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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Called To Pastor?
While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." - Acts 13:2 [NASB]

We want to keep in mind as we read this passage that the pronoun "they" (as in, "while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting") finds its antecedent in the previous verse, where it describes, "certain prophets and teachers" (c.f. Acts 13:1, emphasis added). That is, while these particular prophets and teachers were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."

Two things we want to understand as we look at this passage. First of all, we want to make a distinction between [a] the Holy Spirit explicitly saying a precise and lucid thing to a prophet or teacher, and [b] people putting into their own words their own speculative interpretation of some experience they had, and then calling this the "voice" of the Holy Spirit who "said" things to them. I know a lot of people use that kind of language today (The "God told me..." crowd), but that isn't what was going on.

We have no reason to believe, and every reason to deny the idea, that these teachers and prophets were putting their intuitions into words and attributing those speculations to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit spoke, and these teachers and prophets heard His voice - they heard the words that are attributed to the Holy Spirit. That is the normal sense of the text, though wishy-washers will want to read into that the idea that these teachers and prophets merely felt some sort of feeling that they then put into words which they ascribed to God.

We want to avoid falling into the all too common habit of imposing latter day presumptions back into the text in order to produce an "interpretation" of the text that agrees with our own (flaky) theology.

The second thing we want to note is that the Holy Spirit is pointing these teachers and prophets back to a previous summons. He is not calling Paul and Barnabas there and then, but calling everyone to set Paul and Barnabas aside from the present ministry they were involved in to engage themselves in that for which He had previously called them.

Note that I put the word "called" into italics there? I did that because that word, "call" has become taken on some level of Christianese significance that I don't think scripture can support.

In Koine, the word for "call" is kaleo, and depending on the prefix, it can be used in a variety of ways:

en-kaleo: to "call against" or to "accuse"
The Koine word for "call" is kaleo, and depending on the prefix, it can be used in a a variety of ways.

en-kaleo: to "call against" or to "accuse"
eis-kaleo: to "call into" or to "invite"
epi-kaleo: to "call by name"
para-kaleo: to "appeal/entreat" or "call to conciliation"
pro-kaleo: to "provoke" or "challenge"
pros-kaleo: to "summon" or to "call to ones self"
syn-kaleo: to "call together"

Here in Acts 13, Luke chooses to use the form "proskaleo", meaning that the Holy Spirit had previously summoned Paul and Barnabas to a particular ministry. To get a feel for the word, we see it used previously by Luke in Acts 2:39, where we read, ""For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." " [NASB]. I want to highlight the Holy Spirit has "called" every Christian to Christ in the gospel, and that every person who comes to Christ, answers that same call.

The reason I want to highlight that "calling" is because there was no hocus pocus in it. You heard the gospel, were convicted of it's truth, were granted the grace by you believed, turning away from sin, and embracing reconciliation to God through faith in Christ. It wasn't that you had a "feeling" which you interpreted as a "call" to salvation, rather it was a call that was clearly stated in scripture.

I venture at this point to propose that when God summons a person to anything, that summons is not open to interpretation. It is clearly stated, in lucid language, and does not rest upon anyone's ability to interpret what this feeling, sign, experience, or what have you "means". God has chosen to speak through His Son in these final days( i.e. through the words of scripture), such that we have no reason to imagine that God in previous epochs spoke clearly and lucidly, but now mumbles in the shadows of our own feelings, and intuitions, so that those of us who are willing to chase after every heartburn or itch imagine that we are more spiritually tuned in that those who ridicule the practice. Feelings come and go, they may line up with what God intends from us, but more often than not, they run contrary to God's will. Intuition is a sad and beggarly counterfeit to the Holy Spirit.

I bring up this passage in Acts 13 because it is, I suppose, the most likely place a person would turn to in the word if they were trying to argue that there is such a thing as a "call to be a pastor".

I suppose there are some reading this who might even gasp at the thought that someone might stand up and say the emperor has no clothes that there is no such thing as a "call to be a pastor". I leave it to the reader to determine (from scripture) whether such a beast is the invention of men or the invention of God.

Think this through for a second. James warns believers that they should not allow many to become teachers (c.f. James 3:1). Doesn't that seem a little presumptuous if we allow the notion that God calls people to specific ministries? I mean, that's like saying, "Let not many of you obey God's call when it comes". Should not James write something in tune with the idea that God calls people to something specific? Shouldn't James write, Let not many of you "mistake God's calling on your life" or maybe, "Be on guard against misinterpreting the signs by which God calls you to teach" or some such odd thing.

The way James writes, it should be hard to overlook the lack of any sort of mysticism in the assuming of Christian duties. He writes as though it he fully expects many believers to endeavor to teach, and is warning them not to pursue this vocation lightly. If anywhere in scripture we should hope to find a call to the mystical, it would be here. Yet we find nothing to suggest that people were being singled out by the Holy Spirit, and spiritually "pressured" into "answering a call" to vocational ministry.

Do you want to know if you are called to pastor? The answer is simple. No, you aren't, there is no such thing. What you -are- called to do is deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus. That means conducting your life in complete obedience to the commands of God as recorded in scripture.

I wonder how many apt teachers, and leaders are sitting on their rumps waiting for a mystical call that is never going to come, and again, how many people are in ministry today because they have interpreted some coincidence, experience, or feeling as a call from God into the ministry, as though Christian ministry was something above and beyond what God has already commanded for every believer.

I do believe that congregations should have teaching elders. I believe there is nothing wrong with having a pastor, in fact, I believe a healthy church has many teaching elders/pastors, and I am even okay with congregations having a "senior" pastor, so long as the role doesn't imply a spiritual hierarchy (and exalted authority), but remains merely an administrative distinction.

I don't mind if some young man is inclined to minister in the capacity of a pastor, so long as it is obvious that the man meets the requirements of the office. Note: scripture does not list a mystical calling as a requirement.

Consider how many blatherers there are today, gibbering nonsense in their closets at night, imagning themselves to be speaking in tongues. Even the person who believes that inarticulate ululations are divinely bestowed upon gifted believers, yet one must confess that at least some of these who practice mindless blubbering are in fact just deceived into imagining that their own, self-generated, sputtering is in fact dialog in an angelic tongue. That is, everyone can agree that at least some people are deceived about the gift of tongues and are, in their zeal, faking it, and imagining their doppleganged utterances to be legitimate. These who are deceived suffer from a zealous deception - regarding as spiritual, what is in fact the invention of their own mind.

In the same way there are well meaning Christians today who are interpreting all kinds of things as messages from God, when in fact, they are not. Certainly the Lord leads His people, but scripture doesn't suggest that this leading is mystical and vague, rather the impression we get is that we, in the New Covenant, have a better written testament, and the indwelling Holy Spirit within as the means by which we can live up to the expectations of that covenant; ministering in the strength that the Holy Spirit provides (i.e. ministering in the gifts provided by the Holy Spirit). For some that eventually plays itself out in vocational ministry (missions, pastoring, etc.) but for most it plays out in living peaceable, humble, and obedient lives, bringing up godly families, and doing the work that every believer is called to.

We might describe this in terms of the parable of the talents; that we should use whatever gifts we receive from the Holy Spirit, to the fullest. For some that means vocational ministry, for others, it means a more common, but just as full, ministry.

I think the idea of being "called" into some particular ministry is not biblical, and is even dangerous and destructive. I likewise think that most people are confused on the issue. Hence this post.

My hope is that, if nothing else, people will examine the idea of a "calling" and determine if it is biblical, or just a mystical trend that is rapidly, but baselessly, entrenching itself in Christian thinking.


posted by Daniel @ 10:27 AM  
  • At 9:26 PM, May 13, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    That was a worthwhile study. Thanks.

    An exegesis of Romans 8:28-30 would be the cherry on top.

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