Be Wise About this thing called “A Call to Ministry”

1Ti 1:5-7  The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  (6)  Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,  (7)  desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

1Ti 1:18  This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,

Many times in the church we hear people talking about “calling.” In regard to a pastor, people want to know “when did you know that the Lord was calling you to be a pastor?” I have been asked that question many times (though not so much now as in my earlier years). It is certainly understandable that people wonder about it.

But what I specifically wanted to talk about in this article is a caution. Namely, this:

Just because someone is a pastor does not mean the Lord has called them.

Now, that sounds simple and obvious, right? But we too often ignore this truth at our peril. I went to seminary with numbers of young men who thought they were “called” to pastoral ministry but who were obviously not equipped or gifted for such a position. Nevertheless, they got their degree.

Consider all the instances in Scripture which expose men in “church ministry” who were not appointed to those positions by the Lord. Here are a few:

Jer 23:1-2  “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD.  (2)  Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD.

Mat 23:23-24  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.  (24)  You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

Act 20:29-30  I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;  (30)  and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Mat 7:15-16  “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  (16)  You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

I could give many other examples like this. But think about it carefully. Is it not extremely common to read in the Bible that some self-appointed wicked person is putting themselves off as “called by the Lord” to shepherd Christ’s flock? In fact, the case could be made that this evil is almost the norm and yet to our own peril we remain naive and trusting.

We hear some church leader say “the Lord called me.” That is what the false shepherds Jeremiah was exposing were claiming:

Jer 23:21  “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied.

Jer 14:14  And the LORD said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.

It is no different in our day. And yet you hear so many professing Christians say “well, we dare not touch the Lord’s anointed. He is called by the Lord.” But how do you know he is “called”? Generally the answer is, “Well, because he said so.”

When I first became a pastor, I actually could not verbalize how the Lord was calling me to that ministry. And I remained unable to do so for quite a few years. I loved to teach and preach God’s Word to people and help them understand the Bible (though I sure didn’t understand much of it then as I look back on those days now!). So when an opportunity presented itself for my family and I to move up into the mountains of Montana to a little church, I was excited to go.

But was I called by the Lord to it? Well, now, years later, I can confidently say, “yes!” How do I know? Because the Lord has sustained me all these years, He has led us and blessed us and given us this ministry of preaching and of exposing evil abusers in the church and helping their victims, and it was all His doing! No kidding. None of it was planned by me.

All of this to say – we must all be wise in these matters. Just because a person holds the position of “pastor” or “elder” in a local church and just because they say they have been called to it by the Lord, does not mean He has sent them at all. Buildings may be going up. Lots of people may be flocking to the pews on Sunday. But this is no evidence that the Lord has sent the man. In fact, in these evil days, I am immediately suspect when I see these things happening.

4 thoughts on “Be Wise About this thing called “A Call to Ministry”

  1. Very well said, Jeff! And unfortunately — SO TRUE! In our over 40 years of ministry, we have identified way too many ”so called pastors” who have literally destroyed churches and the people within those churches. It’s happening right now in the church that Dick retired from and we cannot get the people there to see it- even though they complain to us about his regular hypocrisy in his sermons. Their answer to us: we can’t challenge him because he’s a ‘pastor’ – God called him! And we can give example after example as I am sure you can too.

    Thank you for addressing this issue. I saved a copy of the post so I can share it with some we know who are struggling with this in their local church. One is our oldest son, we Praise the Lord that he and his wife & girls finally saw what was going on and left the church 2 months ago. It wasn’t easy- its my daughter-in-law’s home church where she grew up, where they were married and even where Dick pastored nearly 40 years ago. It took a lot but they finally realized, this man who calls himself a pastor is anything but a pastor.

    Jeff, thank you for stating this problem that is so rampant in today’s Evangelical churches. I know God will continue to bless your ministry at CRC and online because of your faithfulness to HIS WORD!

    1. Thank you very much Becky. I hope everyone listens carefully to your comment. The wisdom of over 40 years.

  2. I remember a little saying from way back. “God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.”
    Thank you so very much Pastor Crippen for being obedient to the Lord’s calling for you. The ministries that you work tirelessly at have helped and are helping many hurting abused people. You are one of a very few I have known that speak the truth to help set the captives free. I pray the Lord continue to richly bless you in all that you do for Him.


  3. I have not been able to read your post as soon as it is posted, but God knew when I needed to read it. It confirmed something I had just written in my journal. Everyone I know continues to harp on me, because I’m not going to a church building every Sunday. They believe I have to go to church to be a Christian. Although they haven’t been able to proud it in the Bible.

    I get so much more out of reading the Bible in my quiet time each morning than going to a church building listening to someone calling themselves a pastor who is telling everyone Joseph was a prideful man and that is why his brothers hated him. That his pride was the reason he had the life he did. Seriously why do I want to fill my mind with lies.

    I have tried many church and I always pray that God shows me truth. God has taught me so much just me and Him. Would I like to find somewhere to worship with true Christ minded people? Yes. That is a desire, but in the meantime, God is my greatest teacher. Thank you so much for your posts.

Leave a Reply