Hearing the Call—A Mandate for Ministry -- By: Howard L. Bixby

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 02:1 (Spring 1998)
Article: Hearing the Call—A Mandate for Ministry
Author: Howard L. Bixby

Hearing the Call—A Mandate
for Ministry

Howard L. Bixby

Senior Vice President And Seminary Dean
Baptist Bible Seminary

The pastor kept his U-Haul boxes stored in the basement. When asked why by a friend, he responded, “Every time I move I need boxes, so I might as well be ready.” This Brother was simply staying ready for what has almost become the norm in church life during the latter years of the 20th century—temporary short-term pastorates. Depending on the study being cited, pastors are staying on an average of three to five years per pastorate these days.1 The phenomenon of leaving the ministry for secular employment has likewise seen an increase.

Short-term pastorates, leaving the ministry, and ministerial shipwrecks are perhaps symptoms of a deeper issue. One must ask the question “Why?” One of the larger issues at stake may be the absence of a call of God to ministry.

The Lord Jesus Christ addressed this concept. In John 10:1–15, He contrasts the “hireling” and the “Good Shepherd.” More specifically, He says,

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. John 10:11–14

One of the messages in this section of Scripture is that those who simply view their ministry as a job will not have

the inner strength and purpose to give themselves for the sheep. They will “flee” when circumstances become too adverse. On the other hand, a “Good Shepherd” (in this case the Lord Jesus Christ) will even sacrifice his own life to meet the needs of his sheep. The “Good Shepherd” seems to have an inner drive and purpose that transcends physical and mental circumstances and conditions. There is a spiritual issue at stake. It is the call of God.

Without a strong and definite sense of the call of God, it is difficult to avoid the hireling mentality. On the other hand, the call of God gives purpose, heart, and stamina to press on joyfully and powerfully in the tasks of the ministry. One of the greatest things about the full-time vocational ministry is the privilege of working not just for God but with God....

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