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.

Fulfilling a New Life Mission

Just over two years ago I adopted a new mission in life. Having a sense of mission has always helped me focus my energy and plan my time. While pastoring, my mission was to “shepherd the flock God has entrusted to my care.” When I moved into my new role as a professor of pastoral training, my mission changed.

Simply stated, it is: Equip men for ministry, encourage pastors, and strengthen churches.

My primary responsibility is to equip a new generation of pastors. This is what I do in the college setting. Additionally, I have a heart to encourage pastors through personal conversations as well as speaking opportunities. And I desire to point church leaders and members to Scriptural principles that build them up as a body.

I am currently enjoying several opportunities to fulfill the third part of this mission – strengthening churches. Some of these opportunities involve preaching in a church that is without a pastor – “pulpit supply” as it is sometimes called. One opportunity is a weekend Bible conference focused on a passage of Scripture related to unity in the church. Another is a weekend of ministry in which my wife Faith will speak to a ladies gathering and I will preach in the church on Sunday.

For any who may be interested, and for those who pray for us, here is our upcoming itinerary. There are others in 2019 which I’ll share later.

Sunday Oct 21 Calvary Baptist, Mt. Pleasant IA Morning Services
Saturday & Sunday              Nov 3-4 Calvary Baptist, Chatfield MN Bible Conference
Sunday Nov 11 Calvary Baptist, Mt. Pleasant IA Morning Services
Sunday Nov 18 Calvary Baptist, Mt. Pleasant IA Morning Services
Saturday & Sunday                Dec 1-2 Sunrise Bible Church, North Branch MN Ladies Christmas Tea (Faith)

Morning Service

 

I clicked SEND!

This is an announcement. And it is one excuse I have for not writing blog posts for the past year or so.

Tuesday evening I wrote an email, attached several documents, and clicked SEND. That email represents a big milestone in my life. Here’s why.

Old Typewriter

Several years ago while I was pastoring, a church member encouraged me to develop one of my sermon series into a book. The idea was very appealing. My administrative assistant transcribed the audio of some of the sermons so I could edit them for publication. I heard that’s how John MacArthur did it, so surely it couldn’t be too hard.

That process didn’t work for me. When I read over my sermons, I realized the way I speak would not read well in a book. I marked up pages and pages of text, drawing circles and arrows and rewording sentences. I finally decided the best way for me to turn sermons into books was to use the research and ideas, but start from scratch and word it for reading rather than listening. And of course that takes a lot of time and effort. I started and stopped a few times, then finally gave up trying.

Since then, I have turned some sermons into articles that have been published here and elsewhere. But the idea of a book has stayed on my mind. I just didn’t have the motivation or blocks of time to make it happen.

A little over two years ago as I considered what was next for me after pastoring, I wished and prayed for a role that would allow me time for writing. God in His wisdom and goodness placed me in a teaching job. And teachers get summers off.

During the summer of 2017 I started writing the manuscript for a book. Preaching trips, vacation, and home projects filled those summer months as well, so I couldn’t devote the whole time to writing, but I got off to a good start. I worked on it here and there through the next school year. Then last summer I devoted significant time to pushing it toward completion.

Writing does not flow easily for me. There are occasions when my fingers can hardly keep up with my thoughts. But most of the time it is laborious and I agonize over each sentence. I’m a plodder by nature, so I just keep at it.

A week ago, I texted my wife, “I’m about to jump out of my chair!” I could physically feel the excitement as completion was in sight. Reading over the manuscript later, I realized I had left out an important section. So I had to go back and fill that in.

Tuesday night I completed and collected all the necessary elements:

Cover letter: Check!

Manuscript overview: Check!

Table of contents: Check!

Biographical information: Check!

Manuscript: CHECK!

Earlier in the process, I had sent a proposal to a publisher and was invited to submit the entire manuscript when complete. I entered my contact’s email address, wrote a note, attached the documents, and clicked SEND!

Now a new process begins – waiting while the publisher evaluates the manuscript and, if approved, going through the steps of preparing it for publication. It’s a new adventure and I’m loving it. And I will be thrilled if the fruit of my labor helps others.

One of these days I’ll tell you what I wrote about :).