You ought to be able to say yes to every one of these questions. A “no” to any of them is a serious warning sign that, at the very least, now is most likely not the time to attend seminary and pursue ministry. If you’re already in ministry, these questions may help you conclude that you shouldn’t be, or that you have a serious issue that you must urgently address if your ministry is going to last and be a gift to the Church.
One aspect of my ministry that I enjoy immensely is advising men who sense a call to ordained ministry–or, at the very least, men who wish to attend seminary in preparation for some sort of full-time ministry. There are many who are pre-occupied with the question of whether or not they should go to seminary. When examining candidates for ordination I sometimes meet individuals who are clearly not qualified for ministry–and who should have been told as much by their pastor(s). There are a series of questions that one can ask in order to help such an individual discern whether or not he is called to Gospel ministry. How a man answers theses questions can help him better discern whether or not he ought to attend seminary in pursuit of Gospel ministry or whether he ought to move in a different direction. Here are the questions I have in mind:
1. Do you sense a calling?
This may seem obvious, but all too often the impulse to pursue seminary and ordained ministry is the result of undue expectations placed upon a man. Being a good public speaker is hardly evidence that someone should pursue ministry or is called to the pastorate; yet, this is often what fosters such encouragement. Though it is part of the process of discerning a call, being encouraged by others isn’t enough to know whether it is the right thing for a man to pursue. Do you have a desire to serve in Gospel ministry? Is this something for which you aspire? Is there nothing else you would rather do? Are you burdened with a desire to shepherd the flock of God? If you are, that’s certainly an indication that you may be called by God. It’s not sufficient by itself, but it is an essential element of discerning the call to ministry. The Apostle Paul, at the outset of the qualifications for a man serving as an elder, wrote, “If a man desires the office…” (1 Tim. 3:1). If you don’t sense a call, then you should seriously reconsider.
2. Has God provided the means for you?
When God calls you to a particular work, he provides sufficient means to answer that call. Can you afford seminary? Can you provide for your family at the same time, assuming you have one? Are there those willing to come along side and support your preparatory labors? Too often men are confident that they are called to seminary or ordained ministry, but no call is forthcoming. No provision is in sight. If you think you are called but God does not seem to be providing a way, then you might want to reconsider.
3. Is your spouse supportive?
I can’t imagine that this requires much explanation! If you are married and your wife does not agree that you are called, or gifted, or she doesn’t share your desire to attend seminary, or your desire to serve as a pastor (or, she doesn’t want to be a pastor’s wife) then you should seriously reconsider. Ministry is hard on a marriage and a family. You are begging for a world of trouble if you proceed without her full support, or for that matter, if your marriage is not healthy and strong. You might want to reconsider.