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I’ve been asked the question many times, and I’m not sure I agree with it. The question often assumes that pastors, unique among all the vocations of the world, will (and sometimes must) have a powerful, divine, subjective call to ministry that overwhelmingly points them in their God-ordained direction. I don’t see support for that sort of normative experience in Scripture.

But I understand what young men are looking for. They understand that pastoral ministry is weighty work, not to be entered into lightly. So naturally they want to know that their inclinations are not self-serving and their direction is not a fool’s errand. They are looking for a few signposts along the way to show them that they’re not obviously on the wrong road. That’s a commendable impulse.

Here are several questions you should ask yourself as you ponder a call to pastoral ministry.

1. Do I meet the qualifications laid out in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1? This is the place to start. If your character is not mature, stable, and (in a non-perfectionist way) exemplary, then you are not ready to be a pastor. This does not necessarily mean you are on the wrong path if you don’t yet have victory over certain sins (like pornography), but it means you won’t be ready until you meet the Scriptural standards.

2. Do the Christians who know me best consistently affirm my gifts for ministry? The most important call is the objective call of your church encouraging you to pursue pastoral ministry.

3. Do I like to teach all kinds of people in all kinds of settings? Most people thinking of pastoral ministry are excited to preach. I want to know if they are excited to preach at the Rescue Mission and excited to teach catechism to five-year-olds.

4. Do I find myself stirred by good preaching? If a man is called to preach the gospel he should be thrilled to hear it preached. The content should move him, and he should find himself thinking “Oh, that I could proclaim this good news.”

5. Do I find myself stirred by bad preaching? The last point was obvious. This one is less so, but just as important. I think there ought to be a fire in a man’s bones when he hears the word of God handled badly.

6. Do I enjoy being around people? Some pastors are extroverts; many are not. I’m sort of the middle. I look forward to being with people more than some pastors I know, but not nearly as much as many men I admire. But whatever your personality, you won’t be a good pastor if you don’t like people and recoil from them as much as possible.

7. Do I make friends easily? This is a subjective test (like so many of these questions), but a lack of meaningful friendships is not a good sign. It could be an indication that you are too harsh, too much a loner, or frankly too awkward to be effective in pastoral ministry.

8. Do I like to read? Thankfully there is no GPA or SAT requirement for pastoral ministry. And yet, if we are to be “apt to teach” we must be eager to learn. Preaching grows thin and ministry get stale without time in the Book and the books.

9. Have I thought about doing this for more than a few months? Often when students or adults come to Christ they quickly assume that because they are zealous for the Lord they ought to go seminary and prepare for the ministry. This is usually misguided, sometimes because of pride and sometimes due to misplaced zeal. There’s a reason the Bible insists that church leaders not be recent converts.

10. Do I still want to be a pastor if I never write a book, never speak at a conference, and never have a big church? Our passion must be to feed the flock, not feed our egos.

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79 thoughts on “How Can I Tell If I’m Called to Pastoral Ministry?”

  1. Phillip Mayberry says:

    What a well written article! I like the points about being excited to preach the gospel to all kinds of people (young and old alike), being stirred up by BAD preaching, and being content with obscurity. “I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame” must be the cry and conviction of our hearts!

  2. Rick Owen says:

    Biblical perspective. Tactful approach. Re: ‘full-time ministry.’

  3. Jeff says:

    Very helpful list which I will use to encourage some of the young I know who are wondering about their own “call” to pastoral ministry.
    However, one question or quality seems conspicuous by its absence – Prayer.
    I would add that a person called to pastoral ministry should have a deep and growing desire to pray!
    Not just a desire to pray for the church and its people, but to commune with God through prayer.

  4. Rick Owen says:

    Here’s a thought to consider (from the link which will follow):

    “If our churches truly implemented New Testament patterns of ministry, one wonders whether there would be any real need to support one, full-time pastor. If the local church had a functioning priesthood (as opposed to the passive, spectator event that is the mark of most churches) and an equally shared eldership, there simply would not be the urgency or necessity to hire someone on a full-time basis. This is because (1) leadership responsibilities would be shared; (2) one man and his gifts would not become the focal-point of the meeting; (3) corporate teaching would be shared and not left to one sole pastor; and (4) each member would actively participate and contribute to the meeting.”

    See related links and posts at the bottom of the web page linked above.

  5. Rick Owen says:

    This is great.

    “Why I’m glad not to be that kind of pastor”

  6. Eric says:

    Easily one of the most helpful articles I’ve read all year. So grateful!

  7. I’ve got a series for people discerning call to all kinds of vocations. And I don’t think that only special people are called to ministry (or any other vocation).

  8. Gomer says:

    Yeah…what this article does is help pastors create a supposedly ‘authentic’ call when the reality too often is they are pursuing their own interests. By focusing so much on what the pastor does this article misses what the pastor wants which is often much more indicative of a lack of call. See Gomer’s blog!

  9. Arron says:

    I’ve answered yes to all of this questions (most hestitantly to number 1!), but still don’t know if it’s for me. I can’t really put my finger on why, but I just have an unease about considering pastoral ministry. I have days where I think “I could never do anything except be a pastor” and days when I day dream about doing various other things. For context, I’m 24, married with a son. Just so unsure!

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  11. Justin burnette says:

    I enjoyed reading this info about being a pastor. God has birthed a personal ministry through me that I have started and it’s been 6yrs now it started and focal pt was youth but now it’s men and women and youth. I’m ordained as well but I feel after six yrs of doing community focused ministry. I feel I’m transitioning into the next phase of pastoring when I’m actually feeding a constant flock besides my family.

  12. Bruce Nicoll says:

    My New Testament professor “matter of factly” stated that entering professional ministry should follow being called by God personally to the vocation. He related his own calling when God spoke to him at a time of vocational uncertainty by saying rhetorically “John what about the ministry” which meant specifically the Pastorate. My take from this was that he would have thought it odd that someone would enter “the ministry” whether pastoral or missions without a similar directive. But then again he disavowed being a “rationalist” where personal and actual communication from God was ruled out “a priori”.

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  14. web says:

    Major thankies for the post. Really Great.

  15. divertimento says:

    Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic blog post.Thanks Again. Fantastic.

  16. Lori Hopkins says:

    Thank you, Katherine Elliott Stegall, for pointing out the sexism in the author’s writing. While the author takes a Complementarian stance, the article describes roles that even Comp*s agree can be appropriately filled by women. So, can we agree that women are called to serve the body in ministry, even if we disagree about appropriate roles? And, perhaps, the author might have used more gender inclusive language.

    Since the author specifically mentions that addiction to pornography is a sin that need not be conquered before entering ministry, it makes me think that there is an underlying problem in the approach and understanding of humans, both male and female. If a person entering ministry is still addicted to pornography, that’s a problem. That’s a BIG problem. And the fact that you wrote it down as one to wave off as of little concern as you enter ministry?!?! Oh, dear brother, my heart grieves.

  17. An informative article here. Thanks a lot for sharing, I have liked the point on ‘Getting stirred by Bad preaching’ which I think is a big one to me.

  18. AJ says:

    Lori, I agree with you that addiction to pornography is a “BIG problem” for a minister. However, I think that all of us have vices/sins we struggle with, whether a Pastor or not; the only exception is Jesus. Keeping in mind that salvation is based on faith and not necessarily works, I think even Pastors are forgiven and can still lead their flocks. Pastors are not flawless, nor should they be…only Jesus was flawless.

  19. Freeman says:

    AJ – “I think even Pastors are forgiven and can still lead **their flocks.**”

    **their flocks.**??? Hmmm?

    Do, WE, His Ekklesia, His Disciples, His Sheep, belong to Jesus?
    Who purchased WE, His Ekklesia, His Church, with His Blood?

    Or, Do WE, His Sheep belong to a Mere Fallible Human?
    Who has taken a “Title/Postion,” pastor/leader/reverend?
    That does NOT exist in the Bible? For one of His Disciples?

    Haven’t you ever noticed? Or wondered why? In the Bible?

    NOT one of His Disciples called them self pastor?
    Or shepherd? Or leader? Or reverend?

    NOT one of His Disciples called another Disciple pastor?
    Or shepherd? Or leader? Or reverend?

    NOT one of His Disciples took the “Title/Position” pastor?
    Or shepherd? Or leader? Or reverend?

    NOT one of His Disciples was “Hired or Fired” as a pastor?
    Or shepherd? Or leader? Or reverend?

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Voice – One Fold – One Shepherd – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  20. Freeman says:

    AJ – “I think even Pastors are forgiven and can still lead their flocks.
    ………. Pastors are not flawless, nor should they be…”

    But, doesn’t the Bible have a different outlook for elder/overseers? Yes?
    Even Kevin asks, in #1, “Do I meet the qualifications laid out in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1?”
    And says, “…you won’t be ready until you meet the Scriptural standards.”

    Porn is just the tip of the ice berg for today’s pastors.

    If WE, His Ekklesia, His Church, His Sheep, His Kings and Priests, His Body…
    Take seriously the many tough Qualifications in 1 Tim 3:1-6, and Titus 1:5-9…
    The number of **Biblically Qualified,** pastor/leader/reverends, is quite small. ;-)

    I’m-a-thinkin, existing pastor/overseers, should also “meet the Scriptural standards.” Yes?
    If they do NOT meet, the 15+, tough Qualifications, in 1 Tim 3, and Titus 1?
    Shouldn’t these UN-qualified, pastor/leader/reverends, remove themselves?
    And be a good example to the flock?

  21. Lexie says:

    I never comments on anything but just could not get past “it could be an indication that you are too harsh, too much a loner, or frankly too awkward to be affective in pastoral ministry” this is simply not true and is quite discouraging. Agreed that the heat must first be changed, and the Lord may need to deal with a few things before one steps into ministry but to count Simone completely out because of character flaws? That’s ridiculous. Don’t we serve a God that is bigger than all of those things? Bigger thank anything? I’m sorry but if he calls you to something you better believe he is determined and more than able to see you through. And what a testimony for someone to have “I was once a very critical person, didn’t have many friends, and had social anxiety that was crippling. I never thought I’d be where I am today, leading His congregation.” That’s who my God is, and that’s what my God does. Takes the least likely, least capable person turns them completely around and uses them for His glory! So anyone that’s reading this that is a harsh social anxiety ridden loaner but is convinced that the Lord has called them to be in minsty, be encouraged! Hope in our God of hope!

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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