Jesus said, "The time is fulfilled,
and the kingdom of God is at hand;
repent and believe in the gospel."
Mark 1:15

Is God Calling Me to Be a Pastor?  

By: David Mathis


Is God calling me into pastoral ministry?

It's a question many Christians wrestle with at some point in their life of faith. Not just in adolescence or early adulthood, but sometimes midlife, or even in approaching so-called retirement age.

The New Testament doesn't draw neat and distinct lines between "full-time ministry" and so-called "secular work." In whatever God, by his providence, leads us into for our day job, he calls us to do our work "not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord" (Colossians 3:22). Christ's apostle charges all workers, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:23–24; also Ephesians 6:6–8).

The fundamental divide is not between full-time ministry and non-ministry jobs, but this important distinction: church office. Perhaps the better question to ask - or at least where we have some specific texts to give us more clarity - is this: Am I called to the office of elder?

We should note that elders in the New Testament (also called pastors or overseers) are spiritually mature men (1 Timothy 3:2Titus 1:6). Not any Christian, and not any man, but mature men. "Elder" is the same office often called "pastor" today (based on the noun pastor or shepherd in Ephesians 4:11and its verb forms in Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2). The same office is also called "overseer" in four texts (Acts 20:28Philippians 1:11 Timothy 3:1–2Titus 1:7). By focusing on the office, rather than simply vocational (or nonvocational) ministry, several specific texts give us some bearings.

1. Do I Aspire? (Aspiration)

First off, God wants pastors to want to do the work. He wants elders who happily give of themselves in this emotionally taxing work, "not reluctantly or under compulsion" (2 Corinthians 9:7). God loves a cheerful pastor.

When the apostle Paul addresses the qualifications of pastors-elders-overseers, he first mentions aspiration. "The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task" (1 Timothy 3:1). God wants men who want to do the work, not men who do it simply out of a sense of duty. He grabs pastors by the heart; he doesn't twist them by the arm.

Peter may say it most powerfully. Christ wants elders to shepherd (pastor) his flock "not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you" (1 Peter 5:2). How remarkable that pastoring from aspiration and delight, not obligation and duty, would be "as God would have you." This is the kind of God we have - the desiring (not dutiful) God, who wants pastors who are desiring (not dutiful) pastors. Such a happy God means for the leaders of his church to do their work "with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage" to the people (Hebrews 13:17).

Practically, then, when we hear men, young and old, express an aspiration to the pastoral office, we should want our first inclination not to be to challenge it, squash it, or see if we can disavow them of it. Rather, we want to give them the benefit of the doubt, that God is at work. Such an aspiration is not a natural desire, but supernatural. Let's start by encouraging men who would express such an unnatural heart.

Desire for the work has a role to play in the calling to church office that it may not in other work. Your day job may be something you're able to do, but don't enjoy, and God can work with that for a season. But a fundamental difference between pastoral ministry and every other kind of work is the necessity of desire.

Such desire is often the beginning of a pastoral calling, but it is never the entirety. Aspiration is a great place to start, but desire in and of itself does not amount to a calling. God then gives us two layers of confirmation: the affirmation of others and the real-life opportunity.

2. Am I Gifted? (Affirmation)

After sensing a subjective desire for pastoral ministry, we need to ask a more objective question about our gifting. Have I seen evidence, however small, of fruitfulness in serving others through biblical teaching and counsel? And, even more important than my own self-assessment, do others confirm my giftings for pastoral ministry?

Here the desires of the heart meet the brass tacks of the needs of others. Office in the church is not for spiritual self-actualization or merely affirming a man's spiritual maturity, but it's for meeting the actual needs of others. The elder qualifications are, in a sense, unremarkable. The elders of the church should not be the sum total of all spiritually qualified men in the church. Rather, from among those who are qualified, the elders are those who are willing to make extra sacrifices (for a season or the long haul) to care for the church and meet her needs. Aspiration has its vital part to play, but the call to pastoral office is not shaped mainly by the internal heart, but by external needs.

This is the opposite of the "follow your heart" perspective and "don't settle for anything less than your dreams" ideology we so often hear in society. What's most important in discerning God's call is not bringing the desires of our heart to bear on the world, but letting the needs of others shape our heart.

Over time, then, a dialogue happens between what we want to do and what we find ourselves good at doing for the benefit of others. Delight in certain kinds of labor grows as real needs are being met and as others affirm our gifts and efforts. Often we'll even discover a calling and gifting for ministry first through others' observations and encouragement, and only later through our own aspirations.

Before you go looking for opportunities to shepherd in the future, make sure you are able to meet real spiritual needs in front of you today and seek confirmation from your current local church and Christian community.

3. Has God Opened the Door Yet? (Opportunity)

Third, and perhaps most often overlooked in Christian discussions of calling, is the actual God-given, real-world open door. You may feel called, and others may affirm your general direction, but you are not yet fully "called" to a specific pastoral ministry until God opens the door.

God in his providence does the decisive work. He started the process by giving you the aspiration; and he affirmed the direction as his Spirit produced fruit through your giftings; now he confirms that sense of calling by swinging open the right door at the right time. It is finally God, not man - and God, not self - who gives the call to pastoral office.

  • God the Spirit is the one who "made you overseers" (Acts 20:28).
  • God the Son is the one who "gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry" (Ephesians 4:11–12).
  • The Lord of the harvest is the one to whom we "pray send out laborers into his harvest" (Matthew 9:37–38).
  • God is the one who sends preachers. "How are they to preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:15).
  • God is the master who "will set over his household" faithful and wise managers (Luke 12:42).
  • The Lord Jesus Christ is the one from whom we receive the ministry we are to fulfill (Colossians 4:17).

In my experience, we often leave out this final reality-check step. We say that a seminary student who aspires to preach and has received affirmation from his home church is "called to ministry." Well, not yet. He aspires to full-time ministry, thank God, and some people have found his giftings helpful. He is well on his way. But what this aspiring, affirmed brother doesn't yet have - to confirm his sense of calling - is a real-live opportunity where some ministry or church presents a job description and says, "We are ready to call you to pastor here. Would you accept?"

Until God, through a specific local church, makes a man an overseer (Acts 20:28), gives him to the church (Ephesians 4:11–12), sends him as a laborer (Matthew 9:37–38Romans 10:14–15), and sets him over his household (Luke 12:42), he is not yet fully called.

And what a marvel and blessing it is when God gives a man a desire for the pastoral office, gifts him to meet real needs in the church with the word of God and wisdom, with affirmation from the real-life body of Christ, and opens a door for him to lead and serve in a specific local church. Then he knows he is called.




The Big Question

Does God Exist?

What Is The Bible?

Is The Bible True?

Who Is Jesus?

Is Jesus In Every Book Of The Bible?

Is Jesus God?

Did Jesus Fulfill Any Prophecies?

Did God Create You?

What About Reincarnation?

Are You Going To Heaven?

What Is The Truth About Hell?

What are the Essentials of the Faith?

Who Will You Believe?

Want To Find A Good Church?

Looking For A Church In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania?

Which Bible Translation Is Right For Me?

What is the TULIP, and is it Biblical?

What are the Five Solas, and are they Biblical?



"All Religions Lead To God"

"Never Talk About Religion Or Politics"

"Judge Not..."

"The Bible Is Full Of Contradictions"

"A Powerful God Wouldn't Allow So Much Evil..."

"The Church Is Full Of Hypocrites"

"What About Those Who Never Hear About Jesus?"

"A God of Love vs. A God of Wrath"

"A Loving God Wouldn't Send People To Hell"

"You're Only A Christian Because You..."

"As Long As You're Sincere In What You Believe"

"How Do You Know Which Religion Is Right?"

"God Would Never Forgive Someone Like Me"

"I Can't Believe In Miracles"

"Unanswered Prayer Shows God Doesn't Exist"

"What's With All The Different Denominations?"

"Jesus Was Just a Copycat of Pagan Myths"

"What About The Crusades?"

"What About Slavery In The Bible?"

"What About Evolution?"

"What About Homosexuality?"

"Jesus Didn't Say Anything About Homosexuality"

"What About Abortion?"


Other Stuff

   Other Beliefs


     Roman Catholicism


     Jehovah's Witnesses


     Seventh-Day Adventism




     New Age

     Christian Science



     Oneness Pentecostals

     Unitarian Universalism




What I Believe

Theological Terms and Definitions

Belief Comparison Chart

An Eschatological Overview (End Times)

Good Quotes

Paul Washer Quotes

20 Logical Fallacies

17 Questions Every Christian Should Think About

My Prayer - I Have A Problem...

More Than A Holiday

Honest Questions for Jehovah's Witnesses

Honest Questions For Mormons

Questions For Skeptics

10 Reasons To Tell Your Kids The Truth About Santa

A View From The Life Boat

A Collection of Helpful Bible Passages

A Story About A Boy Named Mikey

Thoughts On The Doctrine Of Definite Atonement

Questions To Ask A Child Before Their Baptism

A Critique Of An Origin-Of-Life Article

No Hope In The Pope

Terrorism - What You Can Do About It

The Impact Of A Blind Elderly Woman

Evidence For The Resurrection - W.O.M.E.N.

Quotes About Sin

17 Ways To Fight Sin In Your Life


Apologetics / Evangelism

What Is Apologetics?

Why Should We Do Apologetics?

What Is Presuppositional Apologetics? 

What Do You KNOW? 

What Is Evangelism? 

Why Should We Evangelize? 

Are Christian Doing A Good Job Of Evangelizing? 

7 Reasons People Don't Share Their Faith

The Question Of Evangelism - Words Or Works? 

Is The World In Which We Live In Today Tolerant? 

Preaching What We Practice and Talking The Walk

Man vs. God Centered Evangelism


Around the Web

A Letter From An Atheist

Are You A Good Person?

Is This Your Life?

What Does It Mean To Accept Christ?

What's Wrong With The Sinner's Prayer?

An Important Aspect of Baptism

Must We Believe Jesus Is God?

Turn or Burn

Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church

10 Reasons Not To Ask Jesus Into Your Heart

10 Principles For New Christians

10 Pitfalls Of The Foolish Apologist

Evangelistic Phrases That Produce False Conversions

The Secret About How Some Christians Witness

Preaching God's Love In Acts?

The Gospel In Every Book Of The Bible

7 Key Differences Bewteen Protestant And Catholic Doctrine

A Different Perspective On Halloween

10 Reasons I Kissed Halloween Goodbye

The Question After A Tragedy - WHY?

The Impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Thoughts About Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner

A Pastor's Response To The Marriage Debate

Sin By Any Other Name Is Still Sin

Should a Woman Be a Pastor or Elder?

Wives, Submit To Your Husbands?

The Shack - Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment

Universalism - A Problem for Everyone

5 Problems With Roman Catholic Theology

5 More Problems With Roman Catholic Theology

5 Truths We're Keeping From Our Youth Groups

Charlottesville, Racism and God's Word

8 Signs Your Christianity is Too Comfortable

Maybe Elvis Was Just a Carnal Christian?

Is God Calling Me to Be a Pastor?


Audio / Video

    Original Sermon Jams

     Born Again - Paul Washer

     Does Jesus Know You? - Paul Washer

     We Got An A! - Paul Washer

     A Boy On The Street - R.C. Sproul

     Fearless - R.C. Sproul

     Hypocrites - R.C. Sproul

     Smiling Faces - R.C. Sproul

     Authorized Personnel Only - Tony Evans

     Drive-thru - Tony Evans

     One Flesh - Tony Evans

     Sex - Tony Evans

     The Satisfier - Tony Evans

     Who to Serve? - Pastor Mike Leonzo

     The Voice of Truth - Pastor Ben Maxie

     Transformed - Pastor Mike Leonzo

     Where is the Love? - Pastor Ben Maxie

     He Claimed to be God - Pastor Mike Leonzo

     Love is a Behavior - Pastor Ben Maxie

     Examine It for Yourself - Pastor Mike Leonzo

     Perfect Love - Pastor Ben Maxie

     We Need Preachers - Mike Bongo

     The Sovereignty of God in Evangelism - Mike Bongo 

     I'm Ready - Mike Bongo

     Our Day in Court - Mike Bongo

     Examine Yourself - Mike Bongo

     Exclusivity - Mike Bongo

     Our World - Mike Bongo

     The Great Exchange - Mike Bongo 

     True God - Mike Bongo

    The One Minute Apologist

     Intolerance - Greg Koukl

     Legislating Morality - Frank Turek

     Intelligent Design and Creation - Bill Dembski

     Tolerance is Unbiblical - Josh McDowell

     Homosexual Forgiveness - Michael Brown

     What Must I Do To Be Saved? - Hank Hannegraaff

     Is Jesus A Copycat Savior? - J. Warner Wallace

     The Resurrection - Gary Habernas

     Contradictions In The Bible - Mike Licona

     Is It About Winning Arguments? - Mary Jo Sharp

     Does Christianity Oppress Women? - Dianna Newman

     Is Evil An Argument For God? - Brett Kunkle

   WWUTT (When We Understand The Text)

     Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner?

     Thou Shalt Not Judge?

     God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Handle?

     Do We Have To Prove That God Exists?

     Preach The Gospel, If Necessary Use Words?

     You Don't Have To Go To Church To Be A Christian?

     I Stand At The Door And Knock?

     God Has Already Chosen Who Will Be Saved?

     Spare The Rod, Spoil the Child?

     The Bible Says Slavery is Okay?

     Are Catholics Saved?

     God Foreknew Who Would Be Saved?

     Does The Bible Say Homosexuality is A Sin?

     Alter Calls And The Sinner's Prayer?

     Worse Than An Unbeliever?

    Kids Section

     The Gospel

     David Platt On Sharing the Gospel With Children

     For The Children: Are You Saved? - Paul Washer

     2 Amazing 11 Year Old Boys

   Other Audio / Video

     Rescue The Perishing

     Emeal Zwayne's Dialogue With A Homosexual

     The Big Questions of Life - Voddie Baucham

   Explore God

     Is There A God?

     Can We Know God Personally?

     Why Does God Allow Pain And Suffering?

     Is Jesus Really God?

     Are Christians Judgmental?

   The Bible Project

     The Book of Genesis Overview - Part 1 of 2 

     The Book of Genesis Overview - Part 2 of 2 

     The Book of Exodus Overview - Part 1 of 2

     The Book of Exodus Overview - Part 2 of 2

     The Book of Leviticus Overview

     The Book of Numbers Overview

     The Book of Deuteronomy Overview

     The Book of Joshua Overview

     The Book of Judges Overview

     The Book of Ruth Overview

     The Book of 1 Samuel Overview

     The Book of 2 Samuel Overview

     The Books of 1 and 2 Kings Overview

     The Book of Job Overview

     The Book of Psalms Overview

     The Book of Proverbs Overview

     The Book of Song of Songs Overview

     The Book of Isaiah Overview - Part 1 of 2

     The Book of Isaiah Overview - Part 2 of 2

     The Book of Hosea Overview

     The Book of Joel Overview

     The Book of Amos Overview

     The Book of Obadiah Overview

     The Book of Jonah Overview

     The Book of Micah Overview

     The Book of Nahum Overview

     The Book of Habakkuk Overview

     The Book of Zephaniah Overview 

Street Conversations

Street Conversations Disclaimer

Street Conversations - George & Paul

Street Conversations - Don

Street Conversations - VeeJay

Street Conversations - Joe

Street Conversations - Ralph 

Street Conversations - Charles

Street Conversations - Ed

Street Conversations - Ken

Street Conversations - Jessica

Street Conversations - Ida

Street Conversations - Earl & Evadel 

Street Conversations - Jim  

Street Conversations - Raheem

Street Conversations - Raheem part 2

Street Conversations - My Mom

Street Conversations - Eddie

Street Conversations - Renee

Street Conversations - Ron

Street Conversations - Rash

Street Conversations - Preacher

Street Conversations - Luis

Street Conversations - Keith

Street Conversations - Hippy

Street Conversations - Rich

Street Conversations - Hippy part 2

Street Conversations - Butch

Street Conversations - Scott

Street Conversations - Marcos

Street Conversations - Will & James

Street Conversations - Alexander and Valerie

Street Conversations - Jerry and Steve

Street Conversations - Blake

Street Conversations - Elteresa

Street Conversations - Pete

Street Conversations - George

Street Conversations - Jacob

Street Conversations - Nolan

Street Conversations - Fred and Frank

Street Conversations - Phillip



My Baptism

Survey Says  

A Faith Worth Thinking About  

Resolutions From Revelation  

Takin' The Gospel To The Streets  

Responding Rightly To The Gospel Of Grace  

A Defense That Honors God And His Word  

Encouragement In Corinth

Why Are You Here?  

The Dash

Surrendering To Win

The Gospel

The Laborers Are Few; Therefore...

Love Has No Labels - A Response

Faith That Works

Atheists: They Don't Exist


Making a Difference - Outreach and Evangelism  

Luke - A Careful Investigation to be Sure  

Be Kind! Yeah, But Why?

A Close Encounter of the Divine Kind

The Formula For Forgiveness

The Parable of the Soils

Jesus in the Storm

Dealing with Difficult Disciples


Repent or Perish!

Demanding Discipleship

Seeing the Seeker

Having What You Need When You Need It

This is Us

The Motivation to Sacrifice



The views and opinions of this website are the sole opinion of the author, not Living Water Community Church, its staff, congregation, or leadership.


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