I recently received an email requesting that I address what is involved if the pastors of a local church feel like they cannot affirm a brother pursuing gospel minstry. How do you determine this? How do you explain it to someone who has possibly invested so much in this pursuit? What do you then do with this internal calling they feel they have? Lord willing, I will address these questions on a future post. However, before doing so, I felt it important to consider what is at stake if we fail to be faithful to not just test and train men for ministry, but to affirm…or not.
Before we determine some of the destructive effects if the local church fails in this calling, it must be acknowledged what is not at stake. Jesus declared that he will build his church and the gates of Hades will not prevail over it (Matt. 16:18). God’s work of redemption is a finished work in the sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Heb.1:3; Heb. 10:14). God has chosen a people before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3) from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation that have been purchased by the blood of the lamb that will be brought into the kingdom of God as the gospel is preached among all the nations (Rev. 5:9-10). These truths are biblical certainties that are not contingent on our faithfulness to the external call, but upon the sovereign purposes and perfect will of our faithful God.
Yet, God still accomplishes these purposes by working in and through his people. Because of this, much is at stake…
In the lives of individual Christians: Many individuals can be harmed by this neglect, but I am primarily thinking about those who invest time, money, resources, and education in this pursuit who should not be doing so.
The well-being of local churches: Anyone who questions how badly an unfaithful shepherd can harm sheep has never experienced the pain of a pastor abusing his position to embezzle money or sexually pursue a vulnerable married woman in his congregation. Scandals as these not only painfully harm those individuals involved, but also wound the local churches as a whole to a potentially unrecoverable condition.
The effectiveness of theological education: Institutions of theological education have wrongfully been given this ultimate responsibility, and when they assume this role, these institutions are distracted from their primary purpose.
Ultimately, the glory and name of Christ: God’s plan is that the corporate witness of the redeemed in the local church is to display the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. This corporate witness will be distorted if shepherds without the unique call of God are placed in positions of shepherding. Christians following a shepherd not called by God can lead to those Christians believing false teaching, living unruly lives, and losing sight of the intended purpose of the local church—to display the gospel until Christ returns for his bride.
Sense there is clearly much at stake, I will consider on a future post the way to care for a brother who desires this work, but for whatever reason, does not qualify and should not pursue it.