Does God “call” people to the ministry?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Once, I watched a pastor uncharitably rebuke his congregation before an internet audience (of which I was a part). The man declared that just as God had ordained Paul, God had ordained him. Another pastor got up to the same pulpit and said, “God has called ___ into the ministry. He has not called you! If you do not agree with what is going on in this church, you can leave right now!” (Understandably, this led to a church split.) How I grieved inside to hear such uncouth language… especially from a “grace pulpit!”

Does God really “call” people to the ministry? Is He mysteriously and directly selecting people to become pastors and deacons? Or, is that denominational superstition? Let us consult the Bible for the answers!

Paul’s epistles of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are the foundational books for local church order. However the local grace church is to function in the Dispensation of Grace, we find the structure and details in those four Bible books. First Timothy chapter 3 and Titus chapter 1 list the qualifications for church elders (bishops and deacons). Not one time in either chapter is God “calling” any man. Rather, we read, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work” (1 Timothy 3:1). There is nothing about the Holy Spirit imparting to him some spiritual gift. There is nothing about God “calling” him to the ministry. There is nothing about God forcing him to enter the ministry. It is a choice the man makes based on the Word of God working in him. Entering the ministry is a personal decision; the truth is, God has not “called” anyone into the Christian ministry in nearly 2,000 years.

We read in Acts chapter 13:1-4: “[1] Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. [2] As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. [3] And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. [4] So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.” God certainly called Saul of Tarsus and made him Paul the apostle of the Gentiles; however, God has not directly ordained anyone as Paul’s replacement. To say otherwise is to lay the foundation for a cult, and bring the local church one step closer to becoming a dictatorship.

Regrettably, there is an abuse of power today in a lot of local assemblies. People have been (or are being) bullied into following one particular pastor or Bible teacher. These leaders are never to be questioned because they are supposedly “ordained of God.” It is touted, “The Bible says in 1 Chronicles 16:22 ‘touch not the Lord’s anointed.’ It is a sin to remove me from power!” Actually, if a church leader is doing something wrong in doctrine or action, it is not anti-God to remove him from authority in the local assembly. It is not as if God has supernaturally appointed him and to throw him out means disobeying God. Unfortunately, it must be said. Some local churches would be 1,000 times better off if they would get rid of their wayward pastor! The man has caused the assembly to err in doctrine. He does not teach the Word of God rightly divided. If he does teach the Word of God rightly divided, he does so in a very unloving, contentious manner. He forces verses to say what he wants them to say. The Bible is clear to have nothing to do with false teachers—that includes preachers!

Romans 16:17-18: “[17] Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. [18] For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” And, 1 Timothy 6:3-6: “[3] If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; [4] He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, [5] Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. [6] But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

We expect 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon to mention spiritual gifts. After all, those four epistles highlight how the local church is to function—especially who is to lead them and how they are to behave. We would expect those four epistles to emphasize men who had the gift of tongues, and/or the gift of prophecy, and/or the gift of apostleship, and/or the gift of healing, and/or the gift of wisdom or the gift of knowledge, and so on. Yet, 1 Timothy chapter 3 and Titus chapter 1 do not even briefly mention such gifts. Bishops and deacons were not required to have them. Why? Those chapters are written in light of the Acts transitional period passing away. Once the Acts period ended, there would be no more need for (temporary) spiritual gifts. What was needed was men who knew the completed Bible, who let the completed Bible work in them, who then chose to become bishops and/or deacons. That is the teaching of 1 Timothy 3:1.

The Bible talks about the spiritual gifts ceasing. Contrary to what you may have heard all your life in church, there are no spiritual gifts operating today. Spiritual gifts vanished when the Bible was completed in the first century A.D. You can learn more information by seeing our study on 1 Corinthians 13:10 (linked below). For now, we simply quote it and its context: “[8] Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. [9] For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. [10] But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. [11] When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. [12] For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. [13] And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

Also see:
» What is the “that which is perfect is come” in 1 Corinthians 13:10?
» Could you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?
» What is the difference between a minister, a pastor, and an evangelist?