The summer after I finished high school, God called me to be a minister of the Gospel. My experience was rather sudden and unexpected, yet compelling. Spending my life serving the Lord in His church went from totally off my radar to the center of my vision in just a few hours while at Falls Creek that summer. I am grateful for that clear experience of God’s call, yet I have learned that for most, the call comes more gradually over time.
As a man matures in his faith, as his walk with Jesus develops and his devotion deepens, he senses a shift in his heart toward the Lord’s work. He finds a love for the church even with all its flaws. He longs for more time to study and teach the Word of God. He is burdened for the lost people around him. Perhaps God is calling him to give his life in Gospel service? Could the Lord be preparing, gifting and setting him aside to shepherd the flock? Paul says it this way:
“It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do” (1 Tim. 3:1).
Take time to understand that sentence. The two main verbs are aspire and desire. To aspire is to reach out after something. Paul uses the same verb in a negative sense at the end of the letter. “…some by longing for (aspiring, reaching out for) money have wandered away from the faith…” (1 Tim. 6:10).
Desire speaks to the heart of a man, his appetite and passion. Paul speaks to men who have a deep desire to give their lives in the service of the Gospel and the church. They long for that service the way most men long for wealth. Thus, Paul helps us understand that some pastors might be drafted, but others volunteer for service (Eventually, even those who are “drafted” come to love and long for the work).
Notice also that what they aspire to is the work, not an office. In fact, the word “office” is not in the text at all. These men are not pursuing an office or a title; they want to do the work of “overseer.”
Overseer is sometimes translated “Bishop.” We should not read this word with its modern sense of a hierarchical office. Overseer, elder and pastor are used interchangeably in the New Testament to describe the work of a local church leader—shepherd. Paul says this work is fine work, noble and good. He wants the church to honor this work and the men who embrace it.
Remember that this sentence begins a whole paragraph that lays out the qualifications for the men who are called to do this work (1 Tim. 3:1-7). The overseer or pastor must be humble, obedient, godly and mature, and that Christ-like character must be on display at home and in the community. “An overseer must be above reproach.” Our character must match our aspiration and desire for the work.
I have been asking our Lord for a Gideon’s army of God-called men. Some will be young, and others will be retired. Some will have the opportunity for formal training, and others will have already learned much through long experience. Some might need to move to another field, but many will be able to stay right where they are, while picking up the work of the overseer, the shepherd of God’s flock.
Is the Chief Shepherd calling you? Have your aspirations and desires shifted toward His work? I encourage you to talk with your pastor or give us a call.
As you pray—privately and publicly—join me in asking our Father to raise up more and more God-called pastors.
The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma has staff who would be happy to help you pursue God’s call on your life. Feel free to contact any of the following:
• Hance Dilbeck: firstname.lastname@example.org, 405/942-3800 Ext. 4524
• Joe Ligon: email@example.com, 405/942-3800 Ext. 4523
• Brett Selby: firstname.lastname@example.org, 405/942-3800 Ext. 4400
• James Swain: email@example.com, 405/942-3800 Ext. 4654