The Call to the Ministry

Is a divine call a requirement for those who want to serve as ministers of Jesus Christ?  Amazingly, today, more and more people are saying that the concept of “the call to the ministry” is “a major barrier to, and distraction from, the recruitment of pastors.”

A recent article published in The Banner of Truth deals with the issue of the nature of the call to the ministry.  The article was written by Dr. I.D. Campbell from Back Free Church of Scotland, the Isle of Lewis.  He wrote:

“It seems that the concept of a call to the ministry has fallen on hard times. A recent survey conducted by Affinity, the evangelical church partnership organisation, engaged with 400 ministers between the ages of 21 and 40. Of these, 30% said they were confused over what constitutes a call, and only 46% of them – less than half – said that they had felt a special call to the ministry.”

“One trainee minister commented: ‘in my judgement, the notion of a ‘calling’ to the ministry is a major barrier to, and distraction from, the recruitment of pastors and teachers … the notion of a ‘call’, if understood as an internal ‘feeling’, is unbiblical and must be abandoned.’ Another says: ‘I can see no biblical justification for the idea of a ‘special call’ to full-time ministry.’”

Dr. Campbell used the prophets as evidence that, in the past, those who spoke for God were aware that God had called them into the prophetic ministry.  He wrote:

“Why else would anyone wish to stand in front of his peers as the spokesman of God, speaking to men about God and to God about men, unless God himself charged him with that task? Indeed, when we begin analysing the biblical material, this is one of the most prominent of Bible themes, as God, for example, takes issue with prophets who have spoken to the people, but, God says, ‘I did not send them’ (Jeremiah 14:14). Most of the classical Old Testament prophets address this issue of a personal call to office. Isaiah responded to such a call in the year King Uzziah died (Isaiah 6), while Jeremiah was set apart from the womb, conscious in young age of God’s call on his life (Jeremiah 1:7). Ezekiel’s call to the captives in Babylon was as clear as it was direct: ‘I send you to them, and you shall say to them ‘Thus says the Lord God’ (Ezekiel 2:4). Amos simply reports that the Lord took him from his secular employment and told him to go and prophesy to his people (Amos 7:15).”

After a good discussion of the nature of the call to the ministry, Dr. Campbell concludes:

“As James Henley Thornwell pointed out long ago, ‘the doctrine of a divine call is set aside by all who make the ministry a means to any other ends but those with which Christ has connected it.’ Only when we ask why Christ has appointed a Gospel ministry can we begin to appreciate what the call to the ministry is. Then, having been called to the greatest office in the world, how can a man stoop to become a king?”

I agree with him: “This whole business of the call to the ministry is vital and fundamental to the wellbeing of the church.” I commend this article to you.  Read the article by clicking here

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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