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Skill Confirmation: Discerning God’s Call

Darrin Patrick

Ditches

There are two ditches that the church can fall into as they help confirm a person’s calling to gospel ministry. First, they can uncritically accept the internal call, or the subjective sense of calling, which is usually driven by emotions. Too often the church’s motto is, “Just let the boy preach!” The danger here is that we produce ministers who rely strictly on gifts and fail to develop godly character, all but ensuring future disqualification. The other ditch is when the church makes it too difficult to be affirmed in gospel ministry. Such churches set the bar too high with regard to skill development (being a great preacher) or with regard to education (candidate must have finished seminary). There are many gifted pastors who started successful ministries even though they had never been to seminary, like Mark Driscoll or Matt Chandler. We need to be careful not to set the bar so high that we exclude from ministry those whom God is genuinely calling.

Tests

How should the church test whether or not a man is called into pastoral ministry from a skill perspective? There are at least two tests a church should consider. The first test involves a man’s understanding of Scripture. Questions that should be answered might include:

  • Does he have a working knowledge of the whole of Scripture?
  • Can he articulate the gospel story throughout the Scripture?
  • Does he understand the controversial passages that have caused division in church history (Calvinism vs. Arminianism, method and mode of baptism, and so on)?
  • Can he make concrete life applications from the Scripture?

The second test involves inspecting the fruit of his ministry. Questions might include:

  • Can he inspire the church for mission?
  • Can he cast vision for the church and inspire people to pursue that vision with him?
  • Can he organize the church to reach its goals?
  • Can he set up systems and structures that run apart from his direct influence?

Discerning God’s Call in Your Life

All three of these confirmations—heart, head, and skill—must be present in a genuine call. The pentecostal/charismatic camp tends to focus on heart and the supernatural calling from God, the reformed/evangelical camp tends to focus on the head, and the mainline churches often focus on skills—but in a genuine call, all three are present. Above, I posed some questions the church should ask when considering a candidate’s call. Here are some questions for you to consider as you discern God’s call in your life:

  • Do I enjoy learning and communicating the truth about God to people from Scripture? Am I willing to be disciplined in my study habits as a pastor?
  • Am I able to lead people effectively toward a goal? Are people able to follow me? Am I willing to take some hits for decisions that I make?

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