By Craig Thompson
In 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul writes, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” The word aspire means, “to stretch one’s self out in order to grasp something.” Paul says a person reaching out to the office of pastor is doing a good, beautiful, and noble task.
Do you feel called? If you’re serving as a pastor, do you want to be in your role? I don’t mean do you want to be in the exact church you’re in, but do you want to pastor? Do you desire to serve God’s people as a shepherd?
Unfortunately, I meet many pastors who don’t seem to have any real longing to oversee God’s people. Some of these church leaders entered into the pastorate because they had a gift for preaching and teaching that was recognized by others. As a result, they assumed they were supposed to be pastors.
Others take on the role of pastor because their father was a pastor and they’re attempting to carry on the family legacy. Still others enter into vocational ministry because they’re looking for a sense of fulfillment—buying into the belief they can somehow be fixed through an attempt fix others.
Desiring the office
If you have no desire to pastor, you shouldn’t be a pastor. But if you do have that desire and serve in a pastoral role, you have a calling and a responsibility from God. It’s not always an easy calling and it’s not always fun, but you’re called to obey with some degree of joy and delight.
Will every day in the life of a pastor be filled with joy? Certainly not. There will be days, weeks, and perhaps even months when crawling into your study or climbing into the pulpit is a form of drudgery. But over all—and over time—you should desire your task.
Pastors should desire the office, but desire must be checked. Seventeen hundred years ago, Augustine warned about the double-edged sword of desire. There’s a desire that’s healthy and appropriate and there’s one that’s sinful. The person who pursues vocational ministry because they desire job security or see it as an “easy way to make a living” isn’t qualified.
If you’re reading this as a member of a search committee, keep Paul’s words in mind. The fact that someone expresses desires to pastor your church doesn’t mean they’re somehow less godly than the candidate who’s content to stay right where they are.
Desires can be good and godly. An unsolicited resume isn’t necessarily a sign of immaturity or sinful desire. It may very well be the holy aspirations of a godly candidate. After all, would you rather have a pastor who wants to be with you or one who worked diligently to stay away?
Staying Engaged In Ministry
Aspiring pastors should desire the office for God’s glory and for the privilege of serving God’s people. They should long to discharge the duties of a pastor.
If you don’t desire to pastor, find something else to do. You haven’t failed the Lord if you haven’t been called to the office of pastor. But if you do desire that role, work diligently to fulfill your responsibilities with nobility.
If you’re wrestling with a call to pastor, two things will keep you engaged in the ministry:
- The knowledge that God has called you
- A desire to serve as a pastor
On the backside of hard meetings, you need to be able to retreat to your office and remember God has called you. This is why it’s a good idea to frame your ordination certificate and hang it in your office. It can serve as a regular, visible reminder of God’s call and of your sending church’s affirmation.
Then, even when ministry is hard, remember the desire, joy, and satisfaction you’ve experienced serving God and His people through pastoral ministry.
It’s a noble task—one worth desiring.
CRAIG THOMPSON (@craig_thompson) is the husband of Angela, father of four, and senior pastor of Malvern Hill Baptist Church in Camden, South Carolina.