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It is only a matter of time before a tree that without firmly planted roots will be uprooted. Unfortunately, it appears that the church in our country is in similar danger. In my opinion, with all the frenzy of activity in Christian ministry, ‘the local church’ has lost its historic, biblical and theological moorings. As a result, we have many churches but barely any sound teaching, many gospel meetings but few genuine conversions, and many pastors but not many who are qualified. Unfortunately, over the years, the local church has sacrificed the Biblical mandate on the altar of results, sacrificed quality on the altar of quantity, and Biblical practice on the altar of pragmatism.
Therefore it comes as no surprise that we have lowered the bar for the qualifications of pastors/preachers/evangelists. We don’t pay attention to what the Bible says about the call to the gospel ministry. We have forgotten that no one has the authority to mend or tamper with biblical imperatives, and the biblical teaching regarding the call to the gospel ministry is no exception.
My friends, I would like to ask you 5 questions as you consider your calling to the ministry.
1. Are you Born Again?
This might seem to be a very basic and simple question, but sadly this question is often ignored. I want to remind us that if someone desires to be a minister of the gospel but doesn’t see himself to be a helpless, pitiful and a needy sinner who needs the grace of God and the impeccable righteousness of Jesus Christ, then he should stop thinking about becoming a pastor/preacher/evangelist and start worrying about his own soul. Much damage could have been averted if all the pastors/preachers/evangelists had been truly born-again!
Remember the words of the Apostle Paul who said, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Tim. 1:15). He understood that he was once a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man (1 Tim. 1:13) but he obtained mercy in the sight of God as he trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ. Such should be the starting point for any future pastor/preacher or an evangelist.
2. Are you Rooted in the Local Church?
Speaking about ministry disconnected from the local church, Pastor John MacArthur says “….all this entrepreneurial pastoral trend that is going on now where a guy decides himself to be a pastor and gets to a storefront and ordains himself and pops up in the front and makes himself a pastor is alien to anything scriptural.”1One of the major problems in India is that we have many self-proclaimed pastors and teachers. John MacArthur is not exaggerating the issue when he says “this is alien to anything scriptural.”
Talking about the qualifications of a pastor, Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:7 that “.. he must have a good testimony among those who are outside..”. He is talking about an ‘insider’ who has a good testimony in society. In fact, all the qualifications to become a pastor/elder/Bishop that Paul talked about in 1 Timothy 3 were taught in the context of a local church. The church has to see and approve whether the potential candidate has both the character and the skill to be an elder/pastor (1 Tim. 5:22-25). Becoming a pastor without a local church’s approval and blessing is anti-biblical and unwarranted. Neither any dream nor any vision is a replacement for God’s Infallible Word. If someone proceeds to bypass the scriptural mandate, he is not a pastor and he is not called by God. Remember: we cannot make our own rules, we simply submit to God’s!
3. Are you Burdened with a Genuine Desire to Serve?
There has to be a deep and growing desire to serve the church of Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 3:1). Before Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones became a pastor, he had to wrestle with his calling. On one hand, he had a scintillating career as a physician as he was at the brink of becoming the next Personal Doctor to the Royal Family in England, and on the other hand, he was increasingly dissatisfied with his job. As a medical practitioner, he wanted to do a diagnosis to get to the bottom of the disease but found within himself an increasing desire to do a spiritual diagnosis to figure out the bottom of the spiritual maladies. It was when he saw a band of open-air preachers, looking at his wife, he exultantly told his wife “that is what I want to become.” Eventually, he gave up his job as a doctor and went to a small village in Wales and began to preach the gospel that he so longed to do. Years later, he was called to the historic Westminster Chapel in London to be the pastor. My friend! If you don’t have a deep desire to do the ministry like Jeremiah (Jer. 20:9) or Paul (1 Cor. 9:16), maybe you are not ‘called’ to the ministry.
4. Are you a Qualified Male Elder?
When we look at the two major lists of qualifications for elders in Titus & Timothy, it becomes very clear that the role of the pastor is reserved for men in the local church. But unfortunately ‘Egalitarianism’ rules the world today. The church has been at the receiving end of tremendous pressure from the secular world, and the Biblical views are under severe attack. But the Bible cannot be bent to appease the ever-changing culture. Of course, both men and women are equal in essence in God’s sight and bear God’s image equally. But the Bible teaches that both the genders were given different skills and gifts to make God’s tapestry look beautiful.
This means that women cannot preach from the pulpits in the local church of God--not because they are theologically unsophisticated or less worthy--but because God has ordained different roles to both the genders. Paul grounds his argument for gender-specific roles going back to the creation (1 Tim. 2: 13-14). Therefore, a woman-pastor is an oxymoron. Having said this, there is plenty of ministry opportunity for women in the church. Actually, women are encouraged to learn theology to teach fellow women (Tit. 2:3-5), the children (2 Tim. 1:5) and even men in the homes but not from the pulpits (Acts 18:18-28).
5. Are you Enamoured by Formal Theological Education?
We have a false notion in India that formal theological education is the only absolute necessity to be qualified for Ministry. It’s the certificate that will make us eligible for the task. This is why many think that a graduate from seminary is ready to go into ministry. But nothing could be further from the truth. Seminaries do not qualify men to be the pastors and preachers. Seminaries only equip men, and this is a much-needed ministry to the spiritual growth of the local church. But ‘seminaries’ do not replace ‘local churches’. Seminaries cannot function without the local churches, but the local churches can function without them. It is not the responsibility of the seminaries to send men into the ministry but of local churches. To put it practically, even if someone has done some seminary education, it doesn’t automatically make them pastors/preachers. The candidate has to be evaluated and approved by the local church based on Biblical qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9).
May God help our churches to choose born again, burdened men who are Biblically qualified and grounded in the local church to lead our churches. This is the need of the hour in our country if Christ’s church is to grow in depth and in impact.