Sunday, November 13, 2011
The title “pastor” comes from the Latin word for shepherd. Jesus, Peter, and Paul all use the word shepherd to capture what it means to lead the church. Spiritual shepherding involves leading a flock, feeding them with God’s truth, protecting them from spiritual attack, and seeking them if they go astray.
Sometimes I’m asked why I would devote my time to being a pastor. The short answer is that I believe God has called me to serve in this way. But how do I know I am called?
My call to pastoral ministry began with a desire. Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:1, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” The New Testament uses the terms pastor, overseer, and elder interchangeably.
Throughout high school I was planning to become a career military officer, so I entered my freshman year at the University of Southern California on an Air Force scholarship. I had only been a Christian for two years, but I began to realize that my real passion was to be involved in ministry. I felt that I wouldn’t be content doing anything else. So this desire started me toward ministry. I gave up my scholarship and made plans to transfer to a Christian college to study the Bible. But desire alone isn’t enough to confirm a call to pastoral ministry.
A call to ministry must also be affirmed by other church leaders. Paul guided his coworkers Timothy and Titus in identifying church leaders by giving them a list of essential character qualifications (see 1 Tim 3:2-7 and Titus 1:5-9). He cautioned Timothy, “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others” (1 Tim 5:22). When a group of elders laid hands on someone it was a way of recognizing and affirming their call, and as this verse indicates it was a very serious action.
To really know someone’s convictions and character takes time. In my case, there were times when this process of affirmation seemed excruciatingly long. After I completed three more years of college and another four years in seminary, the Lord graciously provided me and my family with the opportunity to move to Michigan and serve on the pastoral staff at Calvary Bible Church. My ministry there afforded me the opportunity to grow and develop relationships with other leaders so that they could really know me. After five years, Calvary’s elders formally affirmed my call to ministry.
When Paul addressed elders from the city of Ephesus, he said, “…the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). I’m grateful for the way the Spirit has worked in my life and continues to work to give me the desire to serve, to teach me to understand and explain Scripture, and to keep forming my character.
It was five years ago this month that I began preaching every Sunday morning at this location that we now call Calvary Bible Church East. I count it an incredible privilege to devote my time to serving God here, and I’m blessed to see the great church family that God continues to build.
– Bryan Craddock