7 false reasons to believe you are called to a pastoral office.

My heart for thy causeThis 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.

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2 Responses to 7 false reasons to believe you are called to a pastoral office.

  1. Dave says:

    Thank you Neil. I am tending to the view that if we are to talk about a calling then it is a calling on the whole local church to set a person apart for a specific role rather than an individual calling. Indeed I know of at least one retired pastor is even reluctant to use the words “calling” and “call” because of the way he sees it used about a sort of romanticised experience.

  2. Kevin Greally says:

    I think these point should lead us all to questions our motives for any Christian service, not just pulpit ministry. Being in any service that we are not called to can be damaging to both ourselves and to those we are seemingly serving. I think having these questions in mind are a healthy check-list to check our motives and ask ourselves are we doing what we do for the glory of God and the souls of Men(women and children included). In my experience of church I have seen many people moved into various ministry positions due to human talent, intellectual prowess or charisma,.It didn’t seem to matter what their life was like as long as they fit the job specification and could bring increase, be it financial or Congregational growth. In my opinion this has been one of the main ingredients that has led to a powerless church and very little church growth through new conversions and real Christian discipleship. Through studying the bible it seems to me that mostly when God was looking for someone to fulfil his purpose he chose those with barren wombs, speech impediments, the untempered, weak foolish, despised things of this world to do so. He wasn’t looking for people with 6 diplomas on their walls or those with a great voice, nice smile and sharp suits. He chose those with willing hearts and those who would not touch His Glory. If Our God is the same yesterday today and forever why should He do it any different today?
    Prior to the disciples being chosen Jesus prayed all night, when a replacement for Judas was to be chosen again prayer was the central activity taking place. maybe if Christian leaders spent more time in prayer rather than looking for people to fit the bill, then God would speak and show exactly who should be doing what within the Body of Christ. There would be far less room for error if prayer once again became the main focus of the Church.

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