Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesian church that God gives some men to the church who are apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers for the equipping and building up of the church (Ephesians 4:11 – 12). How do you find these men in your own local church context?
The best way we have found is to test those who sense an internal calling to this work. Testing involves exposing an individual to a variety of different, real-life circumstances to observe how they handle them. So the best way to test men for the office of pastor is to evaluate them in situations in which they do the work of a pastor, taking into consideration the qualifications mapped out in Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1 – 7; Titus 1:5 – 9). Over time, we can begin to determine whether a young man who desires this work is truly called, especially as his gifts to preach and teach are tested. This is a testing that should be done visibly before the congregation.
For example, in our church we have twelve different men preach on a different psalm on Sunday evenings every summer. These are men who want to test their gifts to preach. This is not only an opportunity for them to serve our church; it is also a way for us to consider their giftedness as a church body. We encourage church members to approach each individual after the service to give specific comments of encouragement and critique in a loving, helpful way. In addition, a mandatory service review is held after the Sunday evening service, in which the pastors and a few other men who are testing their gifts speak kindly, yet truthfully into this brother’s life, giving feedback about the sermon. Encouragement is given, corrections are made, and suggestions are helpfully submitted so he can improve for the next opportunity.
These brothers are also tested when they visit church members’ homes. They are going out to offer care for an individual member, and at the same time a pastor or elder observes them or gathers feedback from others to determine how they are serving. We will pay attention to how self-controlled, hospitable, gentle, peaceful, above reproach, and respectable a person is — all qualities Paul highlights (1 Timothy 3:1 – 7; Titus 1:5 – 9). As a brother visits different members, the pastors will either go with him or informally check to see how the visit went and what fruit seemed to come from it.
In the kind providence of God, every portion of an individual’s testing works for the good of the local church as a whole. When a brother preaches, he is feeding God’s people through his labor in the word. When a brother disciples another brother in the congregation, he is helping him mature and grow in his faith in Christ. When a brother visits a church member confined to home or a member in the hospital, they are caring for the soul of that church member and ultimately serving the pastors and church as a whole in their efforts. As they serve the church in the midst of this testing, they are beginning to learn the daily labors of ministry — things that can’t be learned from reading books or taking classes. This is the start of hands-on training for the ministry.
When testing is done more frequently and intentionally, it becomes training.
—by Brian Croft, adapted from Prepare Them to Shepherd, Revised and Updated: Test, Train, Affirm, and Send the Next Generation of Pastors. Read the book for next steps in how your local church can affirm and prepare those called to pastoral ministry.
How to Use This Book
This book will help you identify and train people who are called to pastoral ministry. You will learn how your church body plays an essential role in equipping new pastors. Also, read this book if you sense you are called to the work of a pastor or missionary—you will find sound biblical advice in how to proceed in the call.