Pastoral Calling and the Local Church

The Christian ecclesias of the first libro de ucdm were administered by local leaders. Paul had the pattern of appointing elders in the churches (Acts 14:23; 20:17). Paul gave leadership responsibility to Timothy at Ephesus and to Titus at Crete. Peter in speaking to elders of the regions of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia challenged them to be shepherds of God’s flock. In fact, he refers to himself as a fellow-elder and, therefore, a shepherd. He also refers to Christ as the Chief Shepherd (2 Pet. 5:1-4). We see a pattern then in the first century church in which the administering of the local churches was done by elders whose function was to be akin to that of a shepherd.

The word ‘Pastor’ is used once in the New Testament in Ephesians 4:11. In Latin, the word is derived from the word Pastoral is and in French, Pastor. Both words are translated ‘Shepherd’5. The word ‘Pastor’ is therefore imagery of shepherding which should characterize the elders of the local ecclesia.

‘Pastoral’ is an adjectival word which, in the context that it is being considered, bears the following meaning: “relating to the office and work of a minister of religion.” The definition brings out clearly our consideration in this Chapter: We will examine Pastoral calling in relation to its nature – that is, the office, and its task – that is, the work.

The Nature of Pastoral Calling

The office and work of the minister of religion or pastor or shepherd or elder, whatever title may be used to designate the office and work, are unique. Anyone may become a Pastor but not everyone can become a Pastor. Here, we are dealing with a specialized office into which entry is pre-conditioned by the influence of the divine and the human. There is a calling involved.

We often hear people say, in the local church setting in Sierra Leone, “I am called by God to ministry.” A leader of a church which was started with the last five years and whose church is growing rapidly in a quantitative manner describes his calling by God as having occurred through a dream. Another leader went into an area in the West end of Freetown in 1993, took up residence there and began to organize evangelistic outreaches. Within a year, he has won a few people to Christ and has started a church. This same leader was in league with another leader who runs his own private ministry (a church). Through an interview with him, it was found out that he could not pull together with the other leader so he broke away from him to set up his own independent ministry. When asked why he was seeking to establish a church in the new area into which he has moved he replied, “I was called by God.” He made no mention of the rift between him and the other leader which was the motivating factor for him to move off to start his own ministry; nor did he make mention of the conditions which caused him to have sought residence in that new locality and had consequently decided to make there his base for evangelism. Rather, it was just the blanket statement, “I am called by God.”

A third example came out of an interview with the National Superintendent of an evangelical church which has been in Sierra Leone since 1969. He mentioned that his own call was firstly a subjective experience. The work of the ministry seemed worthy to him. He saw the job as noble. Such factors resulted from a strong-sense of God’s call toward the ministry which can only be expressed rather than described. At the time of such a subjective experience he was not only in any employment; yet, he felt a stronger pull in him for involvement in ministry which seemed noble and worthy to him rather than involvement in secular employment.

Secondly, this leader described his call as also an objective experience. The objective has to do with tangible evidences. One of such evidences was the need for manpower in the ministry of that church; thus, circumstances triggered the objective experience. Included in the objective experience was the confirmation of the leaders of the church. The leaders saw the worthiness of this man who had a strong inner drive for involvement in ministry. Over a period of time, and with training, his sense of call was confirmed by the leaders and he became one who fulfilled the need for manpower. In this case, the subjective experience did not stand alone. It found fulfillment and confirmation in the objective

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