Over the last few days I have read a few blogs and commentarians that have called into question, some just outright denials, the fact that God calls men to be preachers, and pastors, and places them in leadership positions within the structure of the New Testament Church. Without impugning characters as a whole, or slandering all motives, I believe that this is an issue that every Christian, and every church member must have a solid Biblical foothold to stand on.
As I was reading the other day, I noticed one comment that stated that the ministry was “not a calling, but a vocation to be chosen.” From another contributor, “We are all called men and women of God, and there are no other special callings of leadership.” Still another commentarian calls into question the Biblical reality of “full-time” pastors; while some aim at the teaching of their being pastors at all.
Without charging the character of everyone who says such things, there is, to say the least, either a willful ignorance of what the scriptures say, or an attempt to “reinterpret” them to fit some kind of modern age context, as though the times have anything to do with Biblical truth.
The first thing I believe should be acknowledged are the reasons for these beliefs and feelings in the first place.
First – For some people it is a character issue. Some people are just hostile, hateful, mean and merely enjoy as the proverbist said as “sport to a fool to do mischief.” The only answer for such people is that they are in fact evil, rebellious, and need to be saved. What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket, and the vitriol from some indicates they are dipping from bitter waters. Jesus said out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. There is just too much rottenness coming from the spouts of some people to be pumping from righteous waters.
Second – Some people have been abused by men masquerading as God called preachers. The Bible calls men who minister as a vocation “hirelings” who have no real care or concern for their sheep. Their own personal well-being is priority number one, and they are no more called by God than my neighbors chickens. They are 10 dollar men in 4 dollar suits leaving wounded people in their wake. Among the problems they cause, they poison the air of preaching for God’s genuine men.
Third – Some people just misunderstand parts of the Bible. As I’ve stated in previous articles, I am amazed at how many people take the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer and use it to eliminate 80% of the rest of the New Testament. For whatever reason they have forgotten that the instructions concerning the differences between men and women, were written to priesthood believers. They have forgotten that the structure and order and leadership of the New Testament church is written to priesthood believers. The reality is that it is only priesthood believers that the majority of New Testament letters are written to. Being a believer/priest puts one under the writings of the New Testament, not away from it.
That being said, there are some scriptures that every believer priest needs to know in order to have a Biblical view of the calling of a man of God.
1st – The Scriptures are saturated with the fact that God “calls” and “places” men in His churches to lead His believer/priests.
Acts 20:28 When Paul was leaving the Ephesians elders/pastors, he said, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
In Ephesians 4:11-12 Paul explained where Pastors come from, and why God gave them. – “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”
Acts 13:2, the Lord revealed that He does call men to work that is separated unto them. “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”
Twice Paul uses the expressions that he was “made a minister” and “appointed a preacher.” The fact is that the same Holy Spirit that woos lost men to be saved, woos saved men into the ministry. Any man not called, made, or appointed, by the Spirit of God, at the very best is motivated by the impulses of a saved man wanting to do better. At the very worst, he is a charlaton motivated by perceived personal benefits.
One of the most eye-rolling things that I have noticed among those who deny that God still calls men is their self-defeating double standard. They claim it is a vocation on one side, and then accuse men they disagree with as being hirelings on the other. It cannot be both ways. If the ministry is nothing but a vocation, then every man is a hireling. That’s what a hireling is. A hireling is someone who is in the ministry as a vocation, but has never been called of God.
That being said, every child of God needs to realize one thing about the men that God has called into His ministry. (We will get into the fulltime/part-time later, as well as the “authority” of these men, rightly understood.) The real man of God had only one choice, not many. I often hear people speaking of preachers say, “they signed up for it . . .” or “they could have done something else, they chose it, and knew what they were getting in to . . .” Or something along those lines. The fact of the matter, is that old German word that pops up from time to time . . . Baloney. The men that God calls, have only one choice. They may either obey God, or they may disobey God, but there is no third option. There are many men who wanted to be bankers, that the Lord said no to. There are many men that wanted to be coaches, or engineers, or lawyers that the Lord intervened and called them to the ministry. In the same way that He called them to be saved when they were lost, He called them to be preachers when they were saved. Now that is not to say they are in the ministry against their will, but that is to say that at some point it was not their will, and the Lord moved in them to the changing of their will.
Does that mean that everyone should accept everyone who claims to be called? Absolutely not. The glory of the Lord is that He not only calls men into the ministry, but He gives churches the equipment to discern the difference between “hirelings” and those He has called. A hireling will not pass the muster of 1st Timothy 3, or Titus chapter 1. How can a church know if a man is called of God? Lay him across the x-ray machine of these passages of scripture, and see if his life bears these marks and characteristics. No man will be “surgically clean” in each and every case in the jot and tittle sense, but these will be the prominent and general characteristics of his life and being.
The fact that there are phonies only indicates the validity of the real. Counterfeiters do not duplicate monopoly money. As my favorite preacher said once, “Denying the real because of the phony is like throwing away all of your money because counterfeits are out there.”
Denying the call of God on men of God, because there are masquerading charlatans is not sensible, spiritual, or any kind of real change worth making.