So You Want To Be A Pastor, eh?

Suppose a young man comes to you and tells you that he feels called to be a pastor. I feel that one of the weaknesses of fundamentalism has been our tendency to look to our youth for leadership instead of developing more mature believers for the pastorate. So here is the advice I would give my son if he came to me before graduating high school and told me that he felt called to be a pastor. There are 5 areas that I believe must be thoroughly developed in a man before he should pastor.

1. Learn doctrine (Titus 1.9)

2. Learn the church (ministry and what must be administered) and see your doctrine fleshed out in life and ministry. It has been said, “Wisdom is truth applied to life”. Learning the church is “Doctrine applied to ministry”.

3. Build a time tested testimony (1 Tim. 3.1-7)

4. Solidify your ministry philosophy to help you administer (this is a fleshing out of #2).

5. Learn tools to help you feed

To see these 5 areas developed properly, I would give the following advice to my son. Go to a good bible college and solidify your doctrine (#1 above) by getting a two year bible degree. After that, get a degree in a secular field where you can earn a living. Find a job related to your degree and find a good fundamental church where you can attend and minister. While you work your secular job and build a testimony amongst the unsaved (#3) you should serve in your local church in whatever ways that you can: children’s worker, youth worker, deacon, finance committee, usher, etc. (#2). Once you are well on your way with a family and have served several years in your church, then hopefully you will have developed a time tested testimony that qualifies you to be a pastor (probably around age 27-33). If you still desire to be a pastor, then go to a good seminary and solidify your ministry philosophy (#4) and learn the tools (#5) to best present God’s word (Greek, Hebrew, Homiletics, Hermeneutics, Sermon prep, etc.).

Concerning the ‘time tested testimony’ that I mentioned previously. As I look at 1 Timothy 3.1-7 (in the ESV), I cannot get away from the fact that these qualifications simply take time to evaluate. How can we be assured that a man is faithful to his wife if he has only been married for a couple of years? How can we tell that he has lived sensibly (sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable) and can communicate that to others (able to teach) if he has only just graduated from bible college? How do we know that he is not excessive in his personality (not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money) when he has not dealt with job responsibilities, ministry responsibilities, finances, and a family for more than a couple of years? How do we know he can manage his home and children when he has no home of his own and his children are small (or yet to be born)? The management of the home is the true testing ground for the man called of God (1Tim.3.5). Time allows for learning doctrine and ministry service that humbles a man and makes him realize that it is God’s work and God’s church, not his ability that will make a church successful (1Tim.3.6). How can a man know how to plant a church when he has never really served in one for any extended period of time? And finally, how can a man have a good testimony among the unsaved (well thought of by outsiders) when he has went from youth group to bible college to a ministry position and never worked among them? A man who is to be a pastor had better know how to work among the unsaved and keep a good testimony for Christ and with the unsaved he works with: his church people are going to be expected to do it every week. This does not mean that everyone he works with will be evangelized, but it does mean that even those who reject the message still respect the man.

There are exceptions to the above: Spurgeon pastoring at age 17 comes to mind. Timothy himself was probably a teenager when he began traveling with Paul. But keep two things in mind: Timothy traveled with Paul for many years before taking a pastorate, and Timothy was probably around 35 years old when Paul wrote “let no man despise your youth”. But we must also remember that Paul wrote to Timothy when he gave these ‘time tested qualifications’ for elders. Let the exceptions be the exceptions, but the norm is going to be more what I have expressed above.

I know that each situation is different and men desire the pastorate at different times of their lives, but the same 5 areas need to be developed regardless of what a man’s station of life may be. Let us make sure that we are putting qualified men into the ministry. It is the biblical thing to do.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Fundamentalism, Ministry, The Pastorate

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