The Pathway to Pastoral Ministry: Getting Started

Hiking TrailI want to give encouragement and guidance to young men who are thinking about being a pastor. This is the first of several articles on the topic. Please share this with young men you know who would find it helpful.

What was the first thought you had about ministry? I remember mine. I was in high school, a sophomore I think. This thought crossed my mind: “I would never want to be a pastor.” That’s funny to remember now, because I became one.

You might have thought about it positively, not in a negative way like I did. Your thoughts might be described as curiosity. Or you may even have a desire to be in ministry. Possibly your first thought was when someone said, “Have you thought about going into the ministry?”

Once you have those first thoughts about ministry, questions probably pop into your head. “What do pastors do?” “Would I even know how?” “How do I know if God wants me to be a pastor?”

These are very natural questions. Anyone would have them. I hope to answer them in this series of articles.

Let me share a little of my experience of God directing me into ministry. I attended a Christian school and sang in the choir. Our choir traveled to churches in the area to present a program in which I had a narration part. I basically quoted a few verses of Scripture and repeated memorized lines that tied the verses to the song we were about to sing.

Several times, people in the audience made comments like, “You sound great. You should be a preacher!” I seem to remember it was usually little old ladies saying such things. I didn’t pay much attention, just thanked them and smiled.

My senior year in high school, when we were planning our senior trip, our class sponsor asked me to give a devotional message on the Sunday we were away. That was the first time I ever studied a passage of Scripture and shared what I learned with other people. I was extremely nervous, but really enjoyed it.

When I finished high school, my parents and I moved. After our U-Haul truck was loaded, my parents had me drive ahead to the motel where we spent our first night while they cleaned and closed up the house. As I drove, I prayed. Words of surrender to God came from my heart. I let God know I wanted to do His will and asked Him to show me what it was.

From that time on, I experienced a steadily growing burden to be a pastor, and especially to preach and teach the Bible. I went to a Christian college and majored in Bible with a minor in Greek (the original language of the New Testament).

After graduation, I attended seminary. During college and seminary, I was given opportunities to serve in churches, and especially enjoyed teaching and preaching. I discovered that the ministry of the Word was my passion and gift.

During my last year of seminary, a pastor contacted me about serving as a youth pastor. I had not known until that point what I would do after graduation. God opened a door for me to be a pastor! I served there for four years, teaching and discipling teens.

My pastor generously gave me opportunities to preach to the whole church. These preaching opportunities cultivated in me a desire to preach to a broader audience. He encouraged me to be open to pastoring a church.

I was contacted by a church of about 75 people who were looking for a pastor. My wife and I visited there, I preached and answered their questions, and they voted to call me as their pastor. Again, God opened the door! At the age of 31 I became the pastor of a church!

The questions related to knowing what to do and being able to do it can be fairly easily answered. If you are meant to be a pastor – as in, God wants you to be one – you will learn what you need to know and God will give you the ability you need. He doesn’t leave you on your own to figure it out for yourself.

In fact, the Bible gives many instructions for pastors. They are especially contained in the section of the Bible called the Pastoral Epistles. These are letters written to men in ministry – Timothy and Titus. The Pastoral Epistles are 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus. You can read these and learn some of what a pastor does. There are additional specific instructions given in 1 Peter 5:1-4.

What should you do if you have thoughts about the ministry or if someone suggests that you think about it? You should take those thoughts and suggestions seriously. God uses the desires of our heart to guide us when we are yielded to Him. He also uses other people who recognize gifts in us that we don’t realize we have.

Pray and make yourself available to God. Tell Him you want to do whatever will please Him and fulfill His will. If you are struggling with being willing to serve Him, be honest with your Heavenly Father about it. Tell Him about your struggle and ask Him to help you with it.

Another step you can take is to talk with your parents. Share with them the thoughts you’re having. Often parents provide wise input and can help you know how to process what you’re experiencing. A conversation with your pastor would also be good. He would be glad to know that you are thinking about ministry and would give you helpful advice as well. These people who care about you will pray for you.

These are initial steps you can take as you consider the pathway to pastoral ministry. Be assured that God will not leave you wondering what to do. If He wants you on this path, you will know. He will make the steps plain before you. Just follow Him.

Next time we’ll talk about more steps on the pathway to pastoral ministry.

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