A practical definition of testing is the placing of an individual into different real life circumstances to see how they handle them. The best way to test men for the office of pastor is to evaluate them in those life circumstances by the qualifications for this office clearly mapped out for us in Scripture (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9). Through these characteristics listed, we can begin to determine whether a young man desiring this work is called, especially through testing his gift to preach and teach. This is a testing that should be done in many ways visibly before the congregation.
For example, when we have twelve different men preach a Psalm on Sunday evenings every summer who were desiring to test their gifts to preach, it acts not only as an opportunity for them to serve our church, but also as a way for their preaching gifts to be tested before the entire church. We encourage church members to approach this individual after the service to give specific comments of encouragement and critique in a loving, helpful way. A mandatory service review is held after the Sunday evening service to which the pastors and a few other men who are testing their gifts attend in order to speak kindly, yet truthfully into this brother’s life about the sermon. Encouragements are given, corrections are made, and suggestions are helpfully submitted to improve for the next time.
These brothers are also tested when they go and visit church member’s homes. Not only are they caring for the individual member in coming to see them, but they are also being tested in a pastoral moment regarding how patient, kind, gentle, peaceful, respectable, and self-controlled they are, which are all qualities Paul highlights (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9). As a brother visits different members within the church, the pastors either accompany him, or informally check to see how the visit went and what fruit seemed to come from it. When a brother who desires the work of a shepherd is confronted with the care of a dying saint in the hospital waiting for a word of comfort—the ground of testing has been significantly plowed.
In the kind providence of God, every portion of an individual’s testing works for the good of the local church as a whole. When a brother preaches, he is feeding God’s people through his labor in the word. When a brother disciples another brother in the congregation, he is helping him mature and grow in his faith in Christ. When a brother visits a homebound church member or a member in the hospital, they are caring for the souls of that church member and ultimately serving the pastors and church as a whole in their efforts. Yet, as they serve the church in the midst of this testing, they are beginning to learn those daily labors of a pastor which they cannot learn from a book or class. Consequently, their hands-on training and “testing” for the ministry has begun.
Have you started to test young men in your church for ministry?