Mr. Randy Scott is a member of the Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church.
Recently an entire issue of the Standard Bearer was devoted to the Seminary of the Protestant Reformed Churches (Jan. 15, 2006). This prompted Mr. Scott to write this contribution. It is not a response, as such, to any of the articles in that issue. However, that issue led him to contemplate the matter of the call to the ministry, and he took up his pen to discuss certain aspects of the call.—RJD
Whenever a man aspires to the office of a minister, the question must be faced, has God called him? Normally, one begins by trying to determine whether or not God has given him the proper gifts. But how does one discern his gift(s)?
First of all, may I suggest that the issue is not merely whether one has such and such gifts. For, clearly, not everyone who has the necessary intellectual abilities and a gift for public speaking is called to the ministry. The question is, rather, is it God’s will?
Then follows the question, how does one know God’s will in this matter? This can be answered by examining what comprises a call to the ministry. There is, in my opinion, no better nutshell-definition of this call than that which was given by the eighteenth century preacher Rev. J. Venn. He said, “The call of the Spirit consists in his giving a man grace and a desire, accompanied by great humility and diffidence.” Let us take a few moments to examine this definition.
First, “The call of the Spirit consists in his giving a man grace….” This is the first principle. Before a man is “able to teach others,” he must first be found “faithful” (II Tim. 2:2). In other words, a “bishop” must be godly! The graces that are listed in I Timothy 3:2-7 are nothing other than outward manifestations of practical godliness. Robert Murray McCheyne said, “It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus.” “A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” If personal holiness is the key to God’s blessing upon one’s ministry, should it not be the first priority of one desiring to be a minister? We must remember, too, that these graces are not cultivated overnight. They don’t come easily or quickly. Thankfully, our theological school is not a sterile, sheltered, synthetic institution. Rather, it is part of our churches, and therefore an aspirant to the ministry can grow in these graces as a living member thereof.
Second, “The call of the Spirit consists in his giving a man … a desire….” Naturally, the question arises, how does one discern whether or not this desire is truly born of God? After all, the Bible does say that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9)? The answer lies in this—it must be a desire born of right motives. If one desires to enter the ministry in order that he may spend much time in an ivory tower sipping tea while reading Puritan and Reformed tomes, his desire is little more than a romantic fantasy. A true desire born of right motives will be evidenced by a deep love for the person of Jesus Christ (John 21:15-19). Not a mere intellectual fascination for doctrines about Him. Rather, an intense intimate relationship with the Son of God is what is required. Does one’s heart pound with excitement at the prospect of seeing Him face to face? Is his mind disciplined to know Him above all things? Is he resolved to use all his strength to fight against anything that would stand between him and Jesus (Mark 12:30)? Then, and only then, will one be able to say with the apostle John, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you” (I John 1:3). Also, a true desire born of right motives will not say, what can I get out of this? But rather, what can I do for the strengthening of God’s people? How can I spend and be spent for others?
Third, “The call of the Spirit consists in his giving a man … great humility and diffidence.” With great humility it must first be said that this does not mean that one must be a Milquetoast. Nobody would accuse Moses of being such, and yet the Scriptures say that he was the meekest man in all the earth (Num. 12:3). Humility must indeed characterize one who is called to the ministry. But how does one know if he is humble? He will know it when through the eyes of faith he sees God as GOD, and as a result he abhors himself (Job 42:5, 6). This was so with Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:28), Peter (Luke 5:8), Paul (Acts 9:6), and a host of others. This is why one who is chomping at the bit to be theDominee should be suspect. One must recognize that, in and of himself, and apart from the grace of God, anything and everyone he touches will become soiled. It does not matter how much learning one has. Let him bring a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a PhD, and have an IQ of 195, and be able to pontificate on all manner of things—it does not matter (I Cor. 2:4). But let him come with the words of God (Ezek. 2:7-3:4) and he will come with power (Is. 55:11; Heb. 4:12). Was it not the eminent John Owen who said that he would gladly give up all his learning if he could preach like that tinker, speaking of John Bunyan. Let it be so with us.
It should be noted, that while it is true that we bring nothing to the table, we should not be found doing nothing. What are you doing right now? How are you serving the Lord of the church? How are you serving people, right now, in your present circumstances? May God grant unto us grace to be faithful, industrious servants of our King.