For over a century, the predominant default answer to this question has been seminaries and Bible colleges. These organizations have been likely candidates because some of the most brilliant scholars in theology, church history, hermeneutics, and the original biblical languages can be found at many of the most well-known seminaries and Bible colleges in the world. As important a role as theological education can play in the preparation of the called of God, God has not ultimately commissioned these institutions to fulfill this responsibility.
Mission organizations have often been the bearers of this burden also. Many of the pioneering missionary efforts in the last 200 years began because few churches and denominations would support sending missionaries to very dangerous places. As a result of this lack of support, the missionary zeal of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries caused several missionary sending organizations to emerge which God has greatly used to take the gospel to the nations. Because of these missionary forces, it can be difficult to imagine that God has created a different design for the sending of missionaries into the lost world—but the Bible reveals a different structure.
Parachurch and denominational ministries, though less likely candidates for this task, nevertheless have been entrusted by some for their training and affirmation for gospel ministry. Though there continues to be professing Christians and those feeling an internal call into the ministry who see these kinds of ministries as their outlet for training and affirmation, it does not change the reality that God has appointed a different strategy for the testing, training, affirming and sending of those he calls.
Individual Christians who know the person well can also wrongfully assume this role. These are Christians who are spread all over the map who have been a significant influence to the individual throughout his life. Surely, of all the potentially responsible parties, these people are more equipped to assess the call, character, and qualifications of the individual. As helpful as these credible witnesses are to guide this brother in pursuing the call of God, God has prescribed a different solution.
Unquestionably, God has mightily used seminaries, mission organizations, parachurch ministries, and individual Christians in a person’s upbringing to equip the called and build God’s kingdom powerfully throughout the centuries. The quandary, however, is that none of these options have been biblically commissioned by God to take the full and ultimate responsibility to test, train, affirm, and send those who are called to be pastors and missionaries. So then, who is ultimately responsible? The answer to come on the next post…