This morning I began reading Brian Borgman’s “My Heart for Thy Cause” which is a study of Albert N. Martin’s theology of preaching. I have no real idea who Albert N. Martin is, but you can find his bio on the Banner of Truth website.
This morning I read the opening chapter, “The call”, which lists seven false reasons for assuming a call to the pastoral office. It makes for uncomfortable but helpful reading. I believe that all seven false reasons probably exist in the heart of every preacher/pastor and, therefore, that problems occur when one of these false reasons comes to dominate over the real reason for pastoral ministry, which is to make Christ known and to present everyone perfect in Christ (Colossians 1:28). Here are shortened versions of the seven false reasons:
1. The pressure of a wrongly instructed conscience.
Some preachers motivate their hearers into pastoral ministry through guilt. “Are you too selfish or fearful of stepping into ministry?” Guilt is a poor reason to believe you are called.
2. The pressure of unwise ad someone unsanctified ambition in others.
The pushy parent or the persuasive pastor who wants his ministry to be seen as fruitful by measuring how many young people step up to full time ministry. The ambition of others is a poor reason to believe you are called.
3. An unbalanced and unbiblical concept of spirituality.
Some people confuse gifting and office with the grace of God, the fruit of the spirit and personal godliness. All believers are equal before God on account of Christ and are called to holiness, but not all are gifted for preaching and pastoral ministry. It is a poor reason to think that only truly spiritual Christians work full time in pastoral ministry and so believe you are called.
4. An inaccurate assessment of oneself and one’s gifts.
A proud or ignorant lack of self awareness is usually accompanied by an unwillingness to listen to wise counsel. Like the man who sees himself in a hall of mirrors, a distorted view of self, uninformed by others, is a poor reason to believe you are called.
5. An unmet psychological need for personal identity.
The sadness of a man who seeks self-identity in ministerial office cannot be overstated. Identity must be derived from the doctrines of creation, redemption and adoption (among others) and not from office or standing in the church. An unmet sense of identity is a poor reason to believe you are called.
6. An inaccurate and inadequate view of the breadth of the biblical qualifications for and the responsibilities of the pastoral office.
An outgoing, loquacious extrovert is either told by those around him that he would make a good pastor or the pulpit holds an attraction for him as an outlet for his fertile mind and mouth. He may be a people person and quite a talker, but lacks any understanding of the qualifications and responsibilities attached to the pulpit. A mismatch between your proficiency in language and a biblical understanding of the breadth of gifts required of the pastor is a poor reason to believe you are called.
7. An unmortified lust for authority, attention, influence and monetary gain.
This is the most blatant and unbiblical reason for desiring the pastoral office. The exercise of power, self glory and money are appalling reasons to believe you are called.
I said at the start of this post that all seven are probably present in the heart of most pastors at some point before the beginning of training for ministry and whilst in post. I find two of the above particularly exposing the false reasons which rise up in my mind. Being aware of these false reasons helps me to keep them in check. “Am I really living for the glory of Christ and the good of others, or has some other reason taken primary place in my mind?” They are also useful to help shape questions for anyone who claims to have been called to pastoral office. The chapter ends with these sobering words: “It would greatly benefit the body of Christ if churches were more conversant with these errors and false reasons.