First, let me restate the question to keep us from one debate. What does it take for a person to be qualified to be a full-time preaching/teaching pastor?

Is some sort of formal or informal training necessary? If so, what?

Is ordination required? If so, how do you define it and from where does it need to come?

What are the personality characteristics that must be present, if any?

Please don’t simply cut and paste 1 Tim and Titus. You can use them, but you must explain them and how they would look.

You don’t have to answer these questions in order to participate, but they are helpful in getting to my point.

Have at it and be kind.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    25 replies to "Open Discussion: What Does it take to be in Ministry?"

    • Kyle Dillon

      I suppose the apostles were not formally trained, but then again, they did spend three years with the Lord himself. If I had to choose between that and three years at seminary…well, obvious answer.

      Since we in the West have the time, ability, and resources to put our pastors through a formal training and ordination process, we should do so. It’s a safeguard against unbiblical teachings and practices. Now in cultures that lack such resources, it’s understandable if they don’t have such a rigorous process. (But that’s what I love about ministries like Third Millennium; they provide a seminary-level training for free in third-world countries).

      Who would do the ordaining? It only makes sense that those doing the ordaining are themselves ordained (who better qualified?). And boards work better than individuals, to protect against favoritism, prejudice, negligence, etc.

      Character traits? Competence is one. That’s why pastors should have some amount of prior ministry experience (say, as church interns). Ethical living is another big issue. But how can we ensure that? Mandate accountability groups for our pastors? I don’t know how practical that is, but it’s a thought.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Well, I think we are all called to be in ministry, either utilizing a speaking gift or a serving gift according to what God has given us (I Peter 4:11). So I think the first criteria would be to make sure you serve where you are gifted. But also I’m wondering if you are being specific to those with the speaking gift, most notably pastors and teachers.

      A synthesis of 1 Timothy, Titus, and 1 Peter 5 I think yield 4 main qualities.

      1) Ability to exhort in sound doctrine: This to me suggests going beyond just teaching the Bible, although sound doctrine is certainly derived from the Bible. I think there is a difference in reading the Bible to the congregation and quoting Scripture and teaching sound doctrine. A pastor or teacher must be able to not only assess what the complete witness of Scripture says about a topic, but be able to communicate that in a way that the hearer can understand and then apply. I believe this does require knowledge of the original languages and historical development of doctrine at a minimum, which means training..

      2) Spiritual maturity: Paul tells Timothy the novice will get puffed up in pride (this can happen to veterans too). I believe maturity is marked by an increased dependence upon God rather than an increased reliance on status. The latter is a sign of immaturity, IMHO. It is also the ability to exercise wisdom and discernment. And to persist through the advent of storms.

      3) A good example: this is how you lead, says Peter. It is being beyond reproach, as Paul says in Timothy. Not perfect but having character and integrity. Here is where I think the ordination process is a good criteria since it will affirm the character witness of leader in the eyes of others, which essentially is affirming that person as a good example

      4) Love for the flock: if its not for them, then its meaningless.

    • cheryl u


      You said, regarding pastors and teachers, “I believe this does require knowledge of the original languages and historical development of doctrine at a minimum, which means training.”

      I would think that will eliminate at a practical level a very large percentage of those that teach in one capacity or another in today’s churches in this country. And probably in many other areas of the world too.

    • HS Shin

      Specifically regarding ordination, I don’t think ordination is required to be a preacher in general — it’s only required to be a preacher in that particular denomination or church etc. But obviously, I’m using the word “preacher” in a slightly larger and generalized sense.

      But now that we do have denominations and systems for being ministry stewardship, I think it’s a wise idea to honor those systems through participation. Unless, you’re in a context where those systems don’t exist, or are troublingly flawed.

    • j

      #2 and #3 — most seminary trained pastors today “had” some knowledge of the languages and still “have” a little knowledge about the languages.

      I think the church would benefit greatly by having more members grounded in the original languages . . . but for all we know, Titus didn’t know Hebrew. I bet he wanted to learn it, though and was always bugging Paul about it, which is more than you can say about some students 🙂

    • Dave Z

      A pastor friend says there are three qualifications
      1) Gifting
      2) Education
      3) Experience

      These qualifications must add up to 10, in a very subjective sense. That is to say there is no definite quantification; it’s a bit vague and that’s OK.

      A very gifted person, say a gift of 7, could function effectively with a formal education of 2 and experience of 1.

      Less gifted, say 4, may need education at level 4 and experience at level 2.

      Lots of experience can make up for a lower level of gift and education. I’d go so far as to say that experience often qualifies as education.

      One thing I love about this is the recognition of the value of gifting. I used to attend a Presbyterian church, which requires an MDiv. They say that’s because of their high regard for scripture – the same scripture that speaks of God’s ability to give the spiritual gift of teaching, which they deny, in a sense, by strict human requirements.

      I’d also think about adding “calling” to my friend’s list.

    • God’s calling.

      Without it, you are not going to last. If you have it, who are you or anyone else to say no.

      If you look at scripture, God calls the most unqualified and unexpected people: David, Joseph, Gideon, Jeremiah.

      I have a seminary degree, along with many years of biblical languages to my credit, and yet, I, along with half of my graduating class are not currently in full time ministry. Why? Were we not suitably prepared? Or was full time ministry not where we were meant to be. Yet I look at former Pastor, who other than a few courses is theologically untrained, yet he is very wise in the Word, and God has been using him to plant and pastor churches since he was 19.

    • Dave Z

      I find myself thinking about churches in my area that have been having pastor problems.

      1. Pastor leaves after sexual misconduct.

      2. Recently called Pastor drives long-term staff away with dictatorial philosophy of ministry. One staff member put it “I wanted a partner in ministry. I got a boss.”

      3. New Pastor drives much of congregation away by disregarding congregation’s long history. Mistreats staff until they quit. Changes emphasis of church to recovery program. That in itself is OK, but not when it ignores the long-time members. They’ve become a kind of biker church. Again, a good thing in itself, but not at the expense of others.

      4. Pastor preaches great and all that, but can’t get along with anyone.

      Maybe I should point out that situations 1 & 3 are the same church. There was one pastor in between, but his heart is in church planting, so he left after a couple of years, leading to situation 3.

    • David Rudel

      Kyle, do you think there is any danger in requiring a person to be trained in the manner you suggest? What a given generation considers biblical, another may well realize is not…and the more a given generation’s view is considered correct without question, the longer that change takes to come. For example, it took Catholicism about a 1000 years to reject that Satan had legal rights on fallen humanity, yet today we are shocked to find that was ever orthodoxy. Origen, most prolific Christian theologian of the 2nd century denied anything close to the modern understanding of the Trinty, 100 years later, things changed.

      Given how varied congregations are and how varied the needs of churches can be, I’m not sure there is a definite answer to this. Is it irresponsible to take the view of Gamaliel [Acts 5:34]? If someone is not meant to be preaching, it will become obvious enough soon enough?

      That’s probably not a valid solution, but I think you can write up any reasonably-enforceable set of criteria and find people who match it but do a poor job as pastors…and find others that do not match it and do well.

      Good question…

    • Erlend MacGillivray

      Teaching was laid to bare corporately upon all Christians, not restricted or largely concentrated to a minority of the Christian body. Hebrews 5:12 envisions that all Christians should be expected to be teaching as mature Christians [the TEV puts it as ‘by this time you ought to be teachers’.] and read 1 Cor 14:26, 29-31 It is highly interactive, informal and thoroughly open. There is an expected variety and succession of speakers, seemingly unplanned and unscheduled in their public ministry. Romans 15:14, Col. 3:16 Acts 15:35 show how everyone was expected to be carrying out these duties, corporately. Not a passive body where 90% of the work is carried out by church officials. Indeed the very appointment of elders is based, in part, on how apt they are presently in their teaching work, before their appointment ! (1 Tim 3:2)

    • sollam

      while i think that everyone brought out some really interestng considerations, I wanna agree most with David Rudel.

      One of my questions (to myself) have always been, who really annoints someone as a “pastor?” or “minister of the word” is it God? or Man?

      Who really know the heart of a man? Education, dealing with people, teaching are all techniques that can be learned. Aso ambition can drive us to be whatever or whoever we want to be.

      In todays society where being a “Pastor” has been in many circles reduced to just another profession a list of criteria is easy to formulate even using bible references.

      So for now i’ve come to the conclusion that man can only appoint but its God that annoints for only he knows the heart of a man.

      but on a natural level anyone who can understand and efficitevly articulate the word of God can be appointed a pastor.

    • Jim W.

      “Is some sort of formal or informal training necessary? If so, what?”

      Yes, an understanding of the essential doctrines, a familiarity with secondary doctrines but not necessarily a thorough understanding. Doesn’t have to be formal in the sense of accredited schools, however, must be taught by other pastors/shepherds (this is where I think traditional seminary falls down). Training (doing) as opposed to teaching only. Learning focused on how you care for/protect/lead sheep.

      “Is ordination required? If so, how do you define it and from where does it need to come?”

      Yes, again not necessarily formal, but some recognized pastors/shepherds/leaders must publicly signify that this man or woman is capable of leading a group of believers. This is where I believe the “apostolic succession” idea is very important.

      “What are the personality characteristics that must be present, if any?”

      None. If we are talking about character traits then 1 Tim and Titus are to be the main guidelines (though I see them more as minimums, not exhaustive). Certainly, some personality traits are helpful in certain situations – having a real go-getter can be a great benefit in starting a new church, but I don’t believe any personality traits are a must.

      The biggest thing I see is that prospective pastors must have a heart for people and be able to deal with people constructively. They are shepherds dealing with sheep and as such their focus is on caring/protecting/leading sheep. More pastors should be trained (not taught) to deal with people, how to encourage, motivate, counsel; how to resolve conflict, how to admonish, rebuke, correct yet do so in love. Typically, most pastors have to learn this on the job after becoming pastors which leaves many disillusioned and frustrated. In fact, this leads many to leave pastoral ministry because they simply can’t or don’t want to deal with people.

      I would be very skeptical of anyone who wants to be a pastor/teacher who had not been invovled previously in a ministry (formal or informal) focused on people, who had not dealt with conflict within a group of believers, who had not had to rebuke/chastise an errant believer, who had not dealt with disappointment from a believer remaining disobedient or “walking away”, etc. In the end your ministry comes down to people and without a love for people you will not last.

    • Jugulum

      Michael Bell,

      God’s calling.

      Without it, you are not going to last. If you have it, who are you or anyone else to say no.

      I’m not clear on what you’re saying. If it’s just, “education isn’t enough”, OK. There’s more to be said about that, but it’s true as far as it goes.

      If you’re saying, “We should evaluate prospective pastors/leaders based on whether they have God’s call,” then that’s hard to reconcile with Paul’s discussions of it. When he talks about qualifications, he talks a lot about standards for elders/pastors/bishops. But he doesn’t say a thing about discerning a call.

      (It’s also a bit odd to leave out the kind of thing Paul said about it, when you’re answer a question about what the qualifications are!)

    • Lisa Robinson

      Jugulum, you articulated something I was trying to address in my comment but I don’t think I quite captured. What is meant by call? I believe it is synonymous with gift. And the ones gifted with the charge to lead others must have certain qualifications, including affirmation by others concerning the gift.

    • Jugulum

      I believe it is synonymous with gift.

      Sort of… But maybe not quite. I basically agree with you, but I wouldn’t call them quite synonymous.

      See 2 Tim 1:6.

      “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands”

      Timothy seems to have gotten a particular call to ministry–a prophecy. There is such a thing as a particular call made to a particular person. Also see Christ calling Paul.

      Now, if God calls someone that way, he will give them gifts as they need. But the Bible doesn’t lead us to expect that everyone who supposed to be a pastor/leader will have that kind of experience. Or any kind of, “I feel the call of God in my heart, telling me that he intends me in particular to join the ministry.”

      If God does intend you to be a leader in the church, he will gift you as you need. But none of the discussions of appointing leaders or qualifications for leaders suggest anything about having an experience where you can just tell that God wants you to do it. They only talk about qualifications of character, maturity, and gifting.

      Whether or not that kind of subjective call might happen, we’re not pointed to that as the normal thing to expect.

    • Dave Z

      “Is ordination required? If so, how do you define it and from where does it need to come?”

      Yes, again not necessarily formal, but some recognized pastors/shepherds/leaders must publicly signify that this man or woman is capable of leading a group of believers. This is where I believe the “apostolic succession” idea is very important.

      This is a good point and does seem to speak to CMP’s “apostolic succession” idea.

    • Dave Z

      Back in comment 6 I posted a pastor friend’s list of qualifiers, but as I thought about it, I remembered he has since said that he believes the most important gift or character trait for a pastor is leadership. And I have to say I have seen numerous churches struggle because the pastor cannot or will not lead.

    • Jugulum

      Yes, again not necessarily formal, but some recognized pastors/shepherds/leaders must publicly signify that this man or woman is capable of leading a group of believers. This is where I believe the “apostolic succession” idea is very important.

      That raises the question: Who does the ordination? Preexisting elders, or the congregation?

      That sounds like the same question as, “Who decides whether someone should be an elder?”

      If you’re a congregationalist (like Baptists or generic evangelicalism), wouldn’t it be the congregation that does the ordination? If you’re not, it would be already-recognized elders.

    • Jugulum

      My point being: Congregationalism will affect what you think about Michael’s idea of apostolic succession.

      But as I recall, his major point wasn’t, “There needs to be personal succession.” It was, “There needs to be succession of ideas–some kind of continuity in the church, even if it doesn’t look like the Catholic or Orthodox notion.” So even if ordination would be helpful for his idea, it’s not a necessary part.

      So I should say, “Congregationalism will affect how you implement Michael’s idea of apostolic succession.

    • Crazyupstart

      Dave Z, I think that almost all of the problems you listed about pastors is due to the misunderstanding of what a pastor is (if I’m misreading you, let me know). In each of these cases it would seem that the pastorate is a “one man show” / boss / CEO type person in the church. I don’t believe this to be a biblical structure.

      The bible lists Elders/Shepherds/Bishops (our English words for them) as the rulers of the church. It’s always a plural. They are the leadership, the “teacher” in the church should be one of them and under their corporate leadership. Even Paul was under the “Elders in Jerusalem.” It sounds like most of the problems listed could have been resolved by others in leadership keeping these guys straight.

    • Dave Z

      In each of these cases it would seem that the pastorate is a “one man show” / boss / CEO type person in the church.

      Yes, there should be partnership with accountability in church leadership, but even then, a pastor can build a “yes man” board. The examples I mentioned each had a leadership team.

      The situations I mentioned also show a lack of discernment when pastors were hired. One involved a lack of disclosure on the part of the denomination regarding the new pastor’s history. We can find all kinds of places to screw up the process.

      On another blog, I posted a comment about the situation at Coral Ridge and submitting to leadership and all that, and now I find myself listing examples of bad leadership here. I guess that’s why my friend values strong leadership so much, but it has to come with integrity and a heart for God.

    • David Rudel

      Not sure how much it matters, but I do think it is interesting that Michael’s original post highlighted the notion of someone being a “full time preacher/teacher,” and it seems that people have become more focused on the “Pastor”ing aspect.

      Is it possible, say in a large church with several different staff, that someone could be an able preacher/teacher without necessarily being responsible for shepherding?

      I believe it is possible to feel a significant call to teach without feeling a call to shepherd. And I think several people would say they can have a call to “preach” [evangelize] “full time” without having a set flock.

      Indeed, Paul taught and preached…and he seeded churches, but he didn’t take on the duties of a true pastor a single, local flock.

    • Jim W.

      David Rudel says:

      “I believe it is possible to feel a significant call to teach without feeling a call to shepherd.”

      While people may feel this, I don’t believe there is scriptural support for such a separation in functions. I believe we have compartmentalized or specialized the teaching function in the west in a way that was not intended in the church and then we read that back into Scripture. I think this specialization encourages a separation between belief and practice which has led many to experience the “dead” orthodoxy (i.e. emergers).

      Also, (and David I’m not trying to pick on you) I think there is a somewhat dangerous, implicit assumption in this statement. It is the assumption that I can lead people in learning God’s Word but do so without being that involved with how they apply it. Kind of an “impersonal” ministry and something that I don’t believe God really desires in His church.

      I believe God can and does use men and women who are gifted teachers but not strong in shepherding – I just believe this is not His intended method. I think most people would agree that the best teachers combine both an ability to teach with a personal involvement with the learner. At least that is the ideal and though we often have to settle for less I still think we should strive for the ideal.

      “Indeed, Paul taught and preached…and he seeded churches, but he didn’t take on the duties of a true pastor a single, local flock.”

      Actually, I think he did at Corinth, Ephesus and probably Antioch. I would say that his ministry included the concept of being a local pastor while not being limited to only that.

    • Paul

      1. A. The servant-leader has consistent integrity both in his grasp of the faith and the conduct of his life.
      2. The servant-leader’s depth of character and spiritual maturity, rather than natural ability, is Paul’s burden for Timothy.
      3. The servant-leader sets an example for others by the quality of his life, not by the office he holds.
      4. The Priorities of the Servant-leader: Ministry of the Word, Prayer,

      The initial impetus of the servant-leader comes from within (1 Tim. 3:1; 1 Pet. 5:2).

      The servant-leader’s desire is sustained by his commitment to:
      1. A dependence upon Jesus to effect any lasting change (Jn. 15:5)
      2. A passion for the lost (Rom. 9:1-3)
      3. A confidence that the cross is sufficiently powerful to save and to sanctify
      4. A burning compulsion to grow closer to Jesus (Philippians 3:10)
      5. A settled conviction that God’s Word really makes a difference in life (Is. 55:11)

      From my Servant-leadership.

    • David Rudel

      Jim W.,
      I don’t think the distinction here is between belief and practice [orthodoxy versus orthopraxy]. The distinction I am making is between teaching [both doctrine and applicability] and the more inter-personal aspects of being a pastor, whether they be dealing with intra-church politics and drama, administrative duties, or simply “bedside manner.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.