As a pastor entrenched in ministry for the past two decades I am seeing and connecting with, thank God, many young people pursuing vocational ministry. One such young man reached out to me this morning and I hope my response to him encourages and challenges anyone looking to embrace the dangerous call to ministry (and even those who already have). I have learned by the difficult path. Here is my response:
I would love to meet with either or both of you as time permits. Please feel free to drop by the stage after a worship gathering so we can connect. For now let me encourage you toward the following, as you walk this path toward ministry:
1. Really commit to serving and participating with the local church even at this moment. Life will not get easier with a call to ministry but putting commitments in place now, prioritizing worship with believers, and serving the church well will establish healthy disciplines that God will use to prepare you for and sustain you in ministry. There are many would-be ministers who want to be used by the church but have never shown care for the church. I’d encourage you not to follow that path. Don’t attack the church. You’ll understand how crucial that is when you enter vocational ministry yourself. Serve in humility knowing that every church and every Christian, yourself included, carries wounds and bears stains.
2. Love your family extremely well and safe-guard your time with them. Many pastors, especially when starting out, unconsciously lay their families on the pyre in pursuit of building their name, their church, or their platform. History is replete with examples of this and each one is devastatingly sad. As a young minister, fulfill your commitments, labor in the scripture, care well for people, serve unwaveringly, but never neglect your family. They are your primary mission. Many poor souls across the ministry spectrum will seek to devour your time, pressing you to forsake your fam to meet present needs. Don’t do it, my friend. The needs of your family come first.
3. Strive to learn contentment and perseverance now. You will need both. Comparison is the death of joy in ministry and far too many ministers have staggered into the proverbial ditch by locking their eyes on bigger platforms or glossier ministries instead of fixing their eyes on Jesus and faithfully serving where He has called them. The lure of our natural souls is constantly toward bigger and better – and in human estimates, there will always be bigger and better. Find contentment in Christ and how He is using you in every season.
And I’m sure you have heard, but the attacks are never-ceasing and absolutely brutal in ministry. Develop perseverance in the Holy Spirit now to sustain you through the mountains and valleys of kingdom work.
4. Ground your soul in the knowledge and worship of Jesus. I can’t overstate this. Theology is critical. Personal adoration of God cannot be displaced. Too many pastors fixate on one of these to the marginalization of the other. You need to know about the sovereignty of God, and you need to rest in the sovereignty of God. You need to know how Jesus is all-satisfying, and you need to experience that Jesus is all-satisfying. Theology should never become cold or disconnected from doxology; theology should fuel our Doxology.
I’ll be praying for you, and I hope this helps.