I met with a friend of mine this week who is trying to evaluate whether he is called into pastoral ministry. What I shared with him is what I would share with any brother seeking to evaluate this question. The first question he must answer is, “Do you have a strong desire for the work of a pastor?” The Apostle Paul instructs his young protégé in the faith and writes, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer (pastor); it is a fine work he desires to do (1 Tim. 3:1). The great nineteenth century Baptist, Charles Spurgeon lectured young men preparing for the ministry in this way, “The first sign of the heavenly calling is an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work.” There must be a strong, unquenchable desire to do the work of a pastor—a desire to preach God’s word, shepherd God’s people, evangelize the lost, disciple the spiritually immature, and serve the local church.
Paul writes that the man who desires to do this divine work is pursuing a fine work. Nevertheless, an unquenchable longing for this work is required, for it is a work fraught with struggles, challenges, discouragements, pressures, and spiritual battles that can cripple the strongest of men whose desire for this divine labor is ordinary. It must be a desire that cannot be stolen when your brother betrays you; a desire that cannot be weakened when your job is threatened; a desire that cannot be quenched when physical, mental, and emotional fatigue firmly take root. This desire must so define the individual that the reality of an internal calling is unmistakable.