Does a pastor have to be “called” by God?
On the one hand, there seems to be no biblical indication that the New Testament office of elder or pastor requires a special “calling.”
- The New Testament gives no indication that a pastor must be called by God in the same way that prophets and high priests were called in the Old Testament (Jer. 1:5; Heb. 5:4). Moreover, the New Testament never applies the terminology of “calling” to the pastoral office, but only to the Christian life in general (2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 3:1).
- If the New Testament taught that pastors must be specially called by God, it seems that there would be some sort of discussion of how that happens and how to discern whether one has been called. Instead, Paul writes, “Here is a trustworthy saying: if anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim. 3:1). Paul doesn’t say, “If anyone wants to be a pastor, he must have a special, supernatural, subjective call from God,” but rather, “If anyone wants to be a pastor, he desires a good thing. Now here are the qualifications.”
That said, pastoral ministry is not for everyone. It’s spiritually demanding. It’s emotionally demanding. It’s physically demanding. It subjects a man and his family to extraordinary burdens and pressures. So, while we may or may not want to use the term “call” to describe it, a man should have a sober and informed commitment to the work of ministry before he seeks to pastor a church. He should also have a local church’s affirmation of his gifts and character.