It seems like every new believer—particularly the younger men—have a moment in those first couple of years of their faith where they ask, “Am I called to be a pastor?” I had that question rattling around in my head for several years. It was one that Emily and I spent a great deal of time alternately avoiding and praying about. And avoiding again. And praying about again. And so on.
Certainly I have some gifts that lend themselves to such a role. I can teach and preach. I’m not a schmuck, nor is my reputation characterized by a bad case of being a knucklehead. I’m consistently trying to work on my character, by God’s grace… but that doesn’t mean I’m supposed to be a pastor.1 And that’s okay.
You probably aren’t called to be one, either. And that’s okay, too.
But you know who is?2 Your pastor, and mine. And that’s a good thing because when I see mine in their roles, it just makes sense.
What I appreciate about my pastors
They’re men who are able to teach, yes. They are able to preach, certainly. Along with the team they’ve built, they’re doing all the day-to-day stuff we probably don’t think of as spiritual. They’re not perfect, sure. They don’t do things like I would in my hypothetical world. We’ve got actual things we disagree on in the real one, too. But they’re also people who are more concerned with faithfulness and character than most believers I know. They get that one’s abilities do not make them qualified for ministry: good character makes or breaks us.
They get that a pastor is to be someone worthy of respect, of emulation. They get that humility is not optional, but essential. Someone can draw a crowd, preach with passion, lead people to Christ and do a thousand other things but if they’re proud and belligerent, then the last place they belong is in pastoral ministry.
And that’s something I really appreciate about them—even as I wonder how often we really consider our character when asking the calling question.
Why “no” is a good thing
For a new believer, the answer to the calling question is always no—at least in the short term. Paul was very clear that an elder or pastor should not be a new convert (1 Timothy 3:6). For every Charles Spurgeon (who entered into ministry almost immediately upon his conversion), there’s a… well, there’s a lot of guys.
So consider your character for a moment. No one expects (or at least they shouldn’t) that you’ll to be perfect, but are you progressively growing in humility, in love, in joy and peace and patience and all the fruit of the Spirit? Are you able to teach, but are you also well thought of by unbelievers? Are you, to use Paul’s language, beyond reproach—or at least on the way there?
Remember, too, the answer isn’t necessarily no forever. Perhaps our character and our gifts will line up as we mature. Maybe someone you trust will openly tell you what you they see in you, both strengths and weaknesses. If they do, don’t be put out; thank God for them, and see the truth they’ve shared as an opportunity to grow. Concern yourself more with your character, and your calling may take care of itself.
And if you never find yourself in the role of a pastor? Thank God for the one he gives you.