The Pastoral Call
HT: Cale Fauver
Is the pastor called to the high calling of a herald of God’s Word and a shepherd of God’s sheep? The Scriptures tell us in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 that there are certain marks of those whom the Lord has set apart for himself (cf. Acts 13:2). John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) has some key insights and marks of those who are called to preach and pastor. He writes this, “”You must not thrust yourself into it but be thrust into it by the Lord of the harvest.” Now, allow the pastor and theologian of Haddington to lead us into the marks of those whom the Lord thrusts into the harvest:
- Inward Call: “His inward call by His Spirit must appear in your cordial compassion to perishing souls…[and a] desire to serve Him with such gifts as He bestows upon you, by employing them in winning souls to Him for their eternal salvation.”
- First, a mark of the inward call is a desire to preach (1 Timothy 3:1). Jesus said that he came in order to preach (Luke 4:43). It was his desire. The pastor must also have a desire that is filled with compassion (Matthew 9:36)to men who are perishing in their sins. If we were to place our hear to hell’s gate for a mere minute to hear the screams and agony of those who were too late, too hardened, too obstinate; to hear them cry out that the evangelists and pastors appeared to be too busy, disinterested, or too frightened, our hearts would be enflamed to preach and minister to those in our midst. As Spurgeon once said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”
- Outward Call: “His outward call, in ordinary cases, is by the invitation, or at least the consent, of the majority of the flock to which you are to minister. Without this, you cannot be their pastor, nor can they be expected to receive your ministrations…nor have you any reason to look on yourself as sent by Christ as His ambassador.”
- There must be an outward confirmation within the local church. The hearers of the local church serve a weighty role in the calling of a pastor. If one is gifted from the Lord it will be naturally manifested by the congregation. It is recognized by his desire for opportunity to preach and the hearers affirmation of your gifting and craft. It was said of Jesus that he “amazed” those who heard his understanding and answers (Luke 2:46); he taught as one he had authority (Matthew 7:29). Luke tells us that Apollos was “competent in the Scriptures…and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus,” (Acts 18:25). Luke confirms his gifting, as does Priscilla and Aquila as they take him aside not to stomp out his work, but to aid and fan the flame of his preaching, and the disciples whom he traveled to were “greatly helped” by his preaching (18:26-28).
- Dependence Upon Christ: “And in your being deeply impressed with your own insufficiency for that important work.”
- Lastly, Brown reminds us that we must feel the weight of our own inadequacy to our own calling. We are creatures, men of the dust; and the Lord has put within our mouth, hearts, and affections a holy calling to preach Christ and Christ alone. Preaching is a humbling work; for “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18) and preaching is “folly” to those who are dead in their sins — but God is pleased through the folly of what we preach, through the folly of preaching (1 Corinthians 1:21). Therefore, we are merely sowing seed (Mark 4:3), imploring men (2 Corinthians 5:20), sorrowful for those who are cut off (Romans 9:2; 10:1), and a desire to snatch others from the flames (Jude 23). And yet, all the while, we are dependent upon God to raise dead men to life (Ephesians 2:1-6), to cause them to be born again (1 Peter 1:3), to grant them faith and repentance (2 Timothy 2:25; Philippians 1:29; Acts 11:18).
Our duty, desire, and dependence is this, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).