Fellow redeemed in Christ,
What’s good about the public ministry? In our continuing study of that question, we today will consider how the Lord leads a person to prepare himself (or herself) for the pastoral or teaching ministry.
There are some people in our day who think that whenever the Lord wants individuals to enter the work of the Church, He will call them to this work in some direct, mystical way. Perhaps you’ve heard someone say: “I feel that the Lord has called me to prepare myself for the ministry,” and by this he does not mean a call extended by a Christian congregation or church body, but rather some inner communication which he thinks has come to him directly from God.
From Scripture, however, we learn that also in this matter of deciding to prepare for the public ministry God prefers to work through means rather than directly. A Christian should not expect that God will reach down from heaven, tap him on the shoulder, and whisper in his ear: “I want you to be a pastor,” or “I want you to be a teacher.” He should expect God to work rather through those means or agencies which He Himself has established.
With this in mind, let us consider our text. It consists of these portions of 1 Timothy 3:1-2: “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop [a spiritual overseer], he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be . . . apt to teach.” We learn here that there are two factors which a Christian rightly considers when he is seeking an answer to the question: Might the Lord want me to prepare for full-time work in His Church? These two factors are desire and ability.
Surely the Lord makes use of means when He creates in the mind and heart of an individual a desire for the public ministry. Through His Word He convinces that person that the greatest problem of mankind is–not poverty, not racial discrimination, not the threat of nuclear war–but rather sin against God by which all men have brought upon themselves the wrath and eternal punishment of God. Through His Word He opens the eyes of that person to see that the greatest need of mankind is–not a cure for cancer, not three square meals a day, not a high standard of living–but rather the grace and forgiveness of God in Christ Jesus. Through His Word He instills in that person a recognition of the importance of the Gospel ministry for time and eternity, and a willingness to devote his life to that ministry. So the desire to be a pastor or teacher is one that God creates through the means of grace, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But what about the matter of aptness to each, the ability to shepherd and instruct other sin the teachings of Holy Scripture? Here too God works through agencies which He has established. He works through His representatives here on earth, through Christian parents and pastors, through Christian teachers and counselors. These representatives have the God-given responsibility to give advice and counsel to those whom He has placed under them.
Do not pass if off lightly, then, if a parent or a pastor or a prof here at ILC encourages you to give some thought to entering the pastoral or teaching ministry. A seemingly small thing like a note from a teacher at the bottom of a religion essay, “You have presented these truths in a clear, Scriptural manner,” can help you evaluate your God-given ability. A comment from a guidance counselor or a department head, “you show potential for the public ministry,” should be weighed carefully as an indication of a God-given aptness to teach.
Sometimes all of this happens in a very quiet way. The door of educational opportunity at a school like ILC keeps opening from year to year, the Lord continues to bless your scholarship, and finally–almost before you know it–you find a call in your hand from a Christian congregation to be its pastor or teacher.
Of course, not all Christians can become pastors and teachers, even as the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians: “Not all are apostles, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? Not all are teachers, are they?” (1 Cor. 12:29, literal translation). But your choice of a career–whatever it is–by which you will be glorifying God and serving your neighbor, is something so important that you will surely want to bring it before your God in fervent prayer. Ask Him to use those means which He has established, His Word and His representatives here on earth, to guide you in making decisions for a career.
You are a child of God, and you therefore have surely made your own that prayer which we have sung:
Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be.
Lead me by Thine own hand;
Choose Thou the path for me.
Not mine, not mine, the choice
In things or great or small;
Be Thou my Guide, my Strength,
My Wisdom, and my All.