before we were married) to my life by examining my own character, desires, personality and my then future wife's character, desires and personality and made a wise choice. (sure takes the romance out don't it). We both believe that if we had not married each other, we would not have missed out on God's will for our lives, but are grateful that this was God's decreed will.

Applying to the call of ministry. I was unsure how to answer this question as a young man responding to an ordination council. I ended up answering that for a while, I had believed that with my gifts and abilities, the best way that I believe I personally could bring glory to God by fulfilling the great commission was by preaching the Bible. The Word of God reveals that God has chosen bishops/elders/pastor-teachers to preach the Word to the glory of God. And that fit my gifts. I really believed that for me to be obedient with what God had given me, I ought to pursue the office of Bishop. Along with that, I seek to be consistent in my philosophy. Therefore, If I believe that the best way for me to honor God and fulfill the great commission is to not be a pastor, or if I become a hindrance to the gospel or the church as pastor, I will gladly pursue another occupation.

All that said, I am still wrestling with the will of God issues and am sure I won't be completely settled any time soon.
those are my two pence worth.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Fred Moritz wrote:
Has anyone read Spurgeon's chapter on the call to the ministry in Lectures to My Students? He is quite clear and he is also biblical.

I thought it was good that he started with the fact that all Christians are responsible to proclaim the Gospel. And he makes some very good points about what qualifies as a 'calling'. However, I got stuck on the part where a man is not qualified for ministry if he doesn't have enough lung capacity, has a weird looking face or any kind of speech impediment. I think his point was that if God wants a man to be a preacher, He won't give him any sort of physical disability which might prohibit him from doing so effectively.

JohnBrian's picture

Aaron wrote:
The approach Charlie mentioned has some appeal. What if people pursued pastoral ministry tentatively based on the evidence of their own interest, desire, gifts, etc., and did not consider themselves "called" until a local church calls them? I think of worse ways to do it. When the church calls, it is either authenticating the candidate's perception that he has God's call or--if you prefer to speak of "congregational authority"--is actually issuing the call (I lean toward Ted's view on that score).
I very much like this approach!

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

JohnBrian's picture

Matthew wrote:
The Word of God reveals that God has chosen bishops/elders/pastor-teachers to preach the Word to the glory of God. And that fit my gifts.
I serve as a teaching elder at my church. My pastor (the leading elder) is fond of saying that God has given gifts to men, and given men to the church. I recognize that I have teaching gifts, but am concerned about my qualifications because of some personal issues.

My struggle is, at what point does the level of qualification override the level of giftedness. Is 49% qualification enough because of giftedness, or does it need to be at least 51%?

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

Stephen Schwenke's picture

I don't post on SI that frequently, but I do read some of the articles. I found this article and the ensuing discussion interesting, since I am an IFB pastor.
I struggled with this issue of "being called" for some time, somewhat along the lines of Susan's observations. The Hyper-IFB types have attached such an emotional response to nearly everything they do, that it was a typical knee-jerk reaction that pushed me away from the idea of needing any kind of subjective "call" to enter the "ministry." After all, are we not ALL "called" to be witnesses?
However, after several years of being in the Pastorate, and being in several different "camps" and styles of Independent Baptist Churches, I have come to the conclusion that God's call upon a man to be a pastor is absolutely vital (and that applies to ANY branch of the "ministry" - evangelism, missionary, pastorate, deacon.)
I appreciate Susan's comments about the emotionalism, and the built in "excuse" of, "Well, God told me so..." That is rather hokey, and has been used for who knows how much wickedness being blamed on God.
At the same time, I don't know of ONE example from Scripture of any prophet or preacher from Genesis to Revelation that did not have some type of "calling" directly from the Lord. In every instance, God called his men to proclaim his message. I have no reason to believe that the after consistently applying this in every situation (albeit the circumstances of the calling may have differed, the fact that God personally called every named prophet, disciple, apostle, and preacher in the Bible still stands), that somehow now God doesn't do that anymore. That makes absolutely no SCRIPTURAL sense at all, at least in my view.
Is it subjective? To some degree yes, but to no greater degree than the Holy Spirit teaching us through His word!

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

I know I was called to preach - I knew it the moment the Lord called me. I never forgot that moment, even when I was backslidden, and far from the Lord. I could describe in great detail what the circumstances were, and how the Lord spoke to me. (For all of you Fourthites - it was in the old Clearwaters Chapel at the old building on Broadway, in chapel session when I was in 4th or 5th grade. Three or four rows back on the right hand side behind the old grand piano...FWIW!)

I didn't go down to any altar call and have any emotional experience. In fact, I didn't tell anyone for years....I didn't want to preach because I didn't want to go to Bible college to learn Greek and Hebrew (the Lord has his jokes - I ended up going anyway, and taking Greek and Hebrew!) But, the experience was true, nonetheless.

I believe that the calling is not the enabling (I certainly was not equipped to enter the ministry in grade school!). I believe that God will equip a person for the particular field with the gifts that go along with it. How do I know this? By observing those who have boldly proclaimed that they were NOT called into the pastorate, yet were pastoring - and doing a horrible job of it.

Romans 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

How can one tell if they are called? Those who are called, know it beyond any shadow of a doubt. If they aren't sure, maybe God will make that sure. I knew what God had done for me way back yonder in that chapel session, but wasn't fully convinced of it until I had been working in the "ministry" for some time. Just work where God puts you, yield to his direction, and see what happens.

Here is another way to tell if anyone is called to preach:
Jeremiah 20:9 Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.

If anyone is called to preach, and is put into a position where they can NOT preach, they are of all men most miserable. They cannot help but preach and teach. It is what drives them. If they can't preach or teach, their entire life just doesn't seem to work right.
I know what my gifts and calling is NOW, but I can't say I knew it for sure 10 years ago. I knew what I wanted to do 10 years ago, and the Lord led me through some rough valleys and trials to put me where I am today. The result? I KNOW beyond any shadow of a doubt that I am in the right place doing what God wants me to do. And I can't explain WHY other than to say that I have done my best to submit to His control, follow the word of God as best I can, be obedient to His WRITTEN will to the best of my ability, and then let Him open and close doors of ministry as He sees fit.

There are undoubtedly some who are thinking, "That is WAY too subjective! I want empirical evidence and a list of things that I can SEE to make that determination!"
My answer is this:
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
2 Corinthians 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
and
Romans 1:17 ... as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

We cannot walk by sight - we must trust the Lord for His guidance. Is it scary? Yes. Is it subjective? To some degree yes. As long as we are walking within the boundaries of Scripture, we are sure to "suceed" in our overall objective to please the Lord. Once we step outside the boundaries placed on our decision making process, and go against clear Scriptural statements or principles....well that isn't faith anymore, that is the old carnal, fleshly nature rebelling against God!

Well, that is my 2 cents - I hope is was helpful in the discussion.

Pastor Steve Schwenke
Liberty Baptist Church
Amarillo, TX

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I agree, Bro. Schwenke, that there is a calling of God for ministry with elements that can't be defined, dissected and examined under a microscope. Living by faith can be a bit murky- we use phrases like "I have peace about _____", or "I feel led to _____". And most of us who speak Christianese know what is meant by these phrases. It's when the use of the word 'calling' gets stretched so completely out of whack that we are guilty of seriously disrespecting God's Word. It's a bad example, and it breeds all kinds of wickedness in a church body. As a lay person, I have a major stake in who stands behind and what happens in the pulpit. I'm also married to someone who is called to preach, but whose calling is just reaching, after 20+ years of getting grounded, working through character issues and being mentored, the place where he could qualify to be in leadership.

What is important to emphasize, IMO, is that God's leading or calling is going to be consistent with His revealed Word. There is such thing as a call for the ministry-but that call is confined to specific functions and a specific purpose. Eph 4:11-12 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

It is also defined by qualifications-

blameless
the husband of one wife
vigilant
sober
of good behaviour
given to hospitality
apt to teach
not given to wine
no striker
not greedy of filthy lucre
patient
not a brawler
not covetous
ruleth well his own house
has his children in subjection with all gravity
not a novice
has a good report of them which are without...

When someone doesn't meet these and other criteria clearly outlined in Scripture, then they may or may not have a calling- but they sure as shootin' aren't to be behind any pulpit until they do meet these qualifications to a reasonable degree (iow, everybody has a bad day on occasion).

So when a man doesn't meet these criteria, other mature and Godly men should mentor him until he does. Unfortunately, what I see happen in IFBdom is that ministers tend to circle the wagons around those that are 'called', referring to them as "God's anointed" and rendering them 'untouchable'. Like the spotted owl and meadow jumping mouse, they are protected as if they are an endangered species.

2Ti 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

I'd give my big toes to just once see a pastor not allow or remove a visiting speaker from the pulpit for not preaching sound doctrine. Why on earth do pastors allow men to stand in their pulpits who are obviously gluttons, who have potty mouths, and who can 'preach' for 45 minutes without opening their Bibles? I mean, the congregation isn't fooled for a minute- the folks in the pew know there's something wrong with a guy who weighs 400 lbs, mocking the fact that he's fatter than houses, ranting about Hollywood whores and the Hellivision, reads some verse out of Ezekiel that doesn't have anything to do with anything, tells a bunch of crazy stories and uses phrases guaranteed to get an "Amen", whose family is a train wreck- and yet his ilk will be in pulpits all over America because he's 'called' to the ministry, and we are afraid to just come out and say "The Emperor has no clothes!"

Bottom line- any call of God isn't going to violate other Scriptural principles. And as someone who sits in the pew in submission to pastoral authority, I'd really appreciate if more pastors protect their sheep instead of their cronies, and would tell these men that they're not welcome in their pulpits until AFTER they get their act together. And while I'm on a roll- please stop putting novices in charge and using the children of the church as guinea pigs. And I'd like a toasted blueberry bagel with cream cheese, please. Thanks. Smile

JohnBrian's picture

...got awful close to preaching, and I was just about to get my money out for the bagel w/ cream cheese offering when I remembered that we don't allow no women preachers on SI. Amen!

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

Matthew J's picture

Quote:
Matthew wrote:

The Word of God reveals that God has chosen bishops/elders/pastor-teachers to preach the Word to the glory of God. And that fit my gifts.

I serve as a teaching elder at my church. My pastor (the leading elder) is fond of saying that God has given gifts to men, and given men to the church. I recognize that I have teaching gifts, but am concerned about my qualifications because of some personal issues.

My struggle is, at what point does the level of qualification override the level of giftedness. Is 49% qualification enough because of giftedness, or does it need to be at least 51%?

That is a very interesting question John Brian. I believe the intention God has for elders is 100% giftedness and 100% character. Now, I am not saying perfection because I think we need to rethink the whole concept of what qualifies and disqualifies a man for the pastorate. If we could define the qualities as Susan listed them in the previous post, I think we would notice that blameless is the header that all the qualities fit under. IOW, the bishop is to blameless in his marriage, blameless in his family, blameless in his finances (not greedy), blameless in his demeanor (not a striker, not a brawler, patient), blameless in his self-control (not given to wine), etc. Then in Titus, we see that a part of the qualifications is his giftedness and use of it. According to Titus 1:9, he must hold fast the faithful Word (ability to expound the Word accurately), as he hath been taught (he has to have been trained), by sound doctrine (know and teach healthy doctrine) to exhort (preach well) and convict those who contradict (be able to hold his own in a doctrinal dispute). So I believe that the "giftedness" is not chiefly supernatural, but rather something God naturally develops in a man. When I speak of giftedness, I don't mean a fantastic orator, or a "people person" otherwise much of the prophets and apostles would not be qualified. But rather someone who has the gifting of leadership (they search the Scriptures and make Biblically accurate decisions, they provide an example), someone who has the gifting of being able to explain the truths of Scripture in a way that people can understand and obey them (gift of teaching), they have a hunger after knowledge (this is evidenced by the Bishop's "desire" in I Timothy). I think we do a diservice to truly seeking qualified men for the pastorate when we boil it down to what some list we can check off, both with giftedness and character. (not that I am accusing anyone here of this).

Well, I am anything but an expert in this being young myself. But I do continually study Timothy and Titus (I try at least once a month to go through them with more than just reading) because I believe these are two books written especially for me.

Grace

Pages

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.