How does a man evaluate his desire for the work of pastoral ministry?

The answer to this question, is at the heart of what I am teaching today to these precious pastors at the Copperbelt Ministerial College in Ndola, Zambia. Pastors from 4 different countries have journeyed to attend this week. Very humbling. 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. Spurgeon confirms that this divine aspiration which comes from above can be known through a desire to do nothing else:

If any student in this room could be content to be a newspaper editor, or a grocer, or a farmer, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or a senator, or a king, in the name of heaven and earth, let him go his way; he is not the man in whom dwells the Spirit of God in its fullness, for a man so filled with God would utterly weary of any pursuit but that for which his inmost soul pants. If on the other hand, you can say that for all
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the wealth of both the Indies you could not and dare not espouse any other calling so as to be put aside from preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, then depend upon it, if other things be equally satisfactory, you have the signs of this apostleship. We must feel that woe is unto us if we preach not the gospel; the word of God must be unto us as fire in our bones, otherwise, if we undertake the ministry, we shall be unhappy in it, shall be unable to bear the self-denials incident to it, and shall be of little service to those among whom we minister.

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

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take root. This desire must so define the individual that the reality of an internal calling is unmistakable. My prayer is this unmistakable calling will be confirmed in the hearts of these African pastors I will be addressing this week. My hope is also that this post in some way will serve you, dear brothers, if you are trying to sort through you own calling to pastoral ministry and that you would find this unquenchable desire in your heart for this fine work.




 

Posted in The Pastor's Soul, Training for Ministry
7 comments on “How does a man evaluate his desire for the work of pastoral ministry?
  1. Tim says:

    You, and Spurgeon are in error in suggesting that this text is suggesting that those who aspire to the work of oversight must not think they should earn a living as farmer, editor, doctor, etc. The notion that a pastor must reject earning his own needs is a contradiction of what he told the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 in following his example in meeting his own needs and the needs of his companions. It contradicts his instructions to the Thessalonians that they “follow his example” in working to meet his own needs. There is no Biblical instruction to take all your needs out of an offering plate. Paul taught and modeled “refusing” the right to be paid. Yes, he taught worthiness to be paid but He taught and modeled refusing this right for several reasons. God’s Word teaches that all work is full time ministry when done for the Lord. “Whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord, not serving men…” “…always giving yourself fully to the work of the Lord for your labor in the Lord is not in vain” was written to Corinthian business men, not clergymen. 1 Cor. 15:58, 59

    • Brian Croft says:

      Good point. Don’t misunderstand. I believe and I think Spurgeon would agree, that his quote is speaking to young men desiring to pursue full time pastoral ministry to which it is their occupation. I have pastors in my congregation who are unpaid and work another job to provide for their family. For them, I think the Spurgeon quote is to be received in the spirit of it as to fulfillment and joy of the work, not a call for all to be full time pastors. Glad you wrote and made your point.

  2. Tim says:

    “If any student in this room could be content to be a newspaper editor, or a grocer, or a farmer, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or a senator, or a king, in the name of heaven and earth, let him go his way; he is not the man in whom dwells the Spirit of God in its fullness, for a man so filled with God would utterly weary of any pursuit but that for which his inmost soul pants.”

    I cannot accept there is any Biblical evidence to support that men who are grocers or farmers have any less of the dwelling of the fullness of the Spirit of God than those who stand behind a pulpit. Grocers and farmers can be “so filled with God” and still not pursue a pulpit job.

    “We must feel that woe is unto us if we preach not the gospel; the word of God must be unto us as fire in our bones,…” I see no biblical basis to suggest that preaching the gospel is limited to those who are not grocers and farmers. Paul said these very words in the very context as one who would rather die than give up the boast that he ministered free of charge. (1 Cor. 9) Paul was a business man meeting his own needs as he ministered among the Corinthians. I see no basis for a division of calling or separation of preaching from market place work. Traditions of men have certainly fed us this clergy approach to church life. Have I missed some scripture on the separation of callings to preach and marketplace work?

    • Brian Croft says:

      I think what you have missed is the spirit of Spurgeon’s quote and are looking to much into the details of the quote. All Spurgeon is doing is urging young men to consider the level of desire for the work of the pastor. He would not deny the Spirit’s work in all men changed by the gospel in any profession. He is simply trying to help young men realize that accepting a call into full time occupational ministry is a calling that should not be entered into lightly or with an indifferent desire. I think you would be helped to read his quote in context which you can find in Lectures to my Students. Thanks for sharing your concern.

  3. James says:

    So how would you counsel someone in pastoral ministry who senses the loss of passion or desire to do the work of ministry? Is that evidence of a lack of calling? I understand that many things can contribute to temporary unsettledness, but how do you discern God stirring your heart to do something else as appossed to the discouragement of the adversary?

    • Brian Croft says:

      James, great question. You need to first examine if something has taken the desire from you. Are you tired, discouraged, not walking with God as you should. These things can steal the desire for the work you once had. Search your heart to see if something as this exists. Then, evaluate if the desire just isn’t there and you need to at least take a break for a while.

      • James says:

        Thanks Brian. I would have to say yes to all three – tired, discouraged, and not walking with God. I need to work on these and not let them steal the desire. Thanks for responding.

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "How does a man evaluate his desire for the work of pastoral ministry?"
  1. […] How Does a Man Evaluate His Desire for the Work of Pastoral Ministry? From Brian Croft: “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.” […]

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