It’s not simply a matter of gifting. It’s not simply a matter of an internal feeling of that call. And it’s not simply a matter of having the right education.
A lot of times people feel called, and maybe that’s attested to by the demonstration and use of their gifts in the local church. Then they go to Bible college, or seminary, or both, and they say: “Well, now I’ve done it. I’ve spent all these years in Bible college and seminary. I’ve done all that I need to do—I’ve done an internship, I’ve come under care of a church, and so I must be called.” As we know, that’s really insufficient.
There needs to be an external call. That external call can only come from experienced elders who are active shepherds for a significant length of time. It can’t come from a mom or a dad saying, “You’d be a good pastor.” It can’t come from a sweet person in the church who says, “You’d make a good pastor someday because you’re really kind.”
Only become a pastor if you are as certain as you can possibly be that God is calling you to it, has entrusted you with the gifts for it, and if every wise, experienced elder or pastor that you know in your orbit who is aged in ministry has said, “You must do this.” And if they are not saying, “You must do this because this is what God has called you do,” then in many ways be thankful to God and go do something else.
The reason we are pastors is not because we wanted to be. It’s because we felt and believed that we couldn’t do something else, and that was attested to time and time again. That doesn’t mean we weren’t able to do something else; it means that we had to do this.
Any pastor who has been in pastoral ministry for any length of time will say that, if he could, he would not be a pastor. It’s not a self-pitying thing. We’re not saying that we don’t like being pastors or that we’re upset with God.
No, what we’re saying is that it is a hard calling. It’s not simple, it’s not easy, and it will bruise you and burden you every hour of every day of your life.
Only do it if you must, and be willing to give a great deal away.