For about as long as I have been serving in ministry in some capacity, I have consistently been asked the following question: “Are you thinking of becoming a pastor?”
At first, I simply interpreted this question as a compliment, people see me seeking the Lord and so are inquiring as to whether I would more formally pursue theological study. As time went on though, and I continued to hear the same question, I began to wonder if perhaps people simply associate spiritual growth with the eventual pursuit of pastoral ministry. In other words, I began to worry that people seem to think anyone who is spiritually mature should become a pastor.
This suspicion was reinforced when my pastor told me about a conversation he had with an individual who was pursuing pastoral ordination at a sister church in our denomination. The person had been in the process for a few years, and my pastor asked him how he knew God was calling him to be a pastor. The person looked at him a little puzzled and responded, “I thought everyone who is growing in their faith should become a pastor?”
In the midst of a consumer driven culture, it should come as no surprise that people have this impression. Church services have become a very passive experience for the attendee, with many of the participants simply coming there to receive something (a word, enjoy the music, child care, etc.) instead of coming to church with the goal of contributing to the gathering and the edification of the Body of Christ in some way. If most people come to church to be a passive participant, it stands to reason that they would assume those who are “more spiritual” are the pastors and elders of the church.
Is this the model for the Body of Christ that we find in the scriptures?
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we see at church gatherings the body of Christ coming together expecting that everyone would contribute in some way:
“What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NASB)
The Body of Christ is not supposed to be a top down system where all those who are “most spiritual” do all of the ministry and work of the church. The Body of Christ is supposed to be a community of followers of Jesus who are seeking God whatever their state of spiritual maturity, with each contributing to the edification of the church in some capacity.
As followers of Jesus, we are all called to ministry, though the calling will not look exactly the same for each of us. Actually, the calling of God on the people of God will potentially look just as diverse as the Body of Christ. Pastoral ministry is one possible calling of many, and we must be careful to not simply assume that Pastoral calling alone is the outcome of spiritual maturity, if we do this we risk neglecting the significance of God’s calling in other areas.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul exhorts the followers of Christ to first glorify God in their vocation:
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” Ephesians 4:1 (NASB)
He then goes on to explain that each of us do not just have a calling to glorify God outside the church, but we are each called to ministry within the Body of Christ for its edification.
“And he(Christ) 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:” Ephesians 4:11-12 (NASB)
Within the body of Christ, some will be gifted as teachers of the Word of God, others will be gifted as evangelists to share Christ with people who don’t know him, others will be gifted as prophets to speak God’s vision and word to both individuals and the church as a whole, and still others will be gifted as Pastors for the shepherding of the church. As a follower of Jesus grows in their faith, the Holy Spirit will begin to work through them to edify the church and therein confirm the giftings and calling that is on that person.
If we see Pastoral ministry as the precipice of spiritual maturity, we are missing out on the diversity of giftings that God’s Holy Spirit is wanting to manifest in the Body of Christ.
As I write this, it does not escape me that a shift in how our church services are conducted will be needed so as to encourage all believers in Christ to participate and edify the church. With that said, I would simply like to encourage you as an individual that if you are a follower of Jesus, you are called to ministry.
Are you currently ministering to the body of Christ in some capacity? If not, I would encourage you to pray and ask God to show you how He wants you to serve the Body of Christ. It will look different for each one of us, but I guarantee you that God has a role for you to play in strengthening and growing the Body of Christ.
If you are reading this and happen to be struggling with whether or not you may be specifically called to pastoral ministry, I want to encourage you to focus on seeking the Lord and serving Him faithfully in the Body of Christ. As you seek God and He uses you to edify the church, it is in the process that He will confirm your calling.