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Someone once said, “Only a fool would take this job,” and I think I’m qualified based on that statement. Jokes aside, the qualifications for pastoral ministry are the internal calling with which the Lord calls and the external calling. The Lord, by His Spirit, not only calls pastors personally and internally but also externally through His church.

What is the church to look for in a pastor? The qualifications for an elder are laid out in 1 Timothy 3. Notably, fifteen of those qualifications deal with character and conduct. The passage in 1 Timothy 3 looks at the pastor’s or elder’s personal conduct, then his family conduct, then his church conduct, and then his community witness and conduct. He is to be above reproach. That does not mean perfect; it means an obvious example of the rule and reign of God’s grace, having brought him to a certain level of maturity that manifests the presence of God’s wisdom. He is not just to have knowledge and understanding, but wisdom, which is shown in the fruit of one’s behavior in life. Jesus says that you shall know wisdom by her children, the fruit of our behavior. That’s what churches should be looking for.

Specifically, the pastor must be gifted to preach and teach, and he must want to preach and teach. Let me be definitive: he must not just want to preach, and not just preach to the Bible, but he must want to preach the Bible to God’s people. Some preachers are people-oriented, some are Bible-oriented, and some are preaching-oriented. The true call is to preach the Bible to God’s people and bring the charge of love from a pure conscience, a sincere faith, and a pursuit of righteousness and holiness. That’s what God calls the pastor to do.

The pastor also needs to have some leadership gifts so that he is able to lead God’s people. He is a shepherd of the flock. He’s not a rancher. The shepherd doesn’t get behind the herd and drive it; he gets in front of the flock and leads it. The sheep know the Lord’s voice through the pastor. They follow the Lord through the under-shepherd as he serves the chief Shepherd.

The pastor is to be someone who, in word and deed, manifests the maturity of the Holy Spirit and is tested in terms of his spiritual gifts and spirituality. Where is he in his walk with the Lord?

Ultimately, Spurgeon was right. If you’re called to the Lord, there is nothing else you can do. If there is anything else you can do, go do it. When you’re called, you don’t go into the ministry to be fulfilled. If you do, you won’t stay. You go into the ministry to fulfill the ministry. You don’t go in to get filled up. You go to pour yourself out as a drink offering all the way to the end.

This transcript is from an Ask Ligonier Podcast session with Harry Reeder and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.