Dr. Al Mohler has written an excellent blog titled “Has God Called You? Discerning the Call to Preach.” I commend it to anyone who might be wondering whether God is calling you to be a pastor. I would place more emphasis on the shepherding aspect of pastoral ministry (see my previous blog post), but overall Dr. Mohler is on target. His article caused me to reflect on how I responded to the call to pastoral ministry. I fought it!
Although I had presented myself to God as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2) and should have responded willingly, I did not want to leave our comfortable surroundings. Carole and I moved from Maine to a remote location in northern Idaho shortly after we were married. We began attending a little country church in Fernwood, a church served by Village Missionaries Ray and Martha Bell. I had been a believer for about a year when we began attending and didn’t even know the difference between the Old and New Testament. No better place for discipleship and mentoring exists than a small country church with a dedicated pastor and his wife. The Bells and others in the church mentored me. As I grew, Pastor Ray provided various opportunities to minister. I taught several Bible studies in our home and taught the adult Sunday School class. I helped Pastor Ray with various evangelistic campaigns in which we saw many come to Christ. Probably most challenging and helpful, Pastor Ray gave me several opportunities to preach.
Gradually, a growing discontent with my work (Idaho Highway Department and horseshoeing) combined with a growing passion to preach and to minister to people. People in the church began to recognize that God was calling me into the ministry. Pastor Ray encouraged this direction without in any way pushing me. But it was so hard to leave! By that time, we owned ten acres of land and enjoyed our life. Although I was bored working for the Highway Department, it was one of the few year-round and full-time jobs in the area and it worked well with my horseshoeing. God had to get my attention.
To make a long story short, a draft horse trampled me! Just pulling his shoes for winter, he spooked when some snow slid off the roof and I fell underneath him. This near death experience in which I was laid up for about a month was enough to cause me to decide to apply to some Bible colleges. I wanted my life to count for something. However, it was only a decision and as spring came nearer and thoughts of planting the garden grew, I postponed implementing the decision. I am sure many others respond more quickly and easier to God, but not me-at least then. After only one month back to work after my injury, I slipped and fell in a “freak” accident. I broke my leg so badly that it required an operation to repair the damage.
This led me to finally apply to Moody Bible Institute. I was accepted, we sold our home, and in July 1980, seven years after we arrived in Idaho, off we went to Chicago to begin preparation for the ministry. I have only a very few times (in times of great weakness and struggle) regretted the answering of God’s call to pastoral ministry. I have observed two things now in my role as Executive Director, and I would like to solicit your comments and observations: First, I have observed that fewer churches seem to be teaching the call of God into pastoral ministry.
Perhaps in an effort to teach that we are all called to ministry, the idea of a call to pastoral ministry or to full-time ministry appears to have been neglected. Do you think this is true? If you are a pastor, do you teach a call to pastoral ministry? Second, I have observed that some young people appear almost frightened to enter pastoral ministry. Although a healthy caution is wise, this seems more than that – more of a fear. Such ones are willing to be youth pastors or on staff in a large church, but they seem overwhelmed by the idea of being the pastor of a small church.
We have seen several young guys do quite well in Village Missions (I trust that our support structure helps) but several others seem reluctant to serve, although they sense God’s call. Is this observation correct and, if so, why?
Looking forward to hearing from you.