Over the years I have counselled with young men who felt the call to serve in ministry particularly as a pastor. My response has always been out of a heart of love and concern that those men follow whatever God calls them to do. In answering the question ‘do you want to be a pastor’. There are several things to consider:
- Being a pastor is a special calling.
There are many who may have the gift of preaching or teaching but are not called to be a pastor. The calling to be a pastor is not just a call to preach. Preaching is not the same as pastoring. Preaching is one of many tasks that a pastor has, but it does not encompass all that a pastor is or does. That is why to be a pastor you must have a special calling by God. A pastor is an office. It is a position. It is one of the two Biblical offices of the church. Therefore, to serve in such an office there must be a specific calling to that specific office. Being a preacher does not make you a pastor.
- There are specific qualifications that must be met to be a pastor.
1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 lays out very clearly seven basic qualifications for being a pastor. Those qualifications include: Blameless (not sinless; but have a good reputation as a godly man), Have his house in order (faithful in marriage, good father, etc.), patient, hospitable, apt to teach (ready at all times), mature in his life and faith, able to preach.
- The pastor has tremendous responsibility.
There are three words in the Bible that describes what we know as the office of the pastor: Bishop, Elder, and Pastor. As Bishop, the pastor is the overseer of the church. He has the tremendous responsibility for the general oversight of the life and ministry of the church. As Elder, he is to be a wise teacher, counsellor, and communicator of the Word. Being an elder also gives the idea of being the ‘head’ or the one who has authority. As Pastor, he is to shepherd the flock. The pastor is to care for the congregation and minister to them in love and grace.
- The call to pastor is the call to prepare.
Being a pastor cannot be taken lightly. It is what we may call a ‘professional career’. It requires adequate training. That is why one who is called to be a pastor should attend some type of Bible college or seminary. He should also have a period of time to cultivate his calling and learn from mentors and other pastors.
When considering becoming a pastor, it is important to not only consider the calling, responsibilities, qualifications, and preparation it takes to be a pastor. However, it is also important to consider the weight of responsibility, burdens, and difficulty a pastor must face. Here are just a few things that should also be considered:
- Pastoring brings a great physical toll.
Most pastors get very little sleep. With a long day of sermon preparations, visiting the sick, counseling someone in crisis, dealing with complaints, and caring for his own family; the pastor has tremendous stress placed on his life. He bears the burdens of everyone in his congregation and community. This brings about restless nights filled with concern and prayer. There is also the day-to-day work of preparing, planning, organizing, and the list goes on. It is important that a pastor take time to exercise and be careful about his health, due to the mental, spiritual, and emotional strain of serving in such a position.
- The pastor’s critics are louder than his supporters.
Sometimes people think that pastors have such tough skin that they can take anything and are never hurt. However, this cannot be any further from the truth. Imagine how it makes you feel when people speak negatively of you and constantly criticize every move you make. A pastor will naturally have multiple critics that Satan is using to undermine the work that God has called the pastor to do. Satan makes sure that the pastor hears of every criticism and every negative word said about him and his family. This hurts the pastor deeply. He knows he cannot lash out or seek revenge. He must humbly endure the pain and lovingly continue to minister to those who attack him as if he knew nothing about it. Words do hurt. Imagine how Jesus felt when those He was giving His life for spits in His face. Most pastors have such a strong sense of calling by God that they put so much into their work. Their whole life, every ounce of energy, is put into caring for the congregation. When one of those that they care for so deeply slanders his name and gossips and says all types of hurtful things, it cuts deeply. Even though, in most cases, the critics are much fewer than the supporters; the critics are much louder. Rarely is the pastor encouraged by words and actions of support. Rarely does anyone publicly defend their pastor. Rarely do they shield the pastor from his critics. Rarely do they silence those who attempt to do the pastor and church harm. The silence of supporters speaks volumes. It can be very discouraging to the pastor and makes the weight of the office even more heavy.
- The pastor is most often misunderstood.
Most churches do not fully understand the heart of their pastor. Many think he is just in it for himself or for fame or fortune. However, most pastors are motivated by a heart of love for their congregation and community. They spend hours in prayer seeking the Lord’s direction. God gives them a vision that he cannot fully reveal but in one small piece at a time. People will often focus on one thing rather than seeing the whole picture. They will fail to consider the vision God has given the pastor and they will fail to consider that what the pastor does and what he preaches and how he leads, is for their own good.
- The pastor’s family will suffer.
It is a joy to serve in the ministry. However, the burdens that the pastor bears will often spill over into his family. This is why so many pastors leave the ministry every year. The burden it places on his family is sometimes unbearable. Very few churches really know how to minister to the Pastor and his family. The church has a tendency to look at the Pastor’s family as separate from the church. Therefore, when needs arise in the pastor’s family, they are sick, lose a loved one, are discouraged; the church struggles to minister to them and will often overlook the family’s needs, assuming they are okay, when in reality they are not and they need someone to show them they care just like they would with any other family in the church.
- The pastor will not get rich.
In rare occasions of pastors serving in large mega churches, a pastor may become very wealthy. However, the average size church in America is less than fifty people. Most pastors struggle financially. In a lot of cases, pastors will be compelled to spend their own money on helping those in need and even purchasing needful ministry tools for the church. A pastor will often invest a good percentage of what he makes back into the ministry.
These facts about serving as a pastor is not meant to scare a young man from obeying God’s call. It’s simply stating the facts. Being a pastor is not glamourous. However, it is the highest calling. To serve as the shepherd of God’s flock and to lead His church in reaching the world for Jesus is a tremendous blessing. My answer to those who think God is calling them to serve as a pastor is simply: “Get out of it if you can.” If you can do anything else and be at peace, then do it. If God has called you to serve as a pastor, you will know it. You cannot hide from it. You cannot run from it. The blessings and joys of serving as a pastor is far greater than the burdens it brings. When you get to preach God’s Word every week, when you get to baptize a new believer, when you see a marriage restored, when you see those who are enemies become reconciled, when you see someone healed, when you see someone growing in their walk with God, when you see others answer the call to ministry, when you witness what only God can do; these are the joys that far outweigh the burdens and stress. It is truly the highest calling and it is not something to take lightly. The question is: have you really be called? It’s not, do you want to be a pastor? The question is: Has God called you to be a pastor?