The Joy-Filled Journey of Pastoral Ministry

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways…” (James 3:1-2a, ESV). 

So begins one of the most widely quoted scripture verses regarding pastoral ministry, and it is truly excellent advice. I have heard it said in more than one place that for someone who senses a call to pastoral ministry, if they can see themselves doing anything else do that and not pastoral ministry. Such advice is true in many ways, but is unhelpful in many ways as well. We live in a complicated world, and navigating the waters of a pastoral calling is nonetheless complicated. On one hand, a man who aspires to serve in pastoral ministry should heed James’ warning. Yet on the other hand, he who aspires such an office desires a noble task (1 Timothy 3:1). How should a man who aspires to pastoral ministry navigate through the waters to discern his calling? I have found two resources helpful and would recommend them anyone who aspires to pastoral ministry. 

The first resource, The Path to Being a Pastor: A Guide For The Aspiring (Crossway, 2021) by Bobby Jamieson is a helpful book for those who are at the very beginning of the calling discernment process. The book serves as a practical guide through the discernment process for those aspiring to pastoral ministry. Jamieson’s advice is extremely practical, but is crucial for someone to consider before entering pastoral ministry. Each chapter is short and approachable, making it an easy yet helpful read. Topics discussed in the book include: qualifications of elders, learning from other pastors, seeking out opportunity to learn, teach, and preach, guarding one’s character, considerations for marriage and family life, etc. All of which are important considerations for future pastors.

While the book has many implications for all pastor/elders it is specifically targeted to those who are seeking to serve in pastoral ministry vocationally. The first three two thirds of the book will apply to lay elders, bi-vocational pastor/elders, and full-time elders alike.The final section in particular provides advice for those seeking full-time ministry positions. These topics include how to candidate well, and what to look for in a potential church. The Path to Being a Pastor is a wonderful starting point for all who desire to serve in pastoral ministry. Bobby Jamieson has provided a treasure for those walking down this path.

The second resource, Workers For Your Joy: The Call of Christ on Christian Leaders (Crossway, 2022) by David Mathis is a helpful book for those who are already serving in pastoral, especially those who are just starting their ministry career. The book serves as an overview of what an elder is and how they function in the life of the local church. This resource does not deal much with the discernment process, it assumes that the reader is already serving as a pastor/elder. Most of book discusses the qualifications of elders as found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, as well as the role of elders in the church. The chapters are not too long, yet extremely approachable and saturated with scripture. 

In recent years, pastoral ministry has come under criticism and rightly so. There has been much abuse of the office by the distortion portrayed on TV and social media, as well as from those who use their position to abuse others. Each of these are a grotesque distortion of the wonderful honor it is for those who serve as under-shepherds of God’s people. Mathis rightly portrays pastoral ministry as a high calling and a joy filled endeavor. For those who are called and qualified for the office, pastoral ministry is fulfilling work. It is not merely a job or a source of income. The flame of joy in ministry must never be allowed to go out. Workers For Your Joy will help fan that flame.

Both of these resources serve to help those who are in different seasons of pastoral ministry. They are extremely helpful, however, for those who aspire to pastoral ministry and those who are just starting out in pastoral ministry. Bobby Jamieson’s book would be an excellent resource for someone to read with a mentor who can guide them through the discernment process. David Mathis’ book would be an excellent resource for seminary students or those who are in pastoral internship programs to help them see what is expected of them, from a biblical perspective, when they step into their first ministry role. 

Pastoral ministry is truly a noble task (1 Timothy 3:1), yet it is not simply a job or a career. Those who serve in such roles will give an account to the Lord for the souls who are under their care. One should not aspire to it for the notoriety or opportunity to influence others. Pastoral ministry is a calling to which one surrenders and humbly serves in. For this reason, the role of pastor/shepherd should be carefully sought through with fear and trembling. These two resources, The Path to Being a Pastor and Workers For Your Joy will help with that process.

This title is available at the RFTG Bookstore

Editor’s Note: This resource was received by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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