If I think
God is calling me to ordained ministry what should I do?
If you are convinced in your own
mind that the Lord is calling you towards ordained ministry, or convinced that
you should pursue the idea, then it is important to test that calling.
Obviously one of the things is to test it against scripture - for example
1 Timothy Chapter 3. This lays down some very specific direction
about those who are to be overseers/presybyters within the Church of
Blameless - does anyone have just
cause against you, if so this suggests that there are issues you must deal
with and it could also bring your future ministry into disrepute.
The husband of one wife - this does
not, of course, preclude the single man (Paul the author being himself single).
It is a specific prohibition against polygamy which is still an issue
in some parts of the Christian church. However, in the light of other
teaching in Scripture many Christians believe that this precludes those who
are remarried after divorce and that was the practice of the Church of England
until very recently.
It should be noted here that the
assumption is that only men will occupy the position of overseer/presbyter. This
follows on from God's ordering of creation and the relationship of men and
women, it does not imply difference in worth or value, merely in role. The
principle is followed consistently by the Lord Jesus and by the New Testamen
Temperate, sober-minded - there are
many times in Christian ministry when you will be tempted in this regard, it
is important that the minister responds to such situations with wisdom and
sobriety. If you are prone to anger and acting before thinking then this
is something to address before going forward for ministry.
Of good behaviour - very general,
but the Christian minister is to be a model to others, not just a teacher.
- there are practical reasons for this, you will be required to mix with
a wide range of people and entertain many in your home, but hospitality also
reflects the grace of God to us and is a powerful testimony to non-Christians.
Able to teach - this is the only
ability listed and illustrates that the key feature of the Christian ministry
is a teaching ministry. You will be required to preach and teach the
Word of God in many different situations. You will, of course, receive
some training but there are questions to consider. Do you have an aptitude
and enthusiasm to learn about the Bible, Christian doctrine and life in general? Have
you been involved in some sort of teaching ministry and would others agree
that you have shown some aptitude for this? Remember that Peter and the
other first disciples were 'unlettered men' but it became evident that they
had an aptitude (God given) to teach.
Not given to wine, not
violent, not greedy for money - these are all vices which have characterised
clergy in times of corruption in the Church and they have brought dishonour
to the name of Christ. If you know that you have failed in these areas
in the past you must be especially confident that these are problems you have
But gentle - this is a difficult
virtue because the minister must also exercise discipline and be prepared to
rebuke those who are in error or whose lives are falling short of Christ's
standards. Our model is Christ, who was very sharp in dealing with hypocritical
religious people, but was gentle toward the sinner and outsider whilst being
very direct in what he taught and not failing to confront the sinner about
Not quarrelsome, not
covetous - similar comments to the last but one point apply.
One who rules his own house
well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if
a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the
church of God?) - this point is fairly self-explanatory but illustrates that
the Church is akin to the family and a man given a role of oversight within
it will have a similar position to a father in a family. If the man cannot govern
his own household properly he will most likely fail in his ministry.
Not a novice, lest being
puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil - if you
are a recent convert then there is much opportunity for Christian ministry
but the role of overseer/presbyter is not something you should enter into at
This is not to say it is an
old-man's office, Timothy, to whom these instructions were first written was
a young man. But some depth of Christian experience and ministry is required. The
temptation indicated here is a real one for those in leadership - that we take
pride in ourselves, our ability and our office. These are particular
problems for a recent convert, those who have been Christians for longer will
most likely be well aware of their failings and if they are not they are unsuitable
to teach since they are clealry deceiving themselves.
You should consider all these things
but you should also seek the guidance of others. How do they think you
measure up to this standard?
The process of selection in the Church
of England ought to be to determine whether these criteria are met. Indeed
the process is extremely thorough, although often there is a feeling that it
is not these biblical standards that are the guide beign followed.
How to proceed:
You must have the backing of a local
church and its minister, otherwise you will find it very difficult to proceed.
Does your present minister think you are suitable for this? Have you prayed
In the end the decision rests with your Bishop. They must grant funds for
training. They are not committing themselves to ordain you at the end of
training not least because many (possibly the majority) do not go back to
the diocese from which they came after training.
You will need at some stage to be clear what you believe you are being called
to. Is it full-time stipendiary ministry (you get paid) or some sort of local
or non-stipendiary ministry (you don't get paid).
The Bishop normally has a Director
of Ordinands who will want to interview
you at least a couple of times. He may also use others in the Diocese to
meet with you. In this process you are likely to meet with people from diverse
churchmanship. Such is the nature of the Church of England and whilst
our longing may be for all to be clear Bible believing Christians we have
to recognise that at present this is not the case in the Church of England.
If you intend to work within it you will need to live with this fact
and therefore do so in the interviewing process.
If the Bishop and Director of Ordinands
think it is worth proceeding you will be sent on a selection conference (2-3
days). This can be quite gruelling and you may well find people on it who
seem entirely unsuited to Christian ministry, possibly some you doubt whether
they are Christian at all.
The selection conference makes a recommendation to the Bishop who will normally
abide by it, but is not obliged to.
The Bishop will make recommendations about training - this depends on your
own circumstances, the ministry you are heading towards (stipendiary etc),
your age, previous training, academic aptitude etc.
Then you are trained - this is also part of the selection process - a time
to test your calling further.
At the end of this someone becomes a Curate being ordained deacon and then
priest (=presbyter). This is a training appointment.
From first beginning to explore
a call to being ordained is likely to take at least 3 years, possibly 5 or
more. This delay will ensure that you are convinced in your own mind that
God is calling you to this work.
In the process you may be interviewed
15-20 times in order that others can seek to confirm this calling.
The process is very rigorous, its
failings are due largely to the inadequate theological expectations on ministry.