Am I Called to the Ministry?

I’m often asked, “How can I know if I am called to pastoral ministry?” Here is a very quick checklist of questions I would want to ask in any discussion about a call to the ministry.

1. Do you have a holy desire (1 Tim. 3:1)?

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a pastor. In fact, when God calls a man, he usually implants a strong desire for the work in his heart.

A holy desire for the pastoral ministry will be motivated by a passion for the glory of Christ and the salvation of precious souls. To a certain degree, every Christian should have these desires. But potential pastors should have them to an unusually high degree.

Sadly, many want to be pastors for unholy reasons: these include a love of books, an ambition to make a name for yourself, or wanting to become a Seminary professor. On that last point, I know there are exceptions, but I get quite worried when Seminary students start expressing a desire to be a teacher of pastors without having spent even a day in pastoral ministry.

2. Do you have a Christ-like character?

Do you have the fruits of the Spirit in your life (Gal. 5:22-24)? Do those who know you say that you are being conformed to the image of Christ? No one is strong in all areas of character. But if I was to give a top three of non-negotiable character traits, they would be (i) love, (ii) love, and (iii) love. Of course, holiness, integrity, patience, and wisdom are all vitally important too. But without a love-filled heart you will never be a shepherd of sheep.

3. Do you have spiritual maturity (1 Tim. 3:6)?

When young men are converted, they or others often start talking about the ministry. There are exceptions to this rule, but in general it is best that young men spend some time working as Christians “in the world” before pursuing a call to the ministry. They will develop spiritual maturity there in a way that they won’t by going straight into Seminary. Even a few years of working among unconverted people has a rapid ripening effect on Christian character. It also helps to build empathy with Christians who are called to be salt and light in factories, offices, etc.

4. Do you have the necessary gifts (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9)?

One of the most useful exercises I’ve given in my class on the Christian ministry was to ask the students to write up a job notice based on the characteristics and gifts found in the passages above. (Maybe I’ll ask some of my students for permission to post their responses in a future blog.) I noticed that one of the recurring gifts in these lists is self-control, or self discipline. This is so utterly indispensable for time-management in pastoral ministry, when we have no boss or professor to keep us on track. If you have a record of being late for work or appointments, or if you are regularly late in submitting assignments, what reason is there to think that you are suddenly going to change when you have to preach a sermon every Sunday at 9.30 am?

Another vital gift is simplicity. Are you able to preach or teach simply? I’m not talking here about “dumbing-down.” I’m talking about taking profound truths and translating them into simple, clear language (as Jesus did). Some men seem to have the opposite gift, the ability to make the simple complicated and confusing. If that’s your gift, then please don’t burden the church of Christ with it.

5. Proven track record

This is related to (3) above. However, I want to make this a separate point to stress the importance of having proven oneself in “less public” forms of Christian service. If a young Christian man will not teach a children’s Sunday school class, or won’t join the “yard clean up team,” or excuses himself from the congregation’s evangelism program, then he is not fit for the ministry of the Word. If he is not faithful in the “little” things, he is not ready for the “bigger” things.

6. External confirmation

Before pursuing the ministry, or studies for the ministry, you should seek input from your local church. You should ask your pastor and elders to examine you in points 1-5 above and give you their own more objective opinion of whether you have the marks of a man called to the ministry. You should seek their prayerful and practical support in going forward. If they express doubt or disapproval, you should usually view that as the voice of God speaking through His Church.

This list is not exhaustive, but it is a useful starting point for anyone wanting to examine and test their “call” to the pastoral ministry.

  • Karl Dahlfred

    Much of the same criteria can (and should) be used for helping people discern whether God is calling them to be missionaries. Just “loving Jesus” and the desire to “GO” is not enough to be a missionary (or at least one that lasts, and does lasting good)

  • Pingback: How can I know if I am called to pastoral ministry? | Ben Terry()

  • Scott Forbes

    Thank you for your wisdom on this issue. Very helpful insight for anyone considering the pastoral vocation.

  • Arthur Sido

    Well that is an easy question. If you are a Christian you are called to the ministry.

  • Blest


    That’s way to simple.

    What would we do with all the seminaries and teachers earning a living? You must be reading the bible. Must be a catch somewhere here because I don’t find pastoral ministry in my bible. I do find we all have the ministry of reconciliation. But I’m having a hard time finding anyone in the bible going into pastoral ministry or being trained for pastoral ministry or wanting to be a pastor. In fact, if you read all the verses about pastors, the bible does not say many nice things about pastors at all. Like, the wind shall eat up all your pastors. And god is against the pastors that feed his sheep.

    And having a proven track record for ministry would seem a little tough for Paul. Wasn’t he killing Christians? King David wouldn’t be excepted either I guess? Peter’s record would be suspect.

    In fact weren’t the disciples put down by the religious leaders calling them ignorant and unlearned, but they took notice, they had been with Jesus. Could that be the only qualification for ministry,
    being with Jesus? Hearing His Voice and following Jesus?

    That’s way to simple.

  • Blest

    A few verses about pastors.

    Jeremiah 2:8
    The priests said not, Where is the LORD?
    and they that handle the law knew me not:
    “the pastors” also transgressed against me,
    and the prophets prophesied by Baal,
    and walked after things that do not profit.

    Jeremiah 10:21
    For “the pastors” are become brutish, ( beastly, carnal )
    and have not sought the LORD:
    therefore they shall not prosper,
    and all their flocks shall be scattered.

    Jeremiah 12:10
    “Many pastors” have destroyed my vineyard,
    they have trodden my portion under foot,
    they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.

    Jeremiah 22:22
    The wind (Heb. ruwach=Spirit)
    shall eat up ALL “thy pastors,”
    and thy lovers shall go into captivity:
    surely then shalt thou be ashamed and
    confounded for all thy wickedness.

    Jeremiah 23:1
    Woe be unto “the pastors” that destroy and scatter
    the sheep of my pasture!

    Jeremiah 23:2
    …thus saith the LORD God of Israel
    AGAINST “the pastors” that feed my people;
    Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away,
    and have not visited them:
    behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.

    Jeremiah 50:6
    My people hath been lost sheep:
    “their shepherds” have caused them to go astray…

  • Russ

    Great post. I’m sure I’ll find myself coming back to this in the months and years to come.

  • Don

    Great insight, but it sounds more like a resume builder than a calling.

  • Brandon Cox

    Right on. A calling is divine and supernatural, but God desires that we go through the hard work of preparation. Straight from Scripture!

  • Pingback: I Desire to Be a Pastor()

  • Pingback: Am I Called to the Ministry? « Two Kinds of Words()

  • Pedro

    In NT, there is only one way to become a pastor and that is by having the gift(Eph 4:11). There is only one person who gives the gift of pastor and that is Christ Eph 4:11. The deviation is very painful sad. Is it ever possible that we can repent and return to the bible. The hand of God will accomplish it because of His love for his people and the remnant He has preserve for his name sake.

  • Pingback: Am I Called to the Ministry? | This is YOUR website!()

  • Pingback: How to Know if You are Called to Ministry: “Am I Called to the Ministry?” by David Murray « Jared Moore()

  • Pingback: June Linkathons « BrianD blog()

  • Pastor Gil Burgos

    Very good.

    I’ve also just re-read I Timothy 3:1 again and forgot that being a Pastor/Elder can be something you choose: “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of *overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” (NASB)

  • Jack Harper

    Dr. Murray, thanks for your informative blog. I am a man of 50 years and felt God calling me into ministry this late in life. One of the things that I asked myself was why now? The only answer I can come up with is that I have experienced many life problems and issues and have seen God work though those areas in order to help others that are going though similar things.I am currently a student at Liberty University online working towards a theology. I wanted to encourage anyone who may be in the twilight of their lives to continue serving the Lord, your best days are ahead of you.

    • Pastor, Adalberto Aponte

      Glad to hear all your comments they were of great help for me. I know that the revelation of God is spreaded among his people. One thing I noticed in these is that some of you are just saying the same thing in a diffrent manner but all applies to the five things that were writen above. However, the part about biblical christian leaders that made terrible mistakes should not be use in the context of excusing people today who knows the word of God and tries to excuse their adulteries, fornications and abuses of power stating I am only human God knows and so forth. What it was writen in the five charasteristics if found in the epistles of 1Timoty and 2Timoty and if it is in the bible we can not excuse the christian leaders who does not have the biblical charater to become a minister. Moreover, someone who has the desire to serve the lord does not need to have a title do the work of the lord. I don’t see nowhere in the bible a verse that states that someone need to have a title to win souls and to preach the gospel

  • Bongani

    The first point will just turn many people away from ministry.. These points look like they were written by a Catholic priest who knows religion but not salvation and Christ… You need to be holy to be called? All the disciples of Jesus were mere unholy man when He called them, apostle Paul was a murder and my own pastor even confessed to have gunned down a few people while he was in the army..

    God is God and His calling is His calling.. He will use anyone to work for Him even a murderer like Saul or a street hooker and do you know why? because God cannot use holy people for ministry as they won’t understand His creation as they (we) are all sinners by nature of birth and those who claim to be holy are just self worshipers as if your eyes were in God you will know that only Him is holy.

    Your points are religious not Christian, they don’t seem to be inspired by the works of Christ, His grace and salvation.

  • Derek Barrett

    why do some spouses feel the call to be a pastor and the other doesn’t

  • Pingback: Are You Called to the Ministry?()

  • http://na MARK

    I believe that there should be a balance between studying scriptures and learning how to speak but where do you GO? the last paster told me not to touch anyone when praying for them because miricles where happening and so I Left the church .. everyone started to leave all the home fellowships just to come to mine. I look at it like this.. I love the Lord and felt that anointing come on me . i would pray and fast and read the word .. God was using me and I found out that this pastor was getting scared and let me go… I was not trying anything… to hurt anyone .. devils came out of people blind people seeing .. wholy spririt moving .. and so I have been to many churches including lake wood where you can get lost. I need food like watchman nee and yongi cho and Charles g finny but not body talks deep and I feel alone .. I just want to see people healed and want to make a difference in the world thats all Jesus healed them all never did i see he passed them by.. anyways .. I know I have something . what is the process what is the order what is what is??

  • Pingback: A Call to Ministry is a Call to Bleed - All Truth is God's Truth()

  • Pingback: Are You Called to the Ministry? Are You Ready to Bleed?()