The Call to the Ministry
Rev. Stephan Regnerus
Our churches need more ministers. Synod 2019 expressed an urgent need for more seminary students; pastors regularly pray for more ministers; godly fathers encourage their sons to consider whether God has called them to become a preacher. The need for more ministers has been well documented, and I trust this need will continue to be in our prayers until the Lord of the harvest gives us more men.
Understanding the need for more ministers, we as young men now face a practical question: how do I know if I have been called to the ministry? Am I to look for a special revelation from God? Will there be a still small voice whispering in my ear, or am I to look for handwriting on the wall? I remember in my own pathway to the ministry there was variation in my level of conviction: sometimes I was certain that the Lord was calling me to preach; at other times I teetered on the brink of discontinuing my pursuit of the ministry. In this article, I want to offer the young man guidance as he considers whether he has been called to preach. To be sure, this guidance will be colored by my personal experiences. Every man’s path to the ministry will be unique. Thus, this guidance is not intended to discourage those who have different experiences than mine, nor is this list exhaustive. But here are some things the aspiring minister ought to consider:
- We are to know that the Holy Spirit is the person who calls a man to office in the church. The Spirit works the internal call in the man, and the Spirit through the church extends the external call to that man. Acts 13:2: “…the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” The Spirit goes forth with irresistible power, and he is able to give the young man the conviction that he has been set apart for the work of preaching. The man who is wrestling with whether he is called to the ministry ought to pray that he be anointed with an extra measure of the Spirit.
- We must be humble enough to listen to the advice of other godly people. Do your parents, teachers, or co-workers point out gifts in you that are compatible with the ministry? Paul says that the officebearer must be of “good report of them which are without” (1 Tim. 3:7). I can remember teachers and classmates in high school commenting to me: “You would make a good pastor!” Every Christmas during my college years, a professor from our own seminary would visit me and encourage me to pursue the ministry. Other members of the church have perceptive insights into our strengths and weaknesses; we do well to seek and listen to their judgment.
- You ought to consider the ministry if you are filled with zeal for God’s house and the people who dwell in that house. It is true that every Christian—whether a minister or not—loves to worship God along with all the saints. But my experience was that the older I became, the more the needs of God’s people were on my mind, until it became the longing of my heart to devote my life to serving them. The aspiring minister is one who can say with the psalmist, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life…” (Ps. 27:4).
- You must examine whether you have been endowed with God-given abilities to understand and communicate the rich truths of Scripture. 2 Tim. 2:24 says that the minister must be “apt to teach.” That is, the minister must be able to take a complex subject, break it down into its simplest form, and communicate that simple truth to God’s people. It could be that a man is godly and humble, and the same man has a desire to serve God’s people, but the man lacks the intellectual ability to put together two sermons every week, teach several catechism classes, lead societies and meetings, and do counseling work besides. A man who has a kind heart, but who lacks the ability to teach, is not fit for the gospel ministry. (But do not worry if you are not a straight A student. Academic excellence is not a prerequisite to entering the ministry, nor does academic success necessarily equate to success in the gospel ministry. God is oftentimes pleased to use “the foolish things of the world to confound the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27). Lean on others, especially your professors, to help you know if you have intellectual abilities to serve as a minister.)
- You know you are called to the ministry if you can do no other. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “…woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” It could very well be that you have other strong interests in your life. Prior to the ministry, I wanted to be a truck driver. I loved the sound and size and power of semi trucks. For three years during college I drove a semi as a part-time job. But I had to learn an important lesson: just because you love something, or you find that you are good at something, does not necessarily mean that you are called to do that thing. God would not give me peace of heart driving semi. The Holy Spirit brought me little by little, through many experiences of life, to the point where I could say with Paul: woe is me, if I preach not the gospel.
May God give the aspiring minister humility to heed the Spirit’s call, patience to wait on the Lord’s timing, and strength to do the blessed work of preparing to preach the gospel message!
Rev. Stephan Regnerus was ordained in 2017 and is the pastor of Lynden Protestant Reformed Church in Lynden, WA.
Originally published March 2020, Vol 79 No 3