The outward call to pastoral ministry

November 17th, 2008

The other day I posted on “The inward call to pastoral ministry“. This was made with some observations and reflections from Thomas Oden’s book “Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry”. In it he asked a number of questions that someone should reflect on if they are considering entering Pastoral ministry. Today I will share some reflections on the outward call.

Oden shares that while the inward call is important for someone considering entering ministry, that this calling needs to be confirmed by the church.  He shares that the purpose of the outward or external call to pastoral ministry is to examine the reasons why they believe they are called to ministry and to test and assess the persons suitability to ministry in the church.

Initially Oden says that if someone who might feel called to ministry should speak to several mature Christian friends they trust and can give them honest feedback. If they are positive in there appraisals then he suggests it should go further to the leadership of the church to discuss the persons suitability.

I think this outward confirming is an important step. Of course it is not 100% guarenteed to be correct as we are asking imperfect human beings to make decisions who can get it wrong. However it can be a useful filtering process. A person may be recognised as suitable for pastoral ministry, but they may need more time before they are ready and may need to undertake some training first. They can also be given ministry responsibilites in a lesser area to develop and prepare them for the future opportunites.

As with all things I have found in ministry, time is usually a good test. If the person has a persistant call to pastoral ministry, the desire to serve, teach and care for others and they are displaying the fruit of this in their lives, then there is a good chance the people around them will recognise this and prayerfully give them an opportunity.