How do I know if I biblically qualify for gospel ministry? (Categories #4 and #5)

Thus far, we have examined the first 3 categories that must be evaluated to determine whether a man biblically qualifies for the office of a pastor.  The last two are godly character and spiritual maturity.

Godly character

Most of these characteristics Paul lists could be lumped into this category of godly character.  The pastor is to be “temperate, prudent, and respectable” (1 Tim. 3:2) as well as “gentle and not contentious” (1 Tim. 3:3).  All of these speak of the inward transformation of the gospel reflected in being kind, compassionate, self-controlled with words and actions, honorable, humble, and full of discernment and wisdom.  Too much emphasis cannot be placed on this requirement, as Basil Manly, Jr. observed:

It need scarcely be said that piety is essential.  No amount of talent, no extent of education, no apparent brilliancy of fervor, should even be allowed to gain admission into the ministry for one whose piety there is a reason to doubt, or who has not a more than ordinary active and consistent holiness.  A Christless minister is as horribly out of place as a ghastly skeleton in the pulpit bearing a torch in his hand.

Ministers must not merely possess these godly characteristics, but they must also daily grow in these qualities as David Dickson writes:

Though the work of the eldership is in itself very honorable and very interesting, yet it will be dull, formal, and worthless unless there is a real and growing love to Jesus in our hearts.  That is the only oil that will make the lamp burn and keep it burning.

It is not an accident that most of Paul’s qualifications fall into this category.  For this reason, those who desire this work should labor diligently to grow in these qualities, knowing it is the grace of God and the transforming power of the gospel that empowers the growth.

 

Spiritual Maturity

Many of these qualities also point to the requirement of spiritual maturity, but I think there are two qualities that specifically evidence this.  First, the pastor is to be “free from the love of money” (1 Tim. 3:3).  The pastor’s primary responsibility is to preach and teach the word of God and sacrificially care for his people.  It would be a contradiction if the pastor’s idol was money.  The assessment of this qualification is not how much money a pastor has or will get paid, but what the pastor does with the money he has.  Having a love for money has nothing to do with how much we have, but our desire to have more and more of it.  The desire for this fine work will always work against a desire for personal material gain.

Secondly, as the spiritual leaders and doctrinal gatekeepers of the church, the pastors cannot be “new converts” (1 Tim. 3:6), which also implies a spiritually immature man should not enter this work.  This makes sense for several obvious reasons, but Paul in this text gives a specific one—lest “he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).  The office of pastor is one of importance and an immature believer could get caught up in the power of the position instead of seeing this office as sacrifice and service to God and his people.  Pursuing this office also places a man on the front line of spiritual attack from the enemy, which seems to be one of the several reasons the New Testament calls for a plurality of godly, spiritually mature pastors/elders in a local church for accountability, fellowship, and accumulated wisdom  (Titus 1:5; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1).

May the Lord give you grace and clarity as you evaluate youself  and are evaluated by others for gospel ministry.

Posted in Training for Ministry
4 comments on “How do I know if I biblically qualify for gospel ministry? (Categories #4 and #5)
  1. Paul C says:

    These words were extremely profitable, especially regarding godly character.

    This is from Thomas Chalmers, talking to his elders:

    “God will put to shame the proud confidence of man in the efficacy of his own wisdom, and He will have all the glory of all the spiritual good that is done in the world and your piety will, therefore, work a tenfold mightier effect than your talents, in the cause you have undertaken…”

  2. ron says:

    I appreciate this series. I am nearly 40 and have had a strong desire for vocational ministry for almost 20 years now. For a variety of reasons I have not been able to pursue it, but the desire grows stronger rather than waning. I at times begin to feel that I am now too old to make this change, but at the same time can’t imagine not pursuing it. Thanks for writing these things, they have given me more to think about.

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