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The Church Ethic
Pastors, and the Calling (Part 1)
Importance of Music in Worship
The Church and Going to Church
Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling
Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling
Introduction: Financial Support for
Financial Support for Ministers (Part
Financial Support for Ministers (Part
Church Leadership and Authority
many of us somewhere over the course of our Christian lives,
have heard of someone being "called to the ministry?" Most
Christians have probably heard this phrase at one time or
another, maybe even a number of times. And certainly we are
familiar with the concept. For most of us, this is nothing
less than the first step in the process of a man (or perhaps
a woman) becoming a pastor, youth pastor, music pastor, missionary,
But let's think about it. Although we've all no doubt heard
the phrase "called to the ministry," have any of us ever read
such a phrase in the Bible?
Well, that's a pretty loaded question. Sure the phrase "called
to the ministry" may not appear word for word in the text
of the New Testament, but that doesn't mean the concept isn't
in there somewhere.
First of all, let's establish that the phrase does not appear
in scripture. When we examine possible sitings, such as Ephesians
4:1-6 or I Corinthians 7:16-24, we immediately see from the
context that Paul is talking about a general call to all believers,
not a calling to a position of leadership.
Ephesians 4 refers to "one body, and one Spirit, even as ye
are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith,
one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all,
and through all, and in you all" (verse 4-6). The one hope
of our faith is for all believers and not something specific
to those "called" to a leadership role. This demonstrates
clearly that Paul is speaking of a universal call because
there is one hope of the calling he speaks of.
I Corinthians 7:17 and 24 does state that "each one should
retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and
to which God has called him." But we know from the context
that what Paul means is that slaves should not necessarily
try to become free, wives should stay with their husbands,
and the uncircumcised should remain uncircumcised. Even as
Paul clarifies in verse 20, "Each one should remain in the
situation which he was in when God called him." The idea is
not that God has called a man to a new place or situation
in life but that a man should remain in the situation he was
in when he was when called.
Now, we want to also clarify to avoid a potential straw man
argument from those who might disagree with us. We believe
it is clear from the New Testament record that God did indeed
call apostles to their ministry. But we believe this was a
special case. The New Testament does not use the phrase "calling"
in regard to leadership roles except for the apostles including
Paul (who was partnered with Barnabas for ministry to the
Gentiles.) So, it is our belief regarding other leadership
roles in the Body of Christ such as pastors, teachers, and
evangelists, that these were not callings. They were paths
men chose for themselves and had to meet specific requirements
in order to obtain.
However, even though Paul encourages men to seek the gift
of prophecy in I Corinthians 14:1 and 39, we believe that
because of the special nature of a prophet's work, God was
the only one who could make a man a prophet. So, prophets
were not "ordained" through a Biblically-prescribed human
selection process as pastors, evangelists, and teachers were.
Nevertheless, a man's claim to be a prophet was easily testable
given the Old Testament standards. His prophecies had to come
true ALL the time or he was a false prophet. So, even this
position was not without a test and qualification.
Well, before we examine the text of scripture to see if the
concept of "being called to the ministry" is in there, let's
define what the phrase means.
What are these people supposedly "called" to? They are called
to "the ministry?" But "what" ministry is that? And notice
the definite article ("the"), which appears before "ministry."
Quite a particular distinction that is given to this "ministry"
whatever it may be.
The concept behind this phrase seems clearly to be that no
man ought to enter the ministry unless he is "called." Therefore,
this doctrine teaches that all men who come into "the ministry"
are called individually by God to do so. This will be important
as we compare this doctrine to the Biblical standard of how
positions of leadership were assigned. But is all this doctrine
about being "called to the ministry" found in the Bible?
Certainly there were to be ministers (i.e. "servants") of
different levels ranging from apostles (whom Paul referred
to as "ministers") to deacons (which is the same word as "ministers"
and "servants") of local Churches. The question is, how did
people come to be in these positions?
Since the apostles are grouped in Ephesians 4 alongside "evangelists,
prophets, teachers, and overseers" it would seem that these
five groups are likewise set apart as actual offices. The
office of the "deacon" (spoken of elsewhere in the New Testament)
may have been a looser position held by more people with slightly
less authority in local congregations.
However, although these five (or six including deacons) were
all recognized leadership positions within the Church, was
the method of placement into such positions a matter of individual
calling by God?
A survey of the Biblical record reveals that the only "office"
associated with the term "called" in the New Testament is
that of the apostle. This would include Paul and Barnabas
since both Paul and Barnabas were at the same time set apart
by the Holy Spirit to minister to the Gentiles. And it is
clear from the rest of the epistles that Paul considered his
call to "minister to Gentiles" to be synonymous with his being
called an apostle to the Gentiles.
Hebrews 5:1-5 tells us that regarding the position of High
Priest, "No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be
called by God." But it reserves such a role for Jesus Christ
in the same way that Aaron was selected. Certainly from the
Biblical record of apostolic ministry and Paul's own commentary
on his calling as an apostle we can conclude there was a similar
case for apostles. But was this the case for any and all positions
of leadership in the Church or were apostles (like the High
Priest) a special case because of their prominence in the
I Corinthians 12:28 says God has put apostles first in the
Church. Consequently, it would seem that the original, twelve
apostles were all appointed in person by Christ, as was Paul.
In II Corinthians 3:1-18, speaking of his own ministry which
was an apostolic one, Paul compares such ministry to the work
of Moses. Both of these verses add support to our theory apostles
were a special case among the other leadership roles listed
When we consider the manner in which Barnabas and Paul were
apart to ministry to the Gentiles, we find in Acts 13:1-2
that the Holy Spirit spoke this to a group of leaders at the
same time. And the words of the Holy Spirit were so clear
that they were recorded word for word for us in the book of
Acts. This "calling" was not revealed privately to only Paul
and Barnabas who then would present themselves as "called"
to the others. Nor was it an intangible impression. It was
a quotable and repeatable statement by the Holy Spirit heard
clearly by many men at the same time, the majority of whom
were not the ones being called.
This is quite different from the practice today. Today, young
people believe God has called them to the ministry, but can
they tell us exactly what he said? Even if they can, did anyone
else hear it at the same time to confirm it? And when someone
makes this claim, it is generally unquestioned. So long as
they go on to proper schooling, we all just assume they did,
in fact, hear from God. And unfortunately some of us have
been witnesses to occasions when qualifications including
the ability to teach or manage one's own household were not
required before ordination. (All of these things are Biblical
prerequisites as we will soon see.)
The calling of Paul and Barnabas had three essential characteristics
that are notably different from the typical modern understanding
1. It was a public calling, not a private, personal
impression to those being "called."
2. It was for a specifically defined need and ministry,
ministry to the Gentiles (As Paul later recounts in such verses
as Acts 16:10, Romans 1:1,15-16, Galatians 1:15-16.)
3. The statement from the Holy Spirit was so clear
that it could be recorded word for word without danger of
putting words in God's mouth. In part, this is probably why
their calling was public.
The question that arises is whether or not these other positions
of leadership were considered callings in the same way that
being an apostle was a calling of its own? Biblically speaking,
there seems to be a difference between the calling to be an
apostle and the general call to all believers.
But is there Biblical evidence that such a difference carried
over to these other positions as well? Or, were these other
positions filled by those with no other "calling" beside the
general call to believe and serve that comes to every member
of the Church? Were these other positions something men were
called to be or were they filled by a process of men aspiring
to a position on their own, meeting certain set qualifications,
and then being selected to by other leaders?
The Bible is surprisingly silent about the "calling" of men
to these other leadership positions. In fact, other than the
instances where apostolic ministry is in view, the notion
of leadership as a result of a calling is absent from the
New Testament scripture. While there is much (particularly
from Paul) about being called to be an apostle, there is no
mention of men being called to be evangelists, called to be
prophets, called to be teachers, or called to be pastors.
There are 4 Greek words translated in the New Testament to
some derivative of "calling" in the English. There words are:
kletos (#2822), which occurs 11 times; proskaleomai (#4341),
which occurs 31 times; klesis (#2821), which occurs 11 times;
and kaleo (#2564), which occurs 155 times. This gives us a
total of 208 instances that could potentially talk about being
"called to the ministry."
Out of that total 208 instances where the idea of "being called"
occurs, 5 refer to Paul's calling as an apostle. 2 of these
(found in Acts) include Barnabas who was initially Paul's
partner in ministry to the Gentiles. 4 occur in the Gospels
regarding the call of the apostles, including their original
call to follow Jesus. 1 in Hebrews 5 refers to the calling
of a High Priest comparing Jesus and Aaron in that regard.
That leaves a total of 198 instances. All 198 refer either
to the general call of believers or an even more general use
of the term such as "to call into a room" or "named." Not
one of these 208 instances applies the concept of "calling"
to any other leadership role besides the role of an apostle.
We seem to have little context to understand men becoming
apostles in a manner other than direct appointment by God
in a manner publicly confirmed for all. Even if men did become
apostles by some other process, it would be of very little
relevance in today's church given that so few ever claim to
And, we know how to confirm the validity of a man's claim
to be a prophet, but how would men come into the remaining
three positions, those of pastors (overseers), teachers, and
evangelists? (We might even include deacons on this list.)
Were they called and appointed by God? Or was there some other
Before we go any farther, we must clear up something about
these positions. Today's church has a wide range of ministers
and pastoral positions. We will now turn our attention to
examining the Biblical basis for such positions in Part 2
of this study.