Called to be a Pastor? Nonsense! Choose Wisely

In Jewish biblical exegesis there is an overriding principle called in Hebrew DIYUQ / דיוק. An English translation of this word would be something along the lines of “exactitude.” This principle is seen in how the Prophets, Jesus, the Apostles, and the other "NT" writers handled the Bible of their day. By the technical term “exegesis,” I mean the art and practice of drawing out from Scripture what is actually there, explicitly and implicitly, as opposed to “eisegesis,” which is the unfortunate practice of reading into Scripture what is neither there explicitly nor implicitly. So Jewish exegesis holds the Bible student to a rigorous accountability by requiring that details of the texts be taken seriously; that the texts themselves provide the contours of our inferred theologies and practices, and that unbiblical notions not be read into, or overlaid upon the texts of Scripture. One example of a common Christian failure to pay attention to what the texts of Scripture actually teach is found in the so-called “call to ministry”… or “call to preach.” By these extra-biblical phrases is meant, of course, a direct summons by God to the Christian pastorate. Oh, proof-texts abound for this phenomenon, ranging all over the Bible, from God’s saying to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you” (Gen 12:1 – with few heeding this “call” ever actually leaving their literal families and traveling, as directed, to a different country, but … hey …); to God’s pre-prenatal preparation of the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:5 – but does this summons mention or imply a “pastorate”? Cf. Jer 23:1-4, where unfaithful “pastors / shepherds” of “Israel” are promised punishment, with faithful Israelite “pastors / shepherds” set up by God Himself to attend to the needs of, not Christian congregations, but “the remnant of [YHWH’s Israelite] flock [who would one day be returning from] out of all countries where [He had] driven them”). Proof-texts range from Jesus’ commissioning of “his twelve disciples … [giving them] power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease” (Mat 10:2 – but is this “call” and empowerment for the “pastorate,” or for something else?); to Paul’s “Damascus road experience” (Act 9:1-20), and / or his “Macedonian call” (Act 16:9,10 – neither of which mention or imply the “pastorate”). Those who testify to “resisting the call to the ministry [or to preach]” (as if “ministry” were mostly “preach[ing]”) often compare themselves to Jonah, “running from the LORD’s call, until He sent the fish ...,” i.e. some unpleasant circumstance occurred that convinced the one who “felt called” to begin pursuing a career as a Christian pastor. The use of these and other such proof-texts presupposes that God has preordained certain people for the Christian pastorate “from the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4) and that, when “the call” comes, it is the preordained pastor’s job to “answer the call” and say something akin to what Isaiah said when summoned by YHWH: “Here am I! Send me” (Isa 6:8). Those who refuse will be hounded till they either submit or else they will forever “miss God’s call on their life.” Those who “answer the call” affirmatively, and begin pursuing the pastorate, will feel a certain level of satisfaction, knowing that they are now “in the perfect will of the LORD.” But does the Bible even teach a “call to [the pastorate]”? No! ... nowhere. What does Scripture actually teach about people serving as congregational overseers? “If a man longs for [the occupation of congregational] overseership, he desires an honorable occupation” (1Tim 3:1). That “overseership,” “pastoring,” and “eldership” are closely associated in the post-resurrection part of our Bibles – if not basically equated – is easily verifiable: “[Paul] summoned the **elders** of the [Ephesian] ekklesia … ‘the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you [plural] **overseers** …’ ” (Act 20:17-23). “… ordain **elders** … For the **overseer** must be irreproachable…” (Tit 1:5-7). “… **pastor** and **overseer** …” (1Pet 2:25). Keeping in mind that “overseership,” “pastoring,” and “eldership” are closely associated in Scripture, now notice the language of choice which Paul here employs in 1Tim 3:1: “longs for,” “desires.” Not the language of preordination or command, as is used in so many of the proof-texts for “the call to preach / ministry.” Paul follows his introductory statement about “If a man longs for / desires overseership ..,” with a list of qualifications, to determine whether or not such a man is even fit for “overseership.” No voices from heaven, no flashes of lightning, no threats if “the call” is not heeded. Just a list of practical qualities which says, “Pass” or “Fail”… depending. If a man “fails” the first go ‘round, who’s to say, according to Scripture, that he cannot redouble his efforts and “pass” the next time the need arises in his congregation for another “overseer/s”? Truth is, nowhere in the entire Bible is anyone “called to be a pastor.” Nowhere! The primary problems with the “called to be a pastor” approach are as follows: 1. It discourages qualified men from pursuing the Christian pastorate if they do not have some sort of supernatural “calling” experience. 2. It encourages men who do not have a supernatural “calling” experience to perhaps invent one in order to justify their desire to serve as congregational “overseers.” 3. It is partly to blame for the common unbiblical set-up of “senior pastor” as CEO to a local congregation, with few daring to challenge his fiats for fear they may be “resisting the anointed of God.” 4. It brings about with it a certain mis-identification of the role of Christian pastoring with the roles of prophets, apostles, and the like. The above and other problems could be avoided if we disciples of Jesus would simply follow the Jewish (and biblical) exegetical principle of DIYUQ / דיוק, allowing the biblical texts themselves, rather than our manmade traditions, to provide the contours of our theologies and practice. We would see then that the Bible does not even teach a “call to [the pastorate],” but rather that it is a choice of qualified Christian men, to any who longs for / desires [such] an honorable occupation” (1Tim 3:1). (originally posted on Facebook by Millier Michael, the original post can be found here )

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