Ask Steve: The Art of Prayer

June 21, 2015 10:35 pm

Prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I seem to have a difficult time praying. How do you pray? Is there a right way and a wrong way to pray? Is there anything that can make prayer more effective or less effective than what I am currently doing as a Christian?

Answer: Prayer is one of the most important practices of Christianity. It is the means in which a Christian communicates with and fosters an active relationship with God. A life of weak prayer is usually correlative with a life of weak spirituality. This is why prayer must be a present aspect in every believer’s life.

Admittedly, prayer is difficult. We find it hard to talk to our Lord for many reasons: Prayer is boring. Prayer seems repetitive. Prayer seems questionable in its efficacy. Prayer takes up a little too much time out of our busy schedules. If God is sovereign, why pray? These are some common hindrances to a life of pleasing prayer. Even for Christians who pray on a regular basis, some struggle with whether they are praying correctly. What are the things that I should pray for? Is praying just about asking and receiving, or are there more aspects to it?

Although there is no real wrong posture or time of day in which to pray, there is a wrong attitude in which we tend to pray. Mainstream Protestants, and even people of other monotheistic religions, pray to God as if He were a butler or a genie. They come to Him only to ask or demand of various wants and needs, usually in a time of crisis. The Bible teaches us that although petitions to God are an important aspect of prayer, it is not the main reason to pray. Prayer is not about us getting what we want out of God, making God cater to our sinful will. Prayer is a time in which we align ourselves with God’s will (Matt 6:10; Lk 22:42). In discovering and vowing to abide by God’s will, we find joy and purpose in prayer, which results in effective and answered prayer (1 Jn 5:14). In essence, prayer is not for our glory, but for the glory of God (Jn 14:13). Everything we do in prayer should cause us to examine and deny ourselves for the sake of serving and growing in the Lord, which results in confession of sin (1 Jn 1:9), casting our burdens upon Him (1 Pet 5:6-7), and seeking to do the Lord’s work (Matt 6:10; Eph 6:19-20).

The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 is a good guideline of what things a believer should pray for. It is like the Ten Commandments of prayer. We are to begin prayer by acknowledging the transcendent greatness and authority of God. Our entire prayer must glorify God, which is expressed in praise, thanksgiving, and, at times, joyful singing (Jer 25:11; Matt 6:8). It must be a time in which we acknowledge our desire to fellowship with God (Ps 27:4; 42:1; 84:1-4). We offer thanks for His past blessings, especially in saving us from our sins (Phil 1:3-6). This is a time in which we relate to God with our praises, and meditate on His word from Scripture (Ps 119:105). Through reverential prayer, we acknowledge the worth of God’s holy name and desire to represent it well in our daily speech and action.

Prayer 2Prayer is also a time in which we commit ourselves to do kingdom work. In our prayers, we ask God for our actions to make an impact on the culture around us. We want the gospel to spread. We pray for the salvation of the lost (Rom 10:1; 1 Tim 2:1-2) and for the sanctification of fellow believers (Eph 1:15; 3:14). In other words, we intercede on behalf of others so that the Great Commission might succeed in our circle of influence, and even around the world. Because we are servants in God’s kingdom, we ultimately seek for its arrival to earth via Jesus’ second coming, which is what we anticipate (Tit 2:13).

After recognizing the priority of God and His will for us, we move onto expressing our dependence on God for our needs so we can be supplied to do His work on earth. This involves petitioning God for our daily needs, which is a day-by-day dependence on God for food, clothing, and shelter (Matt 6:11). God is ultimately responsible for our physical and financial well being, which is why we depend on Him. Though we are called to work for our daily living, we understand that God is ultimately sovereign in the results, and we are relieved from fear and worries (Phil 4:6). As much as we have material needs, we also have spiritual needs. Prayer must be a time in which we continually examine our spiritual growth to see if there are any impurities that need to be confessed and forsaken, and any virtues that need to be put on. We find peace in prayer as we are freed from the guilt of sin (Ps 32:1) and restored to an unhindered relationship with the Father in heaven.

In prayer, we should properly express our desire to obey God and not fall into the temptation of sin. We ask God for wisdom and the strength to carry it out (Jas 1:5) because we know that Satan lurks in the world to cause all men to sin against the Creator. We ask God to deliver us from situations that would cause us to be tempted, and to even be rescued from the troubles we are in (Ps 20:1; Jonah 2:1), because we know that our sinful choices cause us to reap the results of our mistakes.

This is what it means to pray in Jesus’ name. This is how one prays according to God’s will. If a Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit and praying in His name and in His will, then he is in the best possible position to have prayers answered. A prayer of a righteous man avails much (Jas 5:48). That is the secret to answered prayer.

Prayer 3It must be noted that even if we are a Christian and we pray according to God’s will, there are some practices that can truly hinder prayers from being answered. Aside from not knowing Christ as Lord and Savior (Jn 14:6), our prayers can go unanswered if we pray with an unrepentant or prideful heart (Ps 66:18). This is why confession is important in prayer. It fosters humility, and achieves practical restoration between the Christian and God. Prayer also becomes futile when we pray as a public display of piety (Matt 6:5). People who pray in this way do so for attention and approval, and God vows to never honor this kind of prayer. Empty prayer is also composed of meaningless repetition (Matt 6:7-8). This happens when saints pray or recite words without really thinking about it or putting their heart into it. It is like an empty routine. God does not answer prayers when Christians pray with a covetous or lustful heart (Jas 4:3). God is not obligated to answer prayers with wrong motives, which is why our hearts must be pure. As equally dangerous is a petition to God when we are mistreating our spouses or family members (1 Pet 3:7). God cares for the weak and the poor, which is why hatred and misuse of them is abhorrent in God’s eyes. Even neglecting the poor is a cause for unanswered prayers (Prov 21:13). The poor, the widows, the orphans, and sojourners should be our focus of concern, not ignoring or mistreating them. Praying while harboring hatred or bitterness towards another is also what blocks prayers from being heard (Mk 11:25-26). It is better, and more necessary, to reconcile with another person than to offer up sacrifices onto the Lord (Matt 5:19-26). Finally, prayers go unanswered when lifted onto God with a faithless, unbelieving heart (Jas 1:6-8). Christians must pray in full faith and submission, and not be half-hearted or double-minded.

In contrast to fleshly prayer, true biblical prayer is very God-centered. It changes the believer more so than it changes God. It brings believers to a closer understanding of who God is and what the Christian needs to do to become more Christlike. As such, prayer involves petition, intercession, praise, confession, and attitudes like waiting and watching. Prayer can be spent in as little as 5 minutes or as much as 3 hours per day. Though Christians will certainly be rewarded for their long passionate prayers, it is better to have a quality 15 minute prayer than it is to have an unfocused, meaningless 3 hour prayer. However much time we spend in prayer, we should always have an attitude of praying without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17; Eph 6:18) in our daily lives.

Recommended Resource: The Hour that Changes the World by Dick Eastman

John MacArthur’s 10 Best Books

June 20, 2015 1:52 am

This is the first time that I have ever created a post that documents a Top Ten List from a long established Christian author/theologian. I have read nearly all of pastor John MacArthur’s books, and decided that I give my take on which books represent the author’s best work. It was very hard to compile this list, especially since the books are so different from each other, and have been influential to the Christian community in their own ways. However, I gave it my best shot.

Note: This list does not include study Bibles, commentaries, devotionals, prayer books, sermons, or editorial compilations.

 

10. Called to Lead

Called

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A great book that outlines 26 crucial keys to an effective Christian leader and/or overseer in the church. It is biblically grounded, and helpful to any person, whether they are Christian or not. Based on the life of the Apostle Paul, we get an inspiring picture of a leader and have every reason to imitate Paul, just as the apostle commands (1 Cor 11:1).

 

9. Ashamed of the Gospel

ashemed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With its first release in 1993, this book has grown timelier in its message and appeal since then. It is a necessary critique of contemporary evangelism, and a call to return to the biblical model of doing ministry in contrast to pragmaticism and immaturity that plagues many local churches today.

 

8. The Gospel According to the Apostles

Apostles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written as a follow-up to the wildly successful, yet controversial, book The Gospel According to Jesus, this book is near as stellar and expands on many of the themes discussed in the prequel book. Through the teachings of the apostles, we come to see what the Christian life looks like according to the disciple’s teaching and example, which excludes the idea that a person can call himself a believer, yet live licentiously.

 

7. The Master’s Plan for the Church

The Master's Plan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What should a church function in God’s eyes? This book is the key to that answer. Based on Scripture, it is an extremely helpful guide as to what comprises a healthy church, which includes what the Bible teaches concerning the qualifications of a minister, as well as practices that define a healthy church. No library of a minister is complete without this work.

 

6. Worship

Worship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ultimate priority in every Christian’s life is Worship. This introductory book on theology proper is both informative and inspiring, delving into the wondrous nature of God, as well as what it means to live a life of worship in spirit and in truth. Like JI Packer’s Knowing God and AW Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy, Worship by John MacArthur does an excellent job in exploring the holy character and attributes of God, and the importance of worshipping Him, because we were created to do so.

 

5. The Truth War

Truth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like Ashamed of the Gospel, The Truth War is a timely apologetic that has grown more important and relevant since its release over a decade ago. The author critiques both the church and secularism’s attack on the notion of absolute truth, and calls the church to stand firm amidst Satan’s attempts to relativize standards of morality and practice in society.

 

4. Strange Fire

Strange Fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of decades after the release of Charismatic Chaos, MacArthur returns to a similar theme in this important book Strange Fire, which is one of the most controversial books released this decade, but also one of the most impressive. It is a biblical critique on the mainstream charismatic movement which presents the case for cessationism pretty well, as well as examining the “fruit” of those who attempt to seek sign gifts in this present age.

 

3. Because the Time is Near

Because

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A book entirely devoted to explaining the book of Revelation, this work by MacArthur is one of the best developed books on Revelation, being completely faithful to the plain sense of the text but not over speculating on events portrayed in this prophetic book. It is insightful, scholarly, easy to read, shocking, as well as inspirational.

 

2. Charismatic Chaos

Charismatic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the MacArthur’s most controversial books is also one of his best and timeliest books, which critiques the modern charismatic movement. It gives a candid and clear analysis on the legitimacy of mainstream Charismatic theology, always linking his discussion based on what the text says regarding the purpose of sign gifts in the 1st century. Whether one agrees with his analysis or view on the topic, Charismatic Chaos is definitely worth reading, especially if you are trying to figure out your stance on this issue.

 

1. The Gospel According to Jesus

Gospel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gospel According to Jesus is arguably MacArthur’s best work as an author. It is one of those books that is not only well presented, but also important enough that you would want to pass it out to every professing believer you know. The Lordship of Christ in salvation is a big issue, and one that should not be taken lightly, especially if there is a biblical basis for it. That is an excellent theological treatise on this topic.

 

 

Ask Steve: Church and Politics

June 15, 2015 12:38 am

Pol 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, what role should the church play in the arena of politics and cultural debate?

Answer: The church’s engagement and involvement with politics and culture has always been debated, resulting in different views. Some believe that the church should totally refrain from any involvement in church and politics, practicing faith quietly and being a gospel influence in predominantly social circles. Others believe that the church should heavily infiltrate politics and culture with the attempt to “Christianize” the society as much as possible.

In attempting to answer this unique question, we must look at what the Bible teaches concerning the church’s involvement with politics and cultural debate. Politics is a government vocation, and as such, it is very much like other vocations that Christians partake in, whether paid or volunteer. In whatever vocation Christians engage in, they are to do it to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). This means that they are to do their work with the utmost integrity, submitting to bosses (Eph 6:5; 1 Pet 2:18) so as to be a godly model of service to authority. At the same time, Christians must never compromise their faith and values, especially if the government job forces or pressures them to make decisions that cause them to stumble into sin (Acts 5:29). Political work often times involves making choices or enacting laws that have a definite moral overtone to it. In such cases, Christians must always do what it right to honor the Lord, even if it should incur the wrath of the general public. How a Christian goes about pursuing the right course of action takes discernment, especially if they are working amidst a pack of unregenerate people who are not open to the Christian’s ideas.

PolA Christian makes right moral choices in political work because it is God’s will that the government acts in accordance with what is just. Romans 13:1-4 teaches that Christians, like other people, must be in subjection to the government because God has ordained government to punish wrongdoing, reward virtuous acts, and enact justice on behalf of victims. A government cannot do this properly if their definition of what is right and just is skewed, which is what we are currently experiencing in many governments around the world. That is why Christians who are engaged in politics should use their God-given position or legal privilege to help with the enactment of civil laws and statues that capture God’s will for the government. These laws should be designed to punish criminals accordingly and to defend the poor, the weak, and the marginalized against unjust or oppressive treatment. Practical ways in which pastors and laypeople can make a difference in politics is to endorse and/or vote for laws that oppose abortion, sex slavery, pornography, immoral sexual institutions, racism, and to support effective and ethical ways to assist widows, orphans, and the poor who desire to cooperate with efforts that will pull them out of their financial calamity.

It must be said that the job of the church is not to become a sort of nation or governing institution that seeks to overtake the secular government and force conversions on heathens. Dangerous things have happened in history when governments used religion to justify war, murder, or conquering of other tribes and nations, all with impure and unbiblical motives. Jesus Himself never forced the gospel or the Christian lifestyle onto unbelievers, although He warned of the eternal consequences of rejecting His offer of salvation (Matt 7:23; 25:46; Jn 3:16-18; 8:24). For political organizations, run by professing believers, to force or pressure Christianity onto unbelieving subjects is to go against Jesus’ command of reaching the lost with compassion, while honoring their choice of accepting or rejecting His word. Governments that have done this in the past exemplify a blatant misuse of the Christian faith in politics.

Pol 3However, this does not mean that Christians should totally eject their faith out of the workplace. Hostile unbelievers expect this of Christians when they advocate a “separation of church and state,” as if the state is somehow neutral ground. The truth is: There can never really be a separation of one’s Christian beliefs from the affairs of the state, because a large dose of political affairs have much to do with issues of morality and ethics. There is no neutral ground. Both the word of God and the world’s philosophy have presuppositions regarding how life is to be conducted morally, which is why the Christian must be grounded in the truth of Scripture in His work in politics. He must not only work for laws and organizations that support righteousness, but must do everything in his power to preserve the freedom of Christians to organize, worship, and proclaim the gospel to others. This means that he should not be complacent about laws that persecute Christians or heavily restrict the Great Commission.

When it all comes down to it, the church’s involvement in politics must always start with the desire to proclaim the gospel to the lost. The Great Commission is as necessary in a restaurant business as it is in politics. There is a clear difference in honoring God with our practices in business/politics and lording it over the public with threats, anger, and compulsion. The Bible teaches us that it is not external laws that will change the hearts of the people, but the word of God in the gospel (Rom 7:1-9). That is why the church should be involved in politics with the goal of bringing the gospel to unbelieving colleagues and partners in the field with the hopes that they will be saved. Only when more and more hearts are regenerated by the Holy Spirit and filled with God’s word can we see the changes we want in society, all to God’s glory. The same applies to government and politics.

A similar principle can be applied to Christians in cultural debate. Should saints participate in cultural debate and dialogue, or should they retreat altogether? This is also a matter of discernment for the church and the individual Christian. There are certain cases in which Christians are wise not to be involved in certain forums because their efforts are akin to casting pearls before pigs (Matt 7:6). This includes internet forums like response columns or webchat dialogue. However, there are other cases in which dialogue may be extremely profitable. This includes television interviews, radio, or publication. In such cases when there is a potential for a large non-Christian audience to hear the Bible’s stance of given issues (ex. religious plurality, homosexuality, euthanasia, abortion), then the Christian can use that as an opportunity to speak up for what is right, according to Scripture.

We live in a society that is getting more degenerate with each generation, which is why Christians need to shine light and truth into this dark age in order to convict and pierce the conscience of the unbelieving public. However, the Christian’s effort would not be complete, and may even be in vain, if he did not tie his discussions to the gospel. Without a clear explanation of the gospel, the Christian’s presentation on any given issue would not make any real sense to the unbeliever. The unbeliever would not understand why the Christian believes the way he does about the controversial issue. But most importantly, the unbeliever will not have a chance to be evangelized through this process, which is the ultimate goal of all apologetics. Biblical arguments on a given topic might convict an unbeliever, but will not change his heart. Only the gospel does this. This is why cultural debates should have an evangelistic focus, no matter what response comes from the debating opponent or the public.

The church’s interaction with politics and cultural debate does not have easy, clear-cut applications. The issue always comes back to how much should faith be mixed with politics, or how much should faith shape politics. The Bible teaches that the world will never have a perfect, God-pleasing government until Jesus returns to set up His millennial kingdom. Neither will the world have a perfect culture full of faith, righteousness, and unity until the return of Christ. There will never truly be peace in a godless world. The focus of the church until the second advent of Christ is to simply be faithful to the Great Commission – to evangelize the lost, teach God’s word, and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:18-20). That is the key behind a Christian’s involvement with culture and politics. That is what it means for God’s will to be done (Matt 6:10), as one day it will be when God’s perfect government and culture comes to earth.

Ask Steve: Financial Giving

June 9, 2015 12:03 am

Family Driven

 

Currently Reading:

Family Driven Faith: Doing What it Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters who Walk with God

by Voddie Baucham Jr.

Category: Parenting / Christian Living

2007, Crossway

 

 

Question: Steve, explain your understanding of financial giving. What principles of giving will you teach to other believers (must they “tithe”?), and what principles will you follow as pastor?

Answer: Financial giving is one of the most important and blessed aspects of Christian living. It is a practice that is seen in the lives of saints in both the Old and the New Testament. Financial giving is important because it demonstrates a heart of gratitude towards God. It is also crucial in the survival of local churches and Christian organizations that participate in the Great Commission. Lastly, it is an expression of God’s love that aids fellow brethren, especially those who are poor. Giving is essentially a selfless act of generosity and sacrifice, in which we give our money for the glory of God, the propagation of kingdom work, and the further advantaging of other people. The more we sacrifice, the more we impact those around us. The more we sacrifice for the church, the more heavenly dividends we can expect to accrue and be rewarded to us at the Bema Seat Judgment (2 Cor 5:10).

The first general principle to remember about financial giving is the motivation. Why is it that we give of our money – bountifully and sacrificially? It is because Christ first gave to us. He gave His life by dying as our penal substitution (on the cross) so we can be forgiven of our sins and made righteous by faith in Him (Mk 10:45; 1 Tim 2:6). By the sacrifice of His very life, Christ served believers by saving them, canceling the believer’s eternal debt to God and affording them the undeserved privilege of eternal life. Not only did Christ give us the greatest gift of salvation, but also provides daily for the needs of Christians. Those who seek after His kingdom and His righteousness have access to the Father’s guaranteed commitment of supplying the Christian’s needs in this life (Matt 6:11-12; 6:25-34). This includes housing, job, clothing, food, and other basic necessities.

This is why Christians should give. It is in the Christian’s newfound nature to be express charity, especially as it regards money. Giving not only demonstrates our thankfulness and dependence on God, but also opens up opportunities to be more blessed and used by God for the kingdom. God gives onto Christians, sometimes quite extravagantly, so that they can, in turn, give onto others. Luke 6:38 states, “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” The church should not construe this to be a formula that supports the health-and-wealth gospel or prosperity theology, but it is a biblically based assertion by our Lord Jesus Himself as a general rule of life concerning the outcome of generous giving. This text teaches that believers who give abundantly for the cause of Christ will always be supplied by God so they will never lack in their outstanding work of giving. It does not necessarily teach that believers will be rich, but that they will be sufficiently supplied and blessed for their work (Matt 6:3-4; 2 Cor 5:10).

Giving must be rooted in a proper attitude and commitment, which is for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). Although financial returns are not a perpetual guarantee in this world, other forms of blessings are (Proverbs 3:9, Malachi 3:10), most specifically the eternal blessings and honors. The Apostle Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 9:6 regarding the blessedness of financial giving: “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” In other words, men reap what they sow, which is why abundant giving is extremely wise (Gal 6:7).

With these teachings in mind, the church should encourage congregants to give of their financial resources to the church every Lord’s Day, as well as any other time that might be pressing on their hearts. Believers should consider willfully supporting evangelism ministry, missionary fund, mercy ministry, building fund, and other church departments in need. Financial generosity can be directed toward online giving or in-person donations, which can be directed to a particular department or where most needed. The church’s guideline for giving, especially as it regards offerings in the local church, should be as follows:

  1. Give generously (Mark 14:9): Believers should have a desire to give abundantly of their resources and not be stingy towards the church.
  2. Give regularly (1 Corinthians 16:2): Believers should be committed to giving weekly as a continual act of not only support, but as an expression of worship onto God.
  3. Give voluntarily (Exodus 35:21, 2 Corinthians 8:4): Believers should give from their own desires, and not be forced and give out of compulsion.
  4. Give sacrificially (2 Samuel 24:24, 2 Corinthians 8:2-3): Believers should give in a manner that is challenging, and not constantly easy on their bank accounts.
  5. Give excellently (2 Corinthians 8:7): Believers should to foster Christian virtue, and not done in vice or shame.
  6. Give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7): Believers should give with a cheerful heart and not a heart full of resentment or guilt. God loves a cheerful, hilarious giver.
  7. Give worshipfully (Acts 10:1-4, Matthew 5:23-24): Believers should give as an act of worship to God, and not with selfish, self-glorifying, or impure motives.
  8. Give proportionally, not fixed (Acts 11:29, 1 Corinthians 16:2): Believers should give what is generously in proportion to their income, not in proportion to what society deems as impressive or lackluster.
  9. Give quietly (Matthew 6:1, 4): Believers should give in a manner that does not purposefully call attention to their act.
  10. Give deliberately, without hesitation (2 Corinthians 8:11): Believers should give intentionally, and not with any hesitation or resentment.

Concerning the debate about whether or not an offering should be at the Old Testament tithing rate of 10 percent, I believe the church should first and foremost teach congregants to go beyond this number and give wholeheartedly what they can sacrifice to God’s kingdom for the sake of their own blessings. However, there are no fixed percentages for a church gift. The 10 percent rate of giving in the Mosaic Covenant was a historically conditioned act that made up the government taxation system of Israel (Lev 27:30-32; Num 18:21-26; Deut 14:22). It applied to national Israel. The New Testament does not explicitly teach any similar rate of giving, whether it involves the church or the secular government.

The one-tenth tithe principle can be suggested as a helpful tip for Sunday giving, but it should not be expressed as a set rule or demand. If Christians feel in their conscience that a 10 percent gift should be regularly honored, then the church must allow them to honor the voice of their conscience. The 10 percent rate is a recurring theme throughout the Old Testament (Genesis 14:10, Leviticus 27:30-32); therefore this number is an indicator of what God feels is manageable for the average believer to contribute to His kingdom work while still sustaining his everyday life outside of church. However, my motto is: If Israel can give much under Law, how much more should the church give under grace?

This is the principle I teach to other believers and follow myself. As a pastor, I must give in a manner that will be reflective of my view of God, the Great Commission, and my brethren in Christ. I must also give because it is a testimony. My giving should be able to inspire other congregants to see the importance, joy, and blessing of financial giving.

Recommended Resource: Money Possessions & Eternity by Randy Alcorn

Ask Steve: The Call to Pastoral Ministry

June 2, 2015 6:54 pm

Preacher 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I am debating whether or not to become a pastor. How do you define “the call” to pastoral ministry?

Answer: Entering the pastoral ministry, especially as a teaching pastor, is one of the greatest privileges that any Christian could undertake. At the same time, it is a calling to be taken seriously. As a pastor, you are essentially an overseer of the church who is directly responsible for the health of the church and the growth of believers. You are a shepherd who is tasked with the responsibility of feeding and guarding the sheep with your very life. Failure to do this adequately would not only damage the church, but would dishonor the Lord. In fact, Scripture gives a warning concerning those who enter the ministry lightly, because those who teach false doctrine and lead others astray spiritually will be judged greatly (Jas 3:1). This is why the Bible gives some helpful guidelines on what characterizes an overseer of God so that those who take it on vocationally will do so with soberness, confidence, and integrity.

Many times Christians struggle with whether they are suppose to be in pastoral ministry. They do not know what defines “the call.” Other than the brief imperatives presented in Scripture, the way to discover this truth is a mystery to some Christians. Some pray to God thinking that He will respond in an audible voice, affirming or denying their ministry interest so that the process would be easier. I would like to provide you with some helpful tips on how to discover whether or not you should enter ministry as a senior pastor, associate pastor, youth pastor, or some form of missionary work.

The first key to consider is Scripture’s guideline on what characterizes a qualified pastor. The most well-known passage that highlights this principle is found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. It states, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity…and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” In short, those whom God has called into ministry excel in personal morality, which means that they are sexually pure, content, kind, loving, and are not given over to lust, hatred, greed, or drunkenness. They must also a good relationship with their family, with other believers, and even with unbelievers. They must possess a reasonable gift of teaching and of leadership, and should not be a recent convert – since new Christians generally lack the knowledge and maturity needed for vocational ministry.

Preacher 1If your life does not match this guideline (ex. you are living in sin, your ability to teach is mediocre, you are an incompetent leader), then you should consider holding off on your pursuit of pastoral ministry to see if your shortcomings can be improved or worked on. If you discover that it cannot, then you most likely are not called for ministry. If you can, then you should continue to discover the veracity of your calling by considering a couple other factors.

The second key is to consider the feedback from other believers. Many pastors and elders testify that one of the things that have helped guide their decision to enter into ministry is the affirmation from other Christians. They have received comments like “You have a great gift of preaching and evangelism. Have you considered ministry?” or “You possess a great deal of leadership and know your Scriptures well. Have you considered seminary?” This does not automatically prove that a Christian should be in ministry, but it is a noteworthy indicator, especially if these affirmations line up with other factors that affirm a Christian’s pastoral calling. There are many instances in which God moves in other believers to help Christians find answers to issues that are not clear in the Bible. And one of those issues is the personal call to pastorate ministry. That is why the Bible extols the act of seeking counsel from other godly men in making important decisions like these. Proverbs 15:22 declares, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.” Proverbs 11:14 also says, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” A Christian seeking to enter ministry should listen to the amount of feedback he is getting from others and to intentionally get counsel from elders regarding this blessed path.

The third key to consider is personal conviction regarding this matter. Once you have established the first two keys, then you should examine yourself to see what your convictions are in this matter. You must ask yourself, “Do I really want to become a pastor/minister? Can I do this for the rest of my life with endurance and joy? Do I feel that this is the only thing I can do well in my life? Will I regret this if I decide to enter into another vocation?” Christians constantly seek God in prayer for answers to which job they should take, where they should live in, what doctor they should go to, what car they should purchase, etc. Christians will not be able to discover God’s sovereign will (at least not in the short run), but they can first and foremost be obedient to God’s commanded will (what is revealed in Scripture). Once they honor this, then Christians have every right to pursue the endeavor that most pleases, intrigues, or convicts their heart (Ps 16:9; 20:4; 37:4). In other words, if Christians follow the Bible’s moral instruction to weed out undesirable vocations and are still left with two or more possible choices, then he is free to choose according to his heart’s conviction. Much of the time, those convictions are placed there by the Holy Spirit (Acts 17:16; Phil 2:13), especially if it has to do with a pastoral calling.

It must be said that a person entering ministry should be cautious regarding his heart motives. It is a great thing that a Christian be trained to become a minister. However, there are many instances in which pastors have destroyed their own reputation, those of other Christians, and the church because they entered into their vocation with evil intentions. You must ask yourself, “Am I doing this for the glory of God? Or am I doing this for my own glory?” Even if candidates do not have the motives of fame, riches, or glory, they can still weaken the reputation of the church because of other poor inclinations. Some believers enter ministry because they have nothing else to do in life. Some believers enter because of peer pressure from godly parents and/or the community. Some believers enter because of excitement from the heat of the moment.

Preacher 2Whatever the case, make sure your motives are good. Be committed to keeping your actions selfless, especially in your commitment to serve others in the church as Christ Himself served the church in humility (Matt 16:24; Mk 10:45). Be sure that you want to enter into the pastorate because you desire to teach others the word of God. You want to disciple weak brethren to grow in Christlikeness. You want to reach the lost with the gospel. You want the glory of God to spread through your local community in the Great Commission effort. If this is your burning passion and conviction, then you should seriously consider pastoral ministry.

The role of a pastor/shepherd is an important one that requires sound character and lasting commitment. That is why approaching this field requires careful self study, prayer to God, and counsel from others. However, this process should not be so mysterious or painstaking that a Christian labors for many years in trying to find the answer, or thinks that he should not become a pastor/elder because he is not perfect. If a Christian is at ease in his conscience regarding the principles I described, then he should by all means enter into ministry. There is a great need in the world for pastors and evangelists. Many will perish eternally for not hearing the gospel and many others will starve spiritually for lack of nourishment. That is why teams of pastors are needed throughout the world. That is why Christians should step up to the plate if they have the character and conviction for this task. It is hard work, but a blessed one that will surely pay off with spiritual blessings (2 Cor 5:10; 2 Tim 4:8).