What is the calling of a pastor?

More than ever, this question must be answered with the truth of Scripture and those who have truly lived the life of a pastor.  Scripture is clear about the qualifications of a pastor (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9) and the task of the pastor (Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:1-4, Heb. 13:17).  However, the experience of being a pastor is less clear because there are so many different answers being given in our modern day and some are very inaccurate to what the calling and life of a pastor is about.  As a result of these variations of definition, some men come directly out of seminary expecting a big salary, a prestigious church, and immediate respect with the title of “Pastor” upon their hiring.  But when the storms, difficulties, demands, and pressures that are unique to this noble calling of pastor, many quickly fade to do something else.

Therefore, the best way for us to understand the calling of the pastor, other than what is clearly outlined in God’s Word, is to turn to those of the past who truly got it.  Those who truly lived it.  Those who experienced a merciful God sustaining them through this life and calling.  One such man we can look to is the 17th century Puritan Pastor, John Flavel as he powerfully articulates this calling of the pastor:

The labours of the ministry will exhaust the very marrow from your bones, hasten old age and death.  They are fitly compared to the toil of men in harvest, to the labours of a woman in travail, and to the agonies of soldiers in the extremity of a battle.  We must watch others sleep.  And indeed it is not so much the expense of our labours, as the loss of them, that kills us.  It is not with us, as with other labours:  They find their work as they leave it, so do not we.  Sin and Satan unravel almost all we do, the impressions we make on our people’s souls in one sermon, vanish before the next…Yea, we must fight in defense of the truths we preach, as well as study them to paleness, and preach them unto faintness:  but well-spent, head, lungs, and all; welcome pained breasts, aching backs, and trembling legs; if we can by all but approve ourselves Christ’s faithful servants, and hear that joyful voice from his mouth, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”

Fellow pastors and dear brothers seeking to be a pastor, the calling of a pastor is not intended to be the glamorous road so many make it out to be in our modern day.  You will not be rich.  You will not be appreciated as you should.  You may do great harm to your family if you are not careful.  The calling of a pastor is a call to die slowly, daily labor as if only God knows most of what you do, and give yourself for others, so that others might live.  It is a hard calling, a calling only for those who are willing to slowly die in this noble work for the glory of the one who called us. But, as Flavel has said well, there is a great reward that waits those who give themselves to this calling.  It is not riches, fame, or fortune in this life, but the voice of our Chief Shepherd saying, “Well done.”

Are you called to THIS work?

Is THAT reward enough?


Posted in The Pastor's Soul, Training for Ministry
3 comments on “What is the calling of a pastor?
  1. Tim says:

    “Is THAT reward enough?”
    No, here is an additional reward I pursue that most pastors reject, possibly John Flavel himself.

    What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. 1 Cor. 9:18

    This reward involves labor John Flavel did not mention exemplified by Paul and taught to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20: 34,35
    34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

    Paul taught both to the Thessalonian saints in 2 Thes. 3:6 – 9 with an additional command.
    6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.

    Paul is so stern and direct as he warns them to keep away from brothers who reject the tradition he speaks of here which is working to meet your own material needs as you minister.

    • Brian Croft says:

      Just preached 1 Corinthians 9 and I am confident that Flavel understood the good point you are making from it. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Kenneth says:

    Good job!

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