Minister’s Message: The call to ministry

I knew it was going to be difficult, but if it wasn’t impossible then I would keep going.

  • Thursday, May 30, 2019 9:08pm
  • Life

Someone going into the pastoral ministry gets asked a lot of questions. One of the most popular of these questions is, “What made you want to be a pastor?”

In fact, I’ve probably been asked that question hundreds of times. I’ve written papers on it while applying for scholarships, seeking entrance into different programs, and even in my application to the seminary itself. People want to know why you want to be a pastor. The more I’ve tried answering their question, the more I’ve begun to understand why they ask it, and what my answer really is.

The pastoral ministry is a strange office. As a child, when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I didn’t know being a pastor was an option. It just didn’t seem like a thing anyone could be. I thought you had to be special. I wasn’t completely incorrect in my assessment even back then.

St. Paul writes to his friend Timothy, a young pastor, saying, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Ti 3:1–7).

Those are some intense qualifications for the pastoral ministry. After reading them, I can understand the inquisitiveness of people learning about those who aspire to the office. One reason people ask this question so much, is to see what is different about people in the pastoral office. The pastoral ministry is a strange office, it’s filled with difficulty, but it’s also full of joy. It’s a noble calling. So, in our thoughts, this strange, noble calling has to be filled by some sort of strange, noble person. Which makes us ask, “What makes people aspire to the ministry?”

The first few times I was asked the question, “What made you want to be a pastor?” I thought that the answer they wanted was some revelation. I thought they wanted to hear about the moment where all of the sudden my thoughts were changed to the pastoral ministry. I’ve never had that moment. I couldn’t tell you when I “felt the call.”

Instead, after years growing up in the Lutheran Church learning about God and what He has done for me, after the many jokes of my pastor and youth leader saying they were grooming another person for the seminary while taking confirmation classes, I asked myself the question, “Why not?”

So, I set the pastoral ministry as my goal, even before I really knew what it entailed. I had faith that God would correct my path if this wasn’t what He wanted for me. I knew it was going to be difficult, but if it wasn’t impossible then I would keep going. The more I learn about the ministry and what it involves, the more I enjoy it. It has been difficult, I’ve had to learn a lot of things, I’ve had to learn to enjoy things I used to dislike, but it’s all been worth it. What made me want to enter the pastoral ministry? I have a better answer now that I’ve experienced what the ministry is like: The ministry itself.

I read a reflection of a pastor recently on Black and White and in Living Color that sums this us pretty well. The author writes, “At the end of the day, God doesn’t call us because we are wonderful, or smart, or gifted, or worthy. Ordination as pastors and priests isn’t about us. It is about reflecting the image of Christ into our communities in ways that bear witness to the power and love of God in our midst. We are called to love everyone we encounter – those who love us, those who hate us, and those who are indifferent to our presence. All the while we point beyond ourselves to the God to whom all things journey.”

If you’re looking at yourself and considering a calling to the pastoral ministry, or any other ministry for that matter, think about it long and hard. Maybe you don’t think you can do it, and that’s fine, because God can. His power is made perfect in weakness.

Rev. Dustin Atkinson is the pastor of Star of the North Lutheran Church, 216 N. Forest Drive. Divine Service at 10 a.m. every Sunday. Visit sotnlc.org for more information.


Rev. Dustin Atkinson is the pastor of Star of the North Lutheran Church, 216 N. Forest Drive. Divine Service at 10 a.m. every Sunday. Visit sotnlc.org for more information.


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