When it comes to evaluating the call to pastoral ministry, the first question a man must ask is: Am I godly?
The moral requirements for a pastor are spelled out clearly in 1 Timothy 1:3-7, which says:
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
If you’re like most guys, this list of qualities can seem far out of reach. Upon first glance, this passage, along with the passage in Titus 1, seem to blow the average guy out of the water! Who can possibly live up to these requirements?
Here are two things to consider when thinking about this passage. First, the majority of the qualities listed in these passages are actually commanded of all believers in some fashion. All Christians are called to be “sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable,” and, “not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money,” and to manage well one’s household, “with all dignity keeping his children submissive”. It’s not like pastors and elders can’t get drunk, while other believers are free to chug beer like frat boys!
A Simple Man with Gifts
Here’s my point: the man called to ministry isn’t some kind of super Christian who lives by a higher code. He simply a called man with gifts. And these gifts enable him to lead God’s people with a grace that empowers him to be an example.
The second thing about these passages is that called men can approach these passages like an unbending standard that demands conformity and punishes disobedience. If you feel that way about these passages, you need to understand something very important:
God’s call upon man delivers the grace necessary for the godliness needed.
Let me explain this a little more. In 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, we see extraordinary evidences of God’s activity preceeding any clear sense of calling. But consider Paul use of the phrase “must be” in 1 Timothy 3:2. The elder must be above reproach, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, etc. The present tense carries throughout the entire list. Paul isn’t holding out a list of goals to be achieved. Rather, he’s speaking of qualities already present. They’re preconditions for an elder, not outcomes eventually hoped for.
So what does this mean? It means that God’s grace is at work in certain men to produce a certain kind of life. Identifying a called man is primarily about observing grace already at work in a man’s life. The grace shining through a man is an indicator that he is called.
Can anyone live up to the qualifications of pastoral ministry? Yes, because God’s call delivers grace. If you’re called, you can stand confident that God has already begun working in you.