Saturday, 20 February 2010

A pastor - the last thing to be?

Have you ever heard this kind of advice? "If you are wondering if you should be a pastor... then consider if there is anything else you desire to be. Only be a pastor if you find you cannot avoid it - that you are compelled to it."

I think that is profoundly unbiblical advice. It's a romantic kind of idea - the idea that the Holy Spirit always gives the same kind of experience to everyone who he intends to be in pastoral ministry: that he chases you down, that you resist, and that he gets you in the end. That might be the experience of some and make for good reading, but making it a rule for all I think has no Scriptural precedent and its effect will be to prevent people from entering ministry who ought to.

The Biblical rule I believe is that God gives you a gift and then you are responsible to use it, whatever it is (e.g. Romans 12:4-8). If you are gifted for pastoral ministry, then you should exercise that gift - and if you find out that you are gifted to the extent that you ought to be devoted to it full-time, then you devote yourself to it full-time.

Your emotional and other internal experiences along the way may involve all kinds of thing. You may be reluctant, or you may be eager (e.g. 1 Timothy 3:1). The struggle might be long, or almost non-existent. The question "did you make sure you tried to resist to see if you were compelled to it?" is not a Scriptural one. The Scriptural one is, "If Jesus has given you a 'talent', are you making sure you're employing it so that you can give an account for it later?"

7 comments:

Stephen said...

I am sure I have heard the advice you quote more than once, and I am sure it is attributed to Spurgeon! (Lots of things are.)

I agree with you though.

David Anderson said...

I guess it would need some context to find out what was meant as these things can take on a life of their own!

Mike said...

Although I don't have time to track it down I'm pretty sure that this was the Doctor (not Who but Martyn Lloyd-Jones). The thrust of the comment was unless you are utterly committed to the task you won't make the tape. And, then, only by grace, of course

David Anderson said...

Thanks Mike... I think there is something in "Preaching and Preachers" somewhere along these lines, but I didn't want to mention it because the details of these things make the difference.

It's true we need to be utterly committed and "count the cost" before entering the ministry. But I think if Christ gave you the gift, he has also given you the responsibility to mortify whatever it is that is stopping you from being utterly committed. Undercommitment that prevents us using our gift is a sin!

Ned Kelly said...

I do recall being drawn to the De La Salle Brotherhood as a young lad, and briefly flirted with the idea of the priesthood, but it didn’t last long and I haven’t been attracted to that type of ministry since. The subject of mission has occupied my thoughts considerably over the past few years as I have sought to understand just what God’s plan for me is, and whether I have been listening to the Holy Spirit in that regard. Reading Scripture and other theological works throws up a paradox: the parable of the talents shows that we must use what God has given us to best effect, yet Jesus’ choice of the twelve apostles, hardly people who would have volunteered based on their abilities and experience, shows us that we ought not think that there is a perfect match between our talents and God’s mission for us. Notwithstanding Romans 12:4-8, our perception of our talents is not necessarily what God has in mind for us. The lesson here I believe is that God does His work, not us, we are but His instruments, and if we are to speak on His behalf, He will give us the words just as the Bible says (I know it is in there but unsure where). Thus on the subject of one’s career, doubts are more probable than not, the road will be rocky with times of joy and certainty, and doubt and uncertainty, just witness the twelve apostles and the disciples that followed. The closer we get to serving God, the more attention we will get from Satan and his cohorts, I don’t think Satan cares much about those who have no interest in furthering the cause of God, but I see no justification in thinking that there is a direct relationship between the degree of doubt one suffers and the correctness of one’s choice of ministry. I see nothing in Scripture that says we must resist. If there is any clear message in Scripture it is FAITH: the process, if there is such a thing, is to pray and in speaking with God, humbly acknowledge where you feel you are being led and seek guidance, counsel, and comfort that your decision is correct, and most importantly, have faith that your prayers are being answered. Faith in this context is TRUST, trust that what Jesus told you is true, that if you pray He will answer. Again in this context, doubt is sin, why would anybody invite that in? I struggled for years seeking what I termed “spiritual hearing”, the ability to hear the still, quiet voice of the Holy Spirit. It was not until I had completely let go of my own interests and doubts, and trusted through faith that God does indeed answer and direct us, that I actually began to hear Him. The gift of spiritual hearing that I had long sought was withheld from me, until I had the faith to accept it. Now, I contentedly pursue what I am certain is my mission; I have doubts to be sure, and not everything goes smoothly, but I trust that God is directing me as I have prayed, and I now leave all problems at the foot of the Cross for Him to deal with. I sense that with some clergy of note in the past, there was a degree of pride that their mission as ministers was more important than that of a lay person sweeping streets, cheerfully witnessing a Christian life. We have no reason to think that way. None can comprehend God’s plan, none can know just how our lives are meant to interact and impact others, there is no reason to assume that being a pastor is more important in God’s plan than sitting unnoticed in the back pew. To my way of thinking, the suggestion that pastors ought resist their calling in direct proportion to their doubts smacks of pride: did Peter, Paul or any of the others “resist until they were compelled”? Jesus never compelled anyone to do anything: He simply said “Come”. We should do the same.

Anonymous said...

This is all very well - and in general I do agree with you - but how many people find that God has given them only one talent? I suspect that most folk find they have more than one. This makes things much more difficult. Which talent (if any) do you major on? How do you decide? How do you fit them all into the time available, which is always only 24 hours at most per day? I think we need rather more guidance from the Lord than your blog suggests...

David Anderson said...

Hi anonymous - no need to be anonymous. We only hunt down and kill random commenters on Fridays, and you posted on Monday.

I don't see any issues in what you've said that raises a need for special revelation. The Bible gives us principles of wisdom, and advice on evaluating competing claims of different opportunities, so regularly that we'd only need special revelation if we refuse to read it...