I’ve felt called to head towards the Pastorate for a number of years now. However, in those early few years, when I felt called, my heart went through a lot of ups-and-downs and a lot of back-and-forth-wrestling and questioning whether it was the right thing to do and trying to figure out when I felt ready.
Looking back now, I can see there were for sure some common signs I saw and hear people talking about that I ended up seeing confirming I should continue to think more about Pastoral ministry more and more, but I can also see that my heart needed to be shaped, and it still does. I needed to mature and understand the weight of the call.
Writing this post, doesn’t mean, I have arrived, am an expert or think these are the only 8 signs you need to look for to check-off your question list, to move forward, but I believe they are at least some helpful, Biblical, important and common Pastoral signs — signs that I have identified in my own life — that will help you navigate the hard question of i,f or if not, you are heading towards the Pastorate.
#1 – You Eat, Sleep & Breath Theology:
If you’re going to enter into Pastoral ministry, you’ve got to get to the place where you literally eat, sleep and breath theology. If you aren’t increasing becoming more and more passionate to communicate God’s truth publicly, don’t love reading the Bible for 6-8 hours in a day and aren’t open to being disciplined and corrected by God’s Word, daily.
If reading the Bible feels like a chore and if you don’t like reading books about theology and doctrine or you don’t like diving deep into reading different commentaries and reading lots on different view-points, you’re probably not ready to consider entering the Pastorate.
#2 – You Have Established Your Relationship:
I believe strongly in a Pastor being married and being able to manage his own family first before he takes the leap to pursue leadership in a greater capacity and desires to pursue public leadership in the church (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
If you are single, still jumping in-and-out of relationships and moving around, you may not be ready to consider Pastoral ministry yet, and that’s okay. Take time to mature and as you settle down, re-think ministry. If I could go back, I wouldn’t make it a race to get into leadership. I would enjoy the shaping process and the freedom, before the burden and weight of leadership rests on your shoulder, constantly.
#3 – You Understand It’s a Spiritual Battle:
Pastoral ministry and leading God’s people, is like nothing you will ever do (Ephesians 6:12). If you don’t understand Pastoral leadership is entering into an even bigger spiritual battle –one where you and your family will be attacked more for your faithfulness and service, don’t make the leap of faith, because you probably aren’t ready, yet.
#4 – You Understand It’s a Call, Not a Job:
If you are in the age where you are still craving young leadership, titles, searching around for potential job prospects or looking for your dream job and think Pastoral ministry looks glamorous and just sounds cool or looks like fun for a weekend, you probably aren’t ready for Pastoral ministry.
Pastoral ministry is a strong, deep call. It has to have time to sink down deep past head-knowledge, take firm root, sink deep into your heart, then manifest itself passionately and unapologetically outward oozing out into every area of your heart and life.
It needs time to grow, in such a way that you desire to sacrifice your comforts, move away from family, spend less, have less, serve more, stay up late praying before a sermon and spend your days praying for the people you lead daily and you need to see God’s people as close family members you would do anything to help. It’s a call, first, and a job, second.
#5 – You Can’t Picture Yourself Doing Anything Else:
As hard as ministry and leadership is, if it is really for you and a real call. You won’t be able to manufacture the call or force it. If God wants you there, He will move mountains to get you there. He will impress it upon your heart –so deep that you feel like He wrote a personal letter and engraved the call on the tablet of your heart, like a permanent tattoo.
Eventually, you will come to the place of complete surrender –the end of yourself, the place where you can’t picture yourself doing anything else, but communicate the awe and wonder of Christ everywhere you go.
No matter how nervous you get public speaking, you will begin to become not okay with the status quo of modern-day preaching and won’t be able to sit on the congregational sidelines of church attendance and membership, anymore. You’ll need to be at the front lines, leading change and preaching Christ’s message.
#6 – You Have Been Confirmed By Other Pastors:
I don’t believe being confirmed by other Pastors is an absolute Biblical-must, like some Pastors do, and I don’t believe that you need to be officially “confirmed”; I do, however, think if you are seriously considering full-time paid and vocational ministry that it’s in your best interest and an important part of the Pastoral process to desire to surround yourself with wise council (Proverbs 15:22).
If you are truly thinking about Pastoral ministry, in any capacity, take initiative to get around other Pastors, mentors and elders who can observe you, give you insights into who you are and be able to observe you to see how you tick: your personality, your strengths, your weaknesses, your habits and how strong you are equipped to lead.
#7 – You Are Not a Recent Convert:
1 Timothy 3:6 states clearly, that if someone wants to lead or be an overseer, he must not be a recent convert, for if he is, he may become conceited or fall under the same condemnation of the devil. If you can’t lead yourself spiritually and don’t have the spiritual stamina, holy-sweat required, or the ability to withstand temptations.
If you haven’t intentionally been working hard to build in strong daily and rhythmic spiritual habits that are cemented-in and solidified deeply into the irremovable framework of your life, take some time to travel, explore, learn, mature, grow, seek council, and serve in your church where you are at until you develop a spiritual appetite, in such a way where you cannot live without the Word, daily (Matthew 4:4).
#8 – You Have a Strong Support System:
Pastoral ministry is like no other job. It is a convictional call and since it is like entering into a spiritual battle, it’s important to have a support system. This is a group of people who love you, appreciate you, build into you, invest in you, listen to you, guide you, mentor you and most importantly pray for you, daily. If you don’t have that support system.
If you don’t have mentors, Pastors, a wife, a dedicated friend, godly people around you, wise council and people that you can talk to about deep spiritual things, you might want re-consider going into Pastoral ministry, for now. Without a support system, you may be zealously and recklessly sprinting towards in-calculated leadership-burnout and quick-leadership failure, with naive and out-of-touch-with-reality spiritual goggles on.
#9 – You Have Controlled Your Sexual Appetite:
Nothing can be more devastating and foolish then willingly entering a supernatural battlefield and willingly putting yourself in the devil’s line-of-fire in a public ministry position as a weak and undisciplined young man who cannot control his sexual appetite.
If you can’t control your eyes, have an increasingly growing sexual appetite for sexual encounters or have built in daily pornography use into the framework or habitual rhythms of your life, run far away from Pastoral ministry. You will fail, eventually.
#10 – You Realize Without Christ, You Won’t succeed:
Pastoral ministry or ministry of any type, is impossible without the supernatural leading and irreplaceable power of the Holy Spirit. Paul realized this incredibly humbling reality, quoting: “when I am weak, I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). If you think leading and preaching is about you, numbers, getting a following or being remembered in History, as the greatest theologian of all time, don’t move forward.
Bringing It Together:
Pastoral ministry and even public leadership or blogging and speaking publicly outside of a Pastoral role can be incredibly rewarding, but it also can be incredibly tiring, trying, striving, challenging and is a big responsibility.
If you are considering entering the Pastorate, pray about it non-stop, seek wise council, observe your habits under a microscope, test yourself, observe your personality, ask others around you how you would fit into ministry, and establish the important foundational things in your own personal and relational life, first.
But most of all, don’t rush into it or make hasty decisions. If God wants you there, He will nudge you, give you opportunities and make it clear, in such a way that you cannot go any other direction, until your desire clicks and aligns with His will for your life, and the call He’s placed on your life.