About two years after I became a Christian, I sensed the tug on my heart to be in pastoral ministry. Early on as a new Christian, I desired to not only preach God’s Word, but to counsel God’s people. For me, however, the latter has always been tough for me, since I’m naturally an introvert. It’s not that I don’t have a desire to counsel His people and get in the middle of people’s lives, it’s that I’ve always struggled with getting to know people. I don’t use being an introvert as an excuse, though. There have been times that has caused me to not do something I should’ve done.
Ever since I felt the call to be a pastor, I wanted to jump at the first chance I got. In the first church my wife and I were a part of, they did a school of ministry program, which I enrolled in. I was thrilled to know that at the culmination of it, I would get hired somewhere as a pastor.
Of course, God had other plans and things change. We eventually moved churches because of theological differences. I thank God that I did not remain in that program and become a pastor at young age. I would’ve been a complete disaster.
I planned on attending seminary online once I graduated college (which I did). I knew that once I graduated, I wanted to look for a ministry job somewhere. And I did.
However, time and time again God showed me, in different ways, that ministry was not happening soon. I withdrew applications I sent in and prayed for God to steady my heart, because I was discouraged. I felt like I was ready.
I had the desire for ministry–to preach, teach, shepherd–but simply wasn’t ready. My mind thought it was ready, but God knew my heart. He knew there are things in my life that need to be different before ministry can be a reality.
Around a year ago or so, I had a meeting with my pastors about where I stood in relation to pastoral ministry. In short, I came away from the conversion extremely discouraged, even angry.
Why wasn’t it my time yet? How long do I have to wait? How am I not ready? Shouldn’t I just dive in to see what it’s like?
These were questions I asked myself as I even contemplated the reality that God may not have called me into ministry. Ever so often, I still have those thoughts. There are times I think God hasn’t actually called me into ministry, then there are times I tell myself to just be patient.
Here’s what I do know: I know I have the intense desire to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). I know I desire to look out for God’s people, and to do the work of a pastor.
As frustrating as it may be, I am grateful for pastors who look out for my character. We live in an age where if somebody feels the slightest inclination to be in ministry, they jump in, not thinking about the damage that may happen because they aren’t ready, so it’s nice to be under pastors who care about being fit for the office. They look out for how I’m progressing. I don’t believe I’m qualified to be a pastor — yet. I have other things in life to take care of and improve upon. But I do believe it’ll happen someday. When? I have no idea. But here’s what I do know:
I don’t have to dive headfirst into ministry.
God may call me to be a pastor when I’m 40. He may never call me. I don’t know. And I’m OK with that. I’m not a naturally patient person, so I do believe God is giving me chances to be patient in this process and is pruning different areas of my heart at the same time. He has given me the time and ability to write a book, of which I am getting closer to being done. (I just submitted the manuscript to an editor.)
Christian, if you’re thinking God has called you into ministry, don’t jump at the first opportunity. Don’t be hasty. This is serious. Understand that it’s not a regular job, but a divine calling.
“A church does not hire a pastor,” Ray Ortlund, Pastor of Pastors at Immanuel Nashville Church, said. “A church calls a pastor” (link). This is absolutely true. Of course, we know God is ultimately the one who calls a pastor, but does it through the church. You’re not a hireling: you are there because God ordained you to be there.
If you jump in too quickly, you might be thrown around like a rag doll and kicked out with no second thoughts. That could be because of theological differences or just some angry members. Or something else. The point is, you have to be aware that it’s not all peaches and roses.
Or maybe you’re simply not ready. Like me.
We don’t want to be in pastoral ministry if we’re not ready, do we? It might be a desire but we want to be objective. Our feelings always aren’t reality. Actually, many times they aren’t.
We want to shepherd God’s people biblically and with all we have. This is a good and noble thing to desire. But we also know from James 3:1 that all who teach will be judged stricter than others. Do you want that burden?
Regardless of the burden, if God has called you to pastoral ministry, He will place you somewhere in His own timing–not yours.
It will be His plan, not yours.
Don’t force yourself into ministry. Definitely if you’re married, you have to consider not just your interest but your wife’s interests. If everything makes sense, and your wife is on board–by all means, give it a go! Make sure you are prepared; ensure you are qualified.
However, I will also say don’t not jump in because you are not sure if you’re qualified. I’m thankful to have pastors over me that will tell me what they think and if it’s a good choice or not. But you may be so fixated on being perfect in every way that you forget nobody is perfect–even pastors.
Bottom line is, go into ministry when you are sure that God is indeed behind it. We are so quick to jump when, many times, God is saying “No.”