What does it mean to be “called to serve God” as it relates to becoming a ministry leader with Capitol Ministries—wherein you will be teaching God’s Word to others in the political arena? How do we here at CapMin decide internally who will join our staff and who will not?
Conversely, how does a Christian discern whether that strong tug is a true “calling from God,” or just the deep desires of an all-too-human heart that wants what it wants and is a master of enabling?
As Capitol Ministries continues to rapidly build Bible-study discipleship ministries in the United States and around the world, determining whether a ministry leader candidate has a legitimate “calling” from God is an important consideration.
While the emotional feeling that many Christians identify as a “call from God” is not to be discounted, a Christian’s primary source for answers is the Bible which, not surprisingly, has quite a bit to say about this subject.
In 1 Timothy 3, the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in essence defines a calling into spiritual leadership. As you will see in this passage, there are many criteria that a person or an organization can apply to ascertain a true calling of someone into full time ministry leadership. The following directives from the Apostle Paul will be characteristic of someone genuinely called into ministry.
It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
1 Timothy 3:1-7
For the sake of this short article, I will only address the first three biblical criteria—but notice all the others that follow which are more self-explanatory but nonetheless of equal importance in ascertaining a genuine calling.
Paul doesn’t use the word “calling” in 1 Timothy 3:1, but rather he defines what it is by asserting three definitive criteria indicative of a legitimate, measurable appointment of someone who would be the primary leader of a particular work engaged in building the Kingdom of God.
The first identifier is, if any man. The Scriptures are repeatedly clear about the qualification that a pastor, the senior leader of any and all ministries is male. The Greek word here for man is tis, which is, in fact, an indefinite pronoun but it is used in parallel to and therefore matches the numerous masculine adjectives that follow later in the passage. These masculine adjectives, which translate accurately into the English language as he, are numerous and are appropriately supplied no less than 10 times in English translations!
Further to this particular point, in verse 2, Paul said the overseer by definition must be the husband of one wife. In verse 4, Paul stipulated that, he must be one who manages his own household well. In those days, only men were the heads of their households. In woke Evangelicalism today, this clear criteria of Scripture is often compromised, (and the work-arounds – those who distort the Scriptures – are quite amusing I might add) but at CapMin our conscience is bound by the clear teaching of God’s Word; our convictions on this are a matter of obedience to what God explicitly says here.
The next insightful and definitive aspect of a legitimate calling that is revealed in this passage is the word aspires. The Greek word here is orego and means, “to reach out after; to stretch to grasp something.” A man who is called of God to ministry is someone who is already moving in the direction of his perceived call in the sense that he is compelled toward ministry in the way that it is all he can really do with his life. Even if he dabbles in other pursuits, he keeps coming back to ministry; other vocational doors close to him. He externally aspires to nothing else; nothing else is fulfilling to the truly called of God to spiritual leadership person.
Thirdly, Paul defines “calling” in this passage by the word desires. The underlying word here is epithumeo which means “to lust after,” or “to set the heart upon.” The word thumeo is used in both positive and negative ways in the NT depending on the surrounding context. The addition of epi, which Paul adds here, intensifies the meaning; epi serves in the Greek language in a way similar to an English language exclamation mark. In this context, it means “a very strong desire or passion” and relates to internal unction. A legitimate calling can and is identified by that particular man possessing an all-consuming passion about the pursuit; they want it bad.
These three words from Scripture make “calling” a more objective, measurable aspect that can be evaluated by both the candidate and the ministry considering the candidate so as to determine suitability.
Not to be minimized and further elaborating on the idea of desire equating to a legitimate calling is the physical and emotional sensation resulting from the true spiritual guiding of the Holy Spirit Who draws the Christian into ministry leadership. Jeremiah speaks about this passion of a true calling in Jeremiah 20:9:
But if I say, “I will not remember Him
Or speak anymore in His name,”
Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
And I am weary of holding it in,
And I cannot endure it.
It’s rational to recognize that true calling exists when these two components – biblical qualifications and the guiding Holy Spirit’s resulting burning desire to serve the Lord – are in perfect harmony.
This is what the leadership of CapMin is looking for when evaluating the fit of new ministry leader applicants or candidates for any other leadership positions.
President and Founder
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