The Call to Ministry -- By: Edward L. Hayes

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 157:625 (Jan 2000)
Article: The Call to Ministry
Author: Edward L. Hayes

The Call to Ministry

Edward L. Hayesa

The current revival of interest in ecclesiology has opened up both old and new fields of investigation for evangelicals. While certainly not new, the concepts of “calling” and “vocation” have particular relevance to the contemporary church. Ministers and missionaries often speak of their call to ministry in much the same manner as did the prophets and apostles, although this language is disappearing. Evangelicals have tended to individualize the concept of a “call to ministry,” ignoring the relationship with the call to salvation and minimizing the importance of church sanction of spiritual gifts.

The concept of a special call has influenced the idea of a professional ministry. In Roman Catholicism the Latin word vocatio describes this calling. Western affluence has enabled evangelical churches to support pastors and others in so-called “full-time ministry.” However, the use of the term “full-time” has often created a gulf between “ministers” and others in church congregations. In much of the world pastors receive little or no pay for service rendered, which lessens the distinction between clergy and laity. Many of these servants of God would object to being called “part-time ministers.” Yet the popular notion exists that a separate call sets these individuals apart from other believers.

Halfway through the twentieth century Forrester wrote of the “call to the ministry in a cosmos of callings.”1 In his 1950 Cunningham Lectures at New College, Edinburgh, he declared that the ministry is no mere job. Recognizing that the idea of a “calling” has been trivialized and degraded, he wrote, “We must not throw it away, but we must regain its original meaning.”2

Recent studies of the vocational Christian ministry have reflected little interest in a theology of ministry. Works of serious

research on the Christian ministry have studied the religious attitudes of the clergy,3 aptitude for ministry,4 mystical experiences by theological students and the clergy,5 and identification of ministerial roles.6 These studies reflect primarily sociological and psychological interests. Also studies in church growth have tended to focus on social sciences to the neglect of a theology of the church in which one might find discus...

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