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 Issues | Questions | Calling to Ministry

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 Christ.

Biblical standards

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 Church.

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.

Hospitable - 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 mastered.

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 their sin.

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 stage.

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 together?

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.

 

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