Friday, November 6, 2015

Maybe you are not called to be a pastor

It always hurts me to watch someone who wants to succeed as a pastor but leaves a trail of heartache and issues everywhere he or she serves. They know they have been called to be a pastor. They've invested in the proper education. They tell me they don't know how to do anything else. But, their entire ministry has been marked by heartache and disappointment as they've gone from one church to another with no noticeable positive results of their having been there.

The call of God on an individual's life is something very personal and private. Different people experience that call in different ways, and it is a mistake to tell someone that their experience wasn't valid simply because it differed from your experience. Also, each one of us have been given gifts that are to be used in ministry. My ministry will look different than another person's ministry because of those differing gifts. This makes it difficult to question someone's call to the ministry.

At the same time, there are certain characteristics a person who has been called into the ministry should possess. Some of these are

  • The ability to build relationships with people. As I have written before, everything in a smaller church is dependent upon relationships. A person who cannot build relationships with persons in a smaller church cannot pastor there.
  • The ability to communicate. Few pastors will be skilled communicators like a Charles Swindoll or a Billy Graham, but at the very least we should have some idea of how to develop a sermon and deliver it in a way that will engage the listener. I've left too many church services unable to figure out what the pastor had been trying to say.
  • The ability to lead. No organization can rise any higher than the lid of its leadership. The 21st century church needs pastors who are leaders if they are ever going to get out of their maintenance-mentality.
  • The ability to lead a congregation in the discernment of a God-given vision. This is one aspect of being a leader, but the fact is that many serving as pastors today have no sense of what God is wanting to do in and through their church. They have no vision for ministry and are seemingly content to drift along from Sunday to Sunday hoping something good will happen.
  • The desire to be a lifelong learner. Many of the things you learned in seminary you will never use as the pastor of a church. (Sorry, but it's the truth.) The things you will use will be outdated within a few years after you graduate. For you to remain an effective pastor you will have to transform yourself and your ministry many times throughout your ministry.
  • A passion for people. The joke is that ministry would be great if it wasn't for the people. Of course, ministry is all about people. Jesus Christ gave his life for people, and it will be the heart's desire of a God-called person to want to minister to people.
  • A willingness to work. I sometimes tell people that the ministry is a great place for lazy people. We don't punch a time clock. Very seldom does anyone ask for us to give an account of how we use our time. Quite frankly, some of the laziest people I have known have been ministers. Successful ministry requires work on our part, and if a person is not willing to put in the work it's fair to question whether God has called that person into the ministry.
We could list more, but this should suffice for now. Please understand something. I am not saying that you have to be an expert or polished on all the things listed here. I recently reviewed some of my early sermons from the 1980s, and they are really bad. After I had been at my church for two or three years one of the deacons said to me on his way out after the service, "You know, you are starting to turn into a decent preacher." Knowing him I understood that to be a compliment. If you are a lifelong learner you are going to be learning new skills that will help you become a better communicator, a better leader, and a better pastor. But, if you do not show any talent in any of these areas and you haven't improved in them after some time in the ministry, it's time for a gut check. Maybe you should have a different role in the church.

There is nothing greater than to be called by God to serve him in a ministry role, but there is nothing more frustrating that to be in that role when he hasn't called you. Please contact me if you feel you need to look into your calling.

No comments: