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.