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The Journey of Pastoral Vocation

The Journey of Pastoral Vocation

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” (Mark 16: 15).

Though all God’s followers have been tasked with preaching the gospel and sharing the love of Christ with the world, a pastor has been given the unique privilege and duty to live out that task vocationally. In an age when secularism is often pursued over spiritual formation, pastors must answer the call of God upon their lives to shepherd other Christians towards more Christlike living. The clerical gifts of proclamation, evangelism, administration and the like are profoundly essential to the church’s witness. 

Though the last 29 years spent in a pastoral role have been filled with teaching Bible studies, administering the sacraments, and walking alongside lay people in the doctrines and disciplines of the faith, God’s call on my life and the lives of all pastors continues.   

A Prayerful Journey

Pursuing prayer as our first responsibility is an essential step in the pastoral journey. Prayer is that special listening and communicating which makes the acts of ministry possible. When prayer is faithfully practiced, the minister does not have to rest on his or her skills as sufficient to communicate the gospel fully but must rely on God.

In the Nazarene Manual, prayer is listed as the first and perhaps the highest priority of the minister’s role. Prayer comes before preaching. Prayer comes before teaching. Prayer comes before the administration of the sacraments. 

By pursuing prayer before anything else and joining it with the study of Scripture, the foundation is set for faithful, fruitful, and effective ministry.

A Life Set Apart

The gifts for the priestly office of the pastor are always God’s doing, and the church needs them in order to live vitally in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Nazarene Manual says that the minister exists for Christ and His church for the purpose of prayer, the study and proclamation of Scripture, administration of sacraments, pastoral care, solemnizing marriage, and mentoring those called into ministry. 

We are called to model a holy way of living: this is a great calling and not to be taken lightly.

If we do not set our lives aside and seek God’s will first as we perform in the pastoral role, we run the risk of letting ourselves get in God’s way.

We must constantly guard against imagining that what we think and say is exactly what God would think and say. Proclamation is not the opportunity for the pastor to simply speak his or her mind. Proclamation is, as Robert Jenson has said, “to be so open by the Holy Spirit to the second Person of the Trinity [the Son] that the very words the preacher speaks are the words of the second Person of the Trinity.”[1]

Finding Our Purpose in Christ’s Call

The pastor is a baptized Christian who has prayed, prepared, and been called from among God’s people to stand behind the pulpit or to preside at the baptismal font and the Communion table. And yet, just as with any Christ follower, the pastor’s significance and purpose in the Body of Christ does not rest in his or her own actions. Instead, a pastor’s influence is reliant on his or her willingness to continually answer the call from God to Christian ministry and to set aside his or her life to pursue that task.

Though it may be tempting to measure ministerial success through secular means, our purpose as ministers is not to be found in the actions we perform in church services. Our purpose was secured when, in love, God poured the waters of baptism over us and called us His children. This purpose continues to be found in the love of Christ, as He feeds us at the table of grace week by week. The pastoral role is a unique and special call from God and ultimately rests in His hands.

Phil Hamner is lead pastor at Overland Park Church of the Nazarene in Overland Park, KS.

[1] Jenson, Robert. Unpublished lecture, Nazarene Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri.

Holiness Today, Jan/Feb 2018

Please note: This article was originally published in January 2018. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.