Recently, I wrote an article called: 10 Signs You May be Called to Preach. This article is close to my heart, since it can be incredibly difficult to navigate through whether you are called to Pastoral ministry, and many people have many ideas on what it means to be called or what process you need to go through to be confirmed or called as a Pastor.
In light of the last article I wrote, I thought it would be equally fitting to write a similar article, in regards to Pastoral ministry, but from the other side: 15 Signs You’re Not Ready To Be a Pastor
This article is also close to my heart, since there are many misconceptions on what a Pastor really is, should be or does, and more and more our culture is seeing a large amount of Pastor’s being released more theologically confused and ill-equipped each year.
Please note, I am not a paid full time Pastor, but I have been serving beside Pastor’s for the last 3 years, have been attending Pastoral conferences, preaching, meeting Pastors, talking to Pastors, observing in churches, know many Pastors as friends, been in weekly mentorship with Pastors and involved in internship programs while studying to be a Pastor.
My hopes in writing this post is to raise awareness, provide a bit of humour around what people think Pastoral ministry is and the misconceptions I have had at times, unveil the current unhealthy trends I have seen in ill-equipped Pastors, give congregants a picture into what a Pastor isn’t in order to clarify misconceptions, and to help young leaders think through what it really takes to start pursuing a ministry calling on your life.
#1 – You Think All it Takes is Being Good With People:
Being good with people in ministry is a great asset; however, it’s not enough to ensure success in ministry. People that are good with people may consider ministry, primarily because they are good with people and think that is enough –but if the person isn’t surrendered to the leading of God, and doesn’t let God guide them, they aren’t ready for Pastoral ministry, no matter how great with people they are.
#2 – You Think Being a Great Public Speaker is The Main Qualification:
When I was at a Pastor’s Fellowship recently, the speaker — who was a great speaker — shared his experience with years of ministry saying that: unfortunately, a large majority of the Pastor’s and Seminary students he knew, who were really gifted, were the ones who had dropped out and left the ministry entirely (this is my paraphrase).
You can be an incredible speaker, a speaker who woo’s audiences and has the natural ability to draw crowds and speak in huge stadiums with thousands of people, but if you don’t have a heart for God, and aren’t surrendered to the working of the Holy Spirit or don’t understand the unique and significant role the Holy Spirit plays in the behind the scene’s heart of the Pastor, you aren’t ready to be a Pastor.
#3 – You Think Ministry Looks Glamorous:
Unfortunately, the evangelical culture of church planting and Pastoral leadership has done a great job at making Pastoral ministry look…nothing like Pastoral ministry, at all. In fact, a large number of evangelical Christians have done a great job at making modern church planting and Pastoral Ministry look incredibly easy, glamorous, cool or trendy.
They’ve done a great job at staging Pastoral ministry, on brochures and in seminary advertisements, to look like it’s a special high call for the spiritual elite who want to write books, be authors, look cool, talk cool, talk to thousands on stages, play cool guitars, take cool pictures, wear nice suits, gain a following, have authority and be spiritual rockstar’s.
I’ll admit, this culture swept me up for a while and it looked inviting, but in regards to church planting or Pastoral Ministry, nothing could be farther from reality, and this idea, if it continues, is a surefire way to release thousands of incompetent, immature Christians into the Pastorate each year, immature Christians who are expecting glamor, lights, praise and glory, instead of giving God the full glory while serving humbly in lowly view-people-as-better-than-yourself leadership to the church (John 3:30).
#4 – You Think Being Talented is What Qualifies You:
In the same way as being a great public speaker doesn’t qualify you for effective Pastoral ministry success, if you are incredibly talented to the point of genius-status and think that will sustain you through Pastoral leadership, you are not ready for Pastoral leadership.
God appoints and calls people to leadership, by His grace and by His power (Ephesians 3:7), and it is that same grace and power that enables His surrendered vessels to speak, preach and unlock God’s wisdom in order to exegete it or communicate it to His people.
#5 – You Studied Organizational Leadership:
Our modern and cultural obsession with leadership is rapidly growing, and as it does, it’s leaving incredible Pastors strong in exegesis and less educated in leadership and management in the dust as modern Pastors with leadership and management degree’s are becoming more employable then theologically grounded Pastors within the modern evangelical church.
If you can’t properly exegete the Word, haven’t studied books of the Bible in depth, don’t have a desire to, and have more experience in running an organization or in leadership, you will fail in real Pastoral leadership –the type that actually equips the saints and raises up strong courageous and mature disciples who are well-versed in the Word.
#6 – You Think Being a Christian Your Entire Life Qualifies You:
The biggest problem with being “Christian” your entire life is that some people think they are Christian by association, by parental inheritance or because they go to church and take communion. The danger is, some Christians may fall into the thinking that they have been a “Christian” their entire life, but it’s never really been a real heart thing, and as a result, they think being Christian is the only qualifier.
This is a great start –to be a Christian, and it’s obviously a qualifier and an incredible asset to the ministry, but in the end, it really comes down to where your heart is at after all those years of being a Christian. If you are a Christian, but aren’t gifted and equipped to preach, and if you can handle the demands of Pastoral ministry while effectively providing leadership and shepherding skills, being Christian isn’t enough.
#7 – You Studied Psychology or Religion:
There is an ever-growing and increasingly popular trend for Pastor’s to be holding degrees in psychology and religion or to have some sort of a 12-week life coaching certification.
Although, I am not against the above educational pursuits. Studying to be a psychologist or studying world religions, in a broad full spectrum religious sense and having a 12-week life coaching certification, are not proper qualifications for a Biblically discerned Pastor whose call and dedication should be to preaching and expounding God’s Word weekly.
#8 – You Think Pastor’s Are World Travellers:
If you are more interested in traveling the world, experiencing as much life as possible and think that Pastoral ministry will be a great compliment to this lifestyle while taking you around from church to church to speak and travel while riding in planes and wearing nice suits, then you aren’t ready.
Our culture has reversed the roles of Christian leadership and often paints a false Pastoral picture that a Pastor is a world traveler, world-wide evangelist or a conference speaker who travels from church to church.
While some of the above may come true and happen in the life-span of a Pastor, the Pastor’s first responsibility is the everyday commitment to his congregation, to teaching, preaching, serving and equipping God’s church in the ordinary every-day life stuff.
You may go to a few conferences in Pastoral leadership, and you may travel a bit, but if you think it’s a job for someone who isn’t willing to lay roots and commit, your probably not quite ready yet, and that’s alright. Instead, consider taking some time to explore and commit once you are ready to lay roots.
#9 – You Just Want To Win Souls For Christ:
Winning souls for Christ is a noble pursuit. However, the more you mature in your faith, you eventually begin to realize that men or man-made processes have 0 ability to lead people to Christ. We are simply the instrument God choses to use, and as we surrender to His plan, power and design, God saves and wins souls for His glory.
If your primary goal is to convert the entire world, lead millions to Christ, and to do it all by yourself — which many young leaders goal is at first — then you may have the wrong motivation and may need to grow more.
God does the growing, leading, feeding, seeding and saving of souls, and the Pastor must be committed to serving in community with his congregational day-in and day-out. The reality is, sometimes it’s not as fast as you would like. Pastors who are ready trust God is doing His work, and if their heart is in the right spot, that’s enough to stick around when no one is getting saved.
#10 – You’re Just Recently Married:
There is Biblical controversy on whether the stipulations for an overseer in (1 Timothy 3:12) apply to a Pastor directly, especially since some argue that Paul was single. That’s not the argument I am arguing.
What I am saying is, whether you believe it’s Biblical or not to lead as a single or married Pastor, if you just got married and want to lead, there are certain key foundational things in your marriage that need time to grow, find their way to the right places, become prioritized, and habits and disciplines that need to be cemented in before you can successfully lead other people effectively.
If you are just recently married and force yourself into a premature Pastoral position, you’re probably not ready, and things probably wont end well. Take time to get a foundation for your marriage. Don’t rush things. Enjoy being married, and serve where you are at in the capacity that you are able to handle until you get a firm foundation and are ready to make the transition.
#11 – You Are Naturally Entrepreneurial:
There is a misconception that being entrepreneurial is a primary be-all-and-end-all prerequisite for becoming a successful church planter or a great Pastor. In many evangelical circles, many argue that what we need most in today’s society or churches are more entrepreneurial Pastors who are able to start up new churches, see the way forward, cultivate vision and have the ability to manage a church while creating a culture of unique vision.
I’m not saying the above aren’t assets. However, if you are the type of person who loves the thrill of starting something up, love filling a cultural need, enjoy management and excel in brand development while creating vision or even have the ability to get people excited and have strong leadership skills to attract people, it’s not enough, and it’s the wrong Pastoral motivation.
A Pastor should first be dedicated to teaching, serving, discipling, proper Bible exegesis, shepherding, protecting, exercising discernment and have a true heart for gospel advancement and leading God’s people spiritually. If entrepreneurial gifts come second or as a complimentary add-on to a Pastor’s heart to do all of the above, first, then these entrepreneurial skills are valuable.
If the primary motivation and main driving qualification is that you are an entrepreneur and someone assesses you telling you that you would make a great church planter, which is becoming very common today in evangelicals, but you haven’t wrestled with scripture and allowed God to shape your heart for a number of years, you probably aren’t ready to plant a church just yet.
#12 – You’re Switching To Pastoral Ministry As a Last Resort:
If you’re motivation in going into Pastoral ministry is motivated by the fact that you have tried everything else, have done a bit of research or reading on church planting, have some retail experience, some management experience, worked with people and you think that you might as well try it out, you will fail.
Ministry and Pastoral leadership is a supernatural job assignment given from God. If you don’t have a strong calling and a growing desire, a spark that ignites in your heart to lead, feed, and shepherd God’s church, don’t just try it out and hope it ends well.
#13 – You Want To Combine Your Calling:
I’ve seen Pastor’s who, from the outside, look more wrapped up in authorship, traveling to speak, blogging and/or running 6 companies while Pastoring and planting churches. If you have time to do all of that, then it’s a real question of whether you were ready to be a Pastor in the first place or if you should have put the brakes on and became a full-time entrepreneur, instead.
I’m not against bi-vocational ministry. I wrote an article about it here: Should Pastor’s Be Bi-Vocational?), and I think in many cases bi-vocational ministry is necessary. It’s a noble pursuit and is complimentary in allowing the Pastor to be in the world, have a front on evangelism, and to be serving outside of the church. That is healthy.
My concern is with the Pastor’s who seems primarily focused or more passionate with other pursuits, to the point where it seriously takes him away from effectively equipping and serving the needs of the congregation and in doing so he makes himself unavailable to equip God’s people.
#14 – You Think It Makes You Ultra-Spiritual or Ultra-Important:
Some Pastors I have seen give off the persona, as a Pastor, that they are ultra-important or someone who is above everyone else, someone who is special or has that special elite call above all while holding the false view that the other sheep just move pews, wash dishes behind the scene’s and pray for the Pastor to shine each Sunday.
If you have the impression that being in Pastoral leadership makes you ultra-spiritual, gives you more power, get’s you discounts, and makes you ultra-important, then you probably aren’t ready to make the transition into ministry, yet.
A Pastor should the greatest servant of all. He should be one who washes the feet of people. One who see’s himself as the lowest and one who sees everyone else around him as the highest, seeing people as far better than himself (Philippians 2:3)
#15 – You Think It’s Sipping Cappuccino’s in a Cafe:
Lastly, if you think being a Pastor is just a title for someone who sits in their favorite high-end coffee shop drinking $5 cups of fancy coffee, someone who takes selfies all day of the latest theology book they are reading, someone who sits on social media and starts controversial spiritual talks on facebook or someone who uses their job as an excuse to kick back and punch out early each day, you may want to re-think entering ministry.