Pastoral Qualifications

Is Pastoral “Desire” a Qualification for Ministry?

Reposted, with permission, from DBTS Blog.

The question of a pastoral “call to ministry,” reminiscent of God’s call of biblical prophets and apostles, has long been a issue with which ordination councils have been concerned. Many operate on the assumption that no one aspiring to the ministry may proceed without such a “call.”

I concede, of course, that God’s Spirit is active in distributing gifts in his church “according to his own will” (Heb 2:4) and “as he determines” (1 Cor 12:11, cf. v. 18). It is for this reason that the Scriptures may state plainly that God has appointed the church’s teachers (1 Cor 12:28) and has sent its laborers into the harvest (Luke 10:2). Indeed, we have reason to believe that God’s providential preparation of his ministerial appointees is extensive and complex (see, in principle, Gal 1:5 and Jer 1:5). Please do not hear me saying anything less than this.

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Beware Objective Standards Where Only Subjective Ones Are Provided

Paul’s instructions to Timothy regarding the qualifications for leadership in the church (specifically for elders in 3:1-7) are vitally important. They are also not as simple as we might sometimes prefer. We generally prefer things to be neat and clean—objective and quantifiable. So it is not unusual to see the standards of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 received as a checklist which can be mindlessly applied as if black and white, requiring no judgment or wisdom.

However, Paul’s words are not intended to be received or applied in that manner. Instead, of the sixteen specific qualifications mentioned by Paul, all of them are decidedly subjective rather than objective. There is certainly one assumed qualification, that the elder be a he (tis, “anyone” in the masculine). That is the only objective characteristic described in the entire passage.

But as for the sixteen qualifications Paul lists, they are not so simple as is the gender issue.

Sixteen Qualifications

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