Some men seek to enter the ministry because they love to study theology. Today, W. Robert Godfrey explains that the call to be a pastor involves much more than the desire to know God’s Word.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: I'm here on the Ligonier campus with Ligonier's chairman and one of our teaching fellows, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey. Dr. Godfrey, how does a young man know if he's being called to be a pastor?
DR. W. ROBERT GODFREY: It's a good question, and I think we always begin with a Scripture. What do the Scriptures lay down as the criteria for being a pastor? And your life has to be in order. You have to be a believer. Paul says you have to have a good repute outside the church (1 Tim. 3:7). So those are basics. You have to know the Scriptures and love the Scriptures. You have to be a disciplined person who's willing to work hard for the sake of the gospel. So there are scriptural criteria that someone should meditate on and reflect on and see if they want to live that kind of a life.
Then I think it's very important to talk to other people, to get an evaluation of yourself. To be a pastor, you not only have to feel you want to be a pastor, you have to be called by a church to be a pastor. And so it's not an individual decision alone; it's a communal decision in a profound sense. So you want to begin to talk to other Christians, perhaps particularly the Christian pastors, as to what sort of gifts they see in you to see if they believe you might be a pastor.
I'm not sure you can always know at the beginning of the process what the answer may be at the end of the process. I've spoken to people about attending seminary and I said, "If you're not sure yet and you want to attend seminary, you should, because that may very well help clarify for you." I've known young men who go to seminary very convinced they want to be pastors, and deciding not far into a Hebrew class that maybe they're really not called to be a pastor. On the other hand, I've seen young men going to seminary really fairly sure they don't want to be pastors and discovering in the course of their studies that they do.
So that's one part of that, and then, of course, you have to formally be connected to a church and ask pastors or a body of elders to supervise you, to evaluate you, to offer advice. So I think you want to wrestle with your own sense of calling by realization of what it means, but also be connected to the church and to the community of faith so that you can get good advice from reliable people.
BINGHAM: While I've got you here, I would love to ask you one extra question. Having served as the president of a seminary, is there one bit of advice that you found yourself often giving to young men while they were training with you?
GODFREY: I think the advice I most frequently offered was just to become very involved in the life of the church, to begin the process of teaching, to begin the process of relating to people. I think I've seen amongst some who come to seminary, their real desire is they would like to be a professor of theology. They're interested in theology.
To be a pastor, you have to be interested in people. You have to be interested in theology, to be sure, and in the Bible and in study, but you have to be interested in people. And many pastors, I think, struggle to get that balance right. How much time in the study, which is a solitary experience, and how much time with people, which is a communal experience. And all of us are probably pulled more one way or the other, and you have to hit that balance correctly.
So the key thing to be a pastor is you have to want to be more than just an academic theologian. You have to really want to be serving people, and that's what the church desperately needs today"theologically trained servants who love people.
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