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The Calling To The Ministerial Office:
A Unique--But Joyful--Burden
Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.
- Of the numerous factors that interplay on ministerial health, perhaps the most important
and fundamental is a solid, biblically-based foundation of ministry. As one considers the
office of the ministry from a scriptural perspective, one notes a certain uniqueness about
it. Such unique aspects of the Ministry are...
- 1) The Office Of The Ministry Is Not Something That Is Man-Made.
- It is not something that shifts with the sands of time, culture and multitudinous
subjective expectations of pastors and parishioners. Instead, as a specific office
established within the Priesthood of All Believers, it is the specific office which God
has, by grace, created and to which God entrusts the fundamental offices of grace:
teaching, feeding and Christian oversight.
- Not created by man or the church, it is man's and the church's highest honor and
responsibility not to add, subtract or alter the Office in a way contrary to God's
specific Word and revealed will.
- 2) Though The Pastor Is A Member Of The Priesthood of All Believers, The
Office Of The Ministry Is Different From The Priesthood Of All Believers.
- St. Paul acknowledged the distinctive of this office. "Are all apostles? Are all
prophets? Are all teachers?" he asked in I Corinthians 12:29.
- Obviously they are not. There really is something unique about the Office. There is
something unique about the divine call. Though the Christian pastor is--and always
remains--a member of the Priesthood of All Believers, the divine call imparts greater
responsibilities to faithfully heed the command of God to preach and teach publicly and to
lead the flock over which he has been given charge.
- 3) The Office Of The Ministry Is A Unique Blessing.
- The calling of the ministry is always a specific calling of service to do what he who
has been ordained to do. Not simply a "functionary," the one called to the
Office of the Ministry is to carry out the Lord's distinctive calling and do only as the
Lord has said.
- Furthermore, the individual called to the Office of the Ministry is not simply a priest
as others in the universal priesthood. He is a specially called "priest among
priests," one called by God to publicly act with Word and Sacrament to the universal
- He is not holier, nor is he given any power other than the power to exercise the Office
of the Keys publicly. Given such privilege to share and proclaim the Word is, to say the
least, a unique blessing of grace to whomever it is given..
- 4) The Office Of The Ministry Is A Unique Burden.
- This uniqueness, rooted in the distinctive public calling to teach and preach in the
church, makes what pastors do so joyful and yet so painful. The calling is sweet; but the
ministry of grace can, as St. John experienced in his apocalyptic vision, be sour, bitter,
and disheartening. Perhaps no one, other than the Lord of the Church, feels the burden of
the local church as the pastor does. Perhaps no one senses the pain, the ongoing struggle,
and the essential and necessary daily repudiation of Satan's working in the church.
- 5) The Office Does Not Add To Christ's Ministry; It Simply Bears And
- The Office of the Ministry adds nothing to the work of Christ for salvation. As the
writer of Hebrews proclaimed, that price has been completed once and for all. Jesus' call
to pastors was not to die on the cross for others. Nor was it to add to the sacrifice of
sin for which Christ had already died.
The Office is simply one of proclaiming that the
Kingdom of God is here. It is the Office through which God's Holy Spirit works today in
His Word to bring people to the rebirth of faith. Those who by human effort try to add to
it, do nothing but detract from it and from its author, Jesus Christ. St. Paul in I
Corinthians 4:1 taught,
- "So then, men out to regard us a servants of Christ and as those entrusted with
the secret things of God" (NIV).
- 6) Those In The Office Have The Explicit Requirement To Uphold Their
- As called servants "entrusted with the secret things of God," those who are
called to the Office of the Ministry have a calling not only to serve faithfully, but to
faithfully guard, preserve and share what has been entrusted to them, namely the
"secret things of God," i.e. the preaching of the mystery of salvation that a
Holy God forgives, dies for, and saves sinners.
- Indeed, as Paul wrote in I Corinthians 4:2, "Now it is required that those
who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (NIV). That which is entrusted is
not simply given to the entire priesthood. Though the entire priesthood of believers is
also to be faithful to what has been entrusted to it, it is the Office of the Ministry
which has been specifically called by God to be the public Guardian of this trust, the
"trustee" of the "secret things" of the mystery of faith on behalf of
God for the benefit of the people.
- 7) As The Office Proclaims The Foolishness of God, The Office And Its
Message Will Be Ridiculed By The Wisdom Of Men.
- It is precisely because of this message of Christ crucified that the Gospel is a
stumbling block for others (cf. I Corinthians 1, et al). A source of pain and guilt for
unbelievers, the preaching of the Word of God is nothing less than a putridly offensive
message to them. To relieve the pain, they would rather attack the messenger than receive
the Word of grace. Thus, the Office will be attacked unjustly, viciously, and repeatedly.
Jesus indicated to the disciples that this was to be expected. But He also indicated that
when it occurred, they were really attacking Jesus, not the preacher.
- 8) The Key Essential Of The Call To Public Ministry Is To Uphold The Office
In All Circumstances.
- As ones entrusted with the secret things of God, those called to the Office of the
Ministry will inevitably be as sheep among wolves. As shepherds, they will be tested. Will
they give up their lives for their sheep? Or will they, like the hireling, run away at the
first opportunity regardless of the cost to the flock.
- A common cliché' among churchmen is, "Jesus was already crucified. So you don't
have to be, too." I'm not quite so sure. In fact, I think it's a pious lie. Though
its use is usually well-intended and is meant to encourage pastors in difficulty so that
they don't take themselves so seriously, et al, it's still a gross theological
misrepresentation of the calling to ministry.
- If the call to the priesthood of all believers is to take up the cross and follow me, as
it is, and if the call to faith is that we give up our lives so that we can find it
in Christ, does it not follow that the pastor is called to a greater sacrifice?
- In light of this, perhaps other scriptural encouragement ought to be offered from
Matthew 10, I Corinthians 15:56, the Pastoral Epistles, the Apocalypse and other relevant
scriptures to give pastors a healthy, biblical perspective of the suffering they bear in
this Office. Having a biblical understanding would, perhaps, then draw them to the comfort
from that same Word of God which so directly describes the prophetic predicament of
suffering, rejection, failure, and grief.
- 9) The Character Of The Office Is One Which Overcomes Fear With Godly Faith
- As they uphold the office against attacks, criticism, ridicule, slander and
defamation, those called to the Office of the Ministry must be guarded by a fearless yet
fierce godly tenacity and conviction. "Fear not those who can kill the body but
not the soul," Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 10:28. "Rather, be afraid of
the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (NIV).
- Like the prophetic and apostolic martyrs, the faithful called servant of God can expect
extreme discomfort and suffering, sometimes unlike what they have experienced before. But,
like the martyrs of the church of every age who bore their "cross" and refused
to disown the Author of their calling--even though "brother betray brother to
death"--the ordained servants of Christ have been empowered by God's to remain
faithful and strong even in weakness.
- In Luke 9:18ff, immediately after Peter's confession of Christ as "The Christ of
God," Jesus' spoke of the sacrifice He would give. But His words specifically
directed to the called band of disciples pointed to their future sacrifice--and possible
death--for the sake of the Gospel.
- Indeed the call is not just to believers to take up the cross. Instead,
addressing this chosen apostolic band and extending His calling to them to public
ministry, Jesus indicated that it was for the called servants as well. To both groups the
same exhortation is given, "take up [your] cross daily and follow me" (Luke
- If all Christians are called to willingly suffer for their private ministry to their
Lord, then it certainly follows that those called to the Public Office are called to a
willingness to publicly suffer as a consequence for their public ministry for the Lord.
- 10) Whatever Is Encountered By The Office, The Call Never Changes:
- The calling to the holy Office is not to be subject to approval seeking, honor, and
recognition. As Paul stated in defense of his call to the holy Office, "If I were
still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10 NIV).
Nor is the Office, as Paul, the pastor-mentor, told his "son" Timothy, to be
subject to the correct "seasons."
"In the presence of Christ Jesus...I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be
prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience
and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound
doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number
of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away
from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure
hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry"
(II Timothy 4:1-5 NIV).
- Though there are times when God's servants must shake the dust off their feet
in judgment at those who stubbornly resist the Word, as long as it is God's will for His
called servants to remain, they must remain--and remain faithfully--to preach "in and
out of season" and to patiently "correct, rebuke and encourage"
especially those who turn aside to "myths" and other errors.
- Since suffering will come, the ordained servant of Christ is to "keep your
head" in all situations. Even in hardships, the calling and work is unchanged:
"discharge all the duties of your ministry."
- Those who have been most faithful in the discharge of their calling may
experience the greatest hardship. But, in "the presence of God and of Jesus
Christ who will judge the living and the dead" (I Timothy 4:1), they will bear before
their Master a confident witness: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the
race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness"
(II Timothy 4:1-8 NIV).
- Is there any greater finish for the unique calling of God given to the called and
ordained servants of God? Not at all! And what is the final reward? Nothing earthly,
nothing worldly, nothing that is part of the "wisdom of the world." Whether or
not these are received, the real reward is simply--and magnificently--a crown of
righteousness, stored for us and to be given--purely by unmerited grace--by the
Lord we proclaim and serve.
"Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing [absolutely nothing]
move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know
that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (I Corinthians 15:58 NIV)
- Thomas F. Fischer
Index Articles 1-49
Articles 50-99 Articles
100-149 Articles 150-199
200-249 Articles 250-299
Articles 300-349 Articles
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was revised on:
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:21 PM