I’ve heard time and time again about the special call to be a pastor. Different denominations or churches have their checklists to determine if someone has that special calling. Almost all agree that someone needs to feel the call such that one cannot help but to preach the gospel.
To be honest, it bothers me. The reason is because I don’t see that pattern in the Bible as something normative where something else is taught in scripture as normative. That, and I’ve seen too many pastors who I’m sure met the items on the checklist and felt that great call to be a pastor who had no business in a pulpit.
Disclaimer: this isn’t intended as an in-depth look at all the passages in the Bible related to this, but more of a summary of a few items I’ve noticed with a reference to the teaching of the Bible in general. I can do specifics, but I’ll spend all my time typing up every little thing and lose the few people who read this in the first few chapters.
First of all, when the Bible talks about a “calling”, it always refers to salvation. So any calling applies to all Christians. The calling to be a pastor is no more special or pertinent than it is to all Christians to fulfill their purpose in the Kingdom of God. The pattern of the Roman Catholic Church was that priests and other clergy were held in high regard as ministers as opposed to the masses of Christians who were not called into ministry. To a large degree, this mindset has carried into the Protestant churches despite the principles of the Reformation to the contrary.
As much as men fit for being pastors are encouraged to follow that calling, all Christians must be taught that each of us have a ministry that requires no less of a commitment to fulfill. Seminaries have typically been set up as Pastor-making schools, but there needs to be ministerial education for all Christians.
Second of all, Paul talks about his great desire to preach the gospel. I may be wrong, but I think many people look at this as normative for pastors (but not for anyone else). Paul nowhere indicates that this is normative for anyone in ministry other than himself. He nowhere mentions Timothy’s great desire to preach the gospel. He simply charged Timothy in his role as a pastor.
Jesus’ call of Peter was not according to his strongly feeling called. If Peter felt anything, it was an inclination to deny him when death was on the line. Jesus’ commission of Peter had more to do with Peter’s submission to the truth of the gospel than a special feeling.
For myself, I’ve never felt called to be a pastor. I am the pastor of my family and it’s my responsibility to see to their spiritual development. I take that mantle with more commitment than the professional pastor of a church. Churches have people leave and join all the time. How many pastors go looking for the people on the rolls who never attend? By I desperately don’t want my wife and children to consider themselves members of some other family. They happen to be my family and my charge.
But as for the pastor of a church, I’ve never considered my gifts to be strong in all the areas where today’s pastors are expected to excel. If God made it clear that I was the man who needed to assume the role of the pastor of a church, I expect he would give me all the tools I need to accomplish what he had for me to do there.
But that’s the point I’m getting at here. God gives pastors. It’s not on account of some emotional investment, but on a steadfast commitment to fulfill the role that God entrusts to us. And it’s the same for everyone – not just pastors.