AN INTERNATIONAL MINISTER'S MANUAL
By Rev. Jim and Carolyn Murphy
PART ONE - THE CALL TO MINISTRY
In this chapter we will examine the call to ministry, the
preparation for ministry, and the family relationship of those in
First, let me make it clear that in a very realsense every Christian is called to the ministry. God has called every believer to spread the good news of the gospel to those he or she comes in contact with on a day to day basis. That means if your are a shop keeper, a student, a farmer, a policeman, a full time home maker, or whatever, you have a call on your life to tell others about Jesus. However, most Christians are not called to earn a living within the church or para-church structure. Most Christians are out in the world earning a living by secular means.
So how do you determine if your are called to full time ministry? That is, how can you decide if the spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ should be your life's work and you are to earn a living by doing it?
Let's look first at the classic call to Jeremiah. Scripture leaves no doubt that God spoke directly to Jeremiah specifically telling him that he was to be a prophet to God's people.
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
"Ah, Sovereign LORD," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child."
But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,"declares the LORD.
Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant." (Jer 1:4-10 NIV)
The Lord then proceeded to dialogue with Jeremiah in conveying the first of his many messages:
"I see the branch of an almond tree," I replied.
The LORD said to me, "You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled."
The word of the LORD came to me again: "What do you see?"
"I see a boiling pot tilting away from the north," I answered. (Jer 1:11-13 NIV)
But do the vast majority of us who are truly called to full time ministry have God inform us of our call in such a dramatic way? The answer is most certainly, "No."
fact, I believe that the kind of supernatural call that Jeremiah, and
others like Isaiah and John the Baptist experienced is more the
exception than the rule. In fact, most of us are called to ministry
without a supernatural experience such as Jeremiah's. I believe the
awareness of the call on our lives is usually a process which occurs
a supernaturally direct call from God suddenly informing you that you
are to be a pastor, or evangelist, or whatever, is not likely to
happen, we ask the question, "How do you know if you have a call on
your life to full time ministry?"
The answer is, at
least in part, and however subjective it sounds, that the Lord will
show you your call.
Usually, a recognition of the call comes
1) from certain inner characteristics present in the one who is called,
2) combined with the leading of the Holy Spirit, and
3) with confirmation from the spiritual leaders around you. In other words, it is most often a combination of factors which will ultimately confirm your call.
When God calls,
He always equips with the right gifts, skills and abilities to do the
job. For example,
if you are called to be an administrator, you will like order, you will
see how a project should get done, and you will like doing it! A called
will enjoy studying the Bible using as many other references as he or
can lay their hands on. A teacher will invariably enjoy teaching
are eager to learn.
Pay attention to
what you enjoy doing. I have never known an evangelist who didn't enjoy
being out there
passing out tracts or telling someone about Jesus. They love it! While
person with the gift of administration would far rather be planning an
evangelistic crusade from behind the scenes.
It is also
important to seek the Lord about the timing of full time service. One
of the sure ways God
has of telling someone that the time is near is when the person is
discontented with his or her current job. Now that doesn't mean that
who is tried of his job, or wants a change, is called out of the world
into full time ministry. He may just need to change jobs. No, I am
about a deep, inner discontentment with continuing in your current work
with a growing longing to be serving the Lord full time. When God is
someone for full time ministry, the Holy Spirit will be pulling on his
soul and spirit, wooing him or her.
Let me say a word
here about the ministry call within marriage. I strongly believe that a
wife should be in full agreement if one or the other is called to quit
secular job or leave full time home work to enter the ministry. That
that all the details must be worked out and agreed upon between them,
means that both know that the call is there and the time is right.
Let me close this section by
encouraging you that God's timing is always right. We are to be patient
but as ready as we can be to serve Him and His church. God is faithful
those He calls. It may take years, or even decades, but God's call is
irrevocable! (Rom 11:29) If we cooperate, He will always be faithful to
put us in the right place at the right time.
we know we are called to ministry, we should begin to prepare ourselves
to fulfill that call. God called me to be a Bible teacher in 1965.
Specifically, He told me He would, "Send me to teach the nations." When
God's call came I knew that at that time I could not teach the nations
because I needed teaching myself. I had
nothing to say to the nations, even if I went. I knew it was a great
responsibility to teach others the Bible and that I had to go through a
long process of learning before I would be ready. That process included
as much Bible training and maturing as I could get. Even as a young man
I realized that the call and the commission were different. There is
the call, the preparation, then the commission.
Every person whom God calls to the ministry faces the same question, "What must I do to prepare for the ministry?"The training will vary from person to person. Sometimes God speaks directly to us about when, where and how we are to become trained. For others God simply seems to open doors for training for the ministry. It is up to us to determine which doors are open and to walk through them.
By far the most common method of training for the ministry is to attend Bible school. It is in this setting that learned, experienced teachers systematically teach the Bible and Bible subjects. Bible schools vary in length of study and academic quality. When given a choice, the better the school, the better your training will be. When there is no choice, take what you can get and thank God for it.
cost of attending Bible school will vary from school to school.
Students must pay tuition, books and living expenses. Often, this is
where God begins teaching students valuable lessons in faith.
For those who complete a 4 year college course seminary may be an option for furthering education. Four years of Bible school (or any course of study) plus a Master's degree from a seminary provides an excellent ministerial foundation. For those with the desire and money, many seminaries also offer Doctor's degrees.
There is a
seminary in Los Angeles, California that offers free Master's degrees
to students from non-Western nations. If an applicant qualifies
for their scholarship, they provide free room, board, tuition and
books. It is:
The International Theological
1600 Wilshire Blvd. Fax213/413-6991
Los Angeles, CA 90017Webwww.itsla.edu
1.Applicants must be in an active
2.Applicants must have a Bachelor's degree from Bible school.
3.The applicant must have money for his/her round trip airfare.
4.The applicant must provide his/her own daily expense money for things such as laundry, tooth paste, soap, clothing, etc
5. Applicants must return to their country after graduation.
For those unable to attend Bible school, or for those who delay Bible school attendance, there are often local ministerial training programs available. A large church or a denomination usually offers weekend or evening classes. The courses will vary in length. These classes are very effective teaching tools and those who are serious about their ministry call but who are unable to attend Bible school should try to attend these classes as much as possible.
Correspondence courses are yet another way to prepare for ministry. Many schools offer correspondence courses to those who are unable to travel and attend their classes. The Assemblies of God (America) runs one of the most widely recognized correspondence courses in the world.
They call it the:
International Correspondence Institute
6300 North Belt Line Road
Irving, TX 75063 Phone 972/751-1111
Another very effective way to become trained for ministry is by sitting under a trained, knowledgeable minister. Such training often takes several years since both the minister and student(s) have other responsibilities but is well worth the time and effort.
In order for mentor based training to be effective both parties must schedule regular training sessions and diligently follow through with them. The mentor will give general instructions on a given subject, assign the student study and/or work to be done, then discuss the assignment during the next session. The mentor should also take his or her student along to meetings, etc. to expose the student to as broad a range of ministry functions as possible. A dedicated mentor can produce highly trained students.
No matter what type of other methods you use to prepare for ministry, self-study should be part of your overall training. Although it requires self-discipline, it can be very effective as a teaching tool. Some self-study tools are: 1) books, 2) audio/video tapes, 3) radio/television (shortwave), and, 4) lots of Bible reading and prayer.
One of the most effective ways of learning is by doing. When a teacher teaches a Bible class, rest assured he learns more in preparation for the class than anyone in the class will learn!
cannot over emphasize the importance of this principle. Learn, do;
learn, do; learn, do; the growth in ministry and Bible knowledge is
astounding when one applies this principle on a regular basis.
ago Carolyn and I saw a church in the Philippines assigning their young
student evangelists to various public busses to stand in the front of
the bus and preach! In many African nations young evangelists often
preach at bus stops. Such training is very valuable and highly
effective in preparation for the ministry.
Most everyone in
ministry is or will be married. Most who marry will have children. As
everyone who is married and has children knows, it takes a great deal
of time and effort to establish and maintain healthy, loving family
a minister's family should be wholesome, openly loving one another and
God. The love between the husband and wife should be obvious to all.
The husband's conduct and life should be such that everyone in the
family respect him. The same applies to the wife. The husband and wife
should share the problems of life. They, along with the children,
should be a team. The family needs to feel that, after God, they come
minister should have his or her priorities right before God and others.
I believe that these priorities should be first, your personal
relationship with God, second, your relationship with your family, and
third, your ministry. When your priorities are not in this order,
things will always eventually go wrong.
me give you an example. Suppose you are a pastor and a man in your
congregation comes to you and says his family is a mess and his wife
wants to leave him. You ask him some questions and eventually find out
that he works 60-70 hours at his job and maybe spends 3-4 hours a week
with him family. You would know immediately that his priorities were
wrong, that he put his work ahead of his family, and
that it is no wonder that his family doesn't work. Yet you, the pastor
other side of the desk, may be doing exactly the same thing with your
family. The only difference is that his job is at a store or bank and
yours is at a
you were counseling this husband and father the first thing you would
tell him is to spend more time with his family, be more attentive to
his wife, take her out once in a while without the children,
communicate more with each member of the family, and the list goes on.
Well, every minister should be doing the same thing in his or her own
once heard of a very busy pastor who set out to build a house for his
family in his spare time. He managed to get the outside walls and roof
on the house and moved his family in. There were no dividing walls,
only the framing for interior walls. There was no running water in the
kitchen. His wife carried water into the house from a faucet in the
yard and heating her dish water on the stove. This situation lasted
eight years! Whenever his wife asked him to finish the house, he always
answered, "I'm too busy. The work of the ministry must be done."
did he send his wife and children all those years? To the wife it must
have been something like this: "My husband doesn't love me or care
about me. The needs of everyone else come ahead of me and our
children." To the children it must have been something like, "Dad
doesn't care about me. He listens carefully when other people have
problems, but he never listens to me. He says he is serving the Lord.
I'm not sure I want to serve a god who treats me this way."
While this is
obviously a severe case of family neglect, I have heard dozens of
similar stories at ministers' gatherings. To slightly bend and misquote
a Scripture verse I ask, "What good will it be for a man if he gains
the whole world, yet forfeits his [family]?" (Mat 16:26)
helps a minister to recognize that his or her family is like any other
family. The spouse of a minister has the same needs as the spouse of a
shop keeper or school teacher. Each child of a minister has the same
needs as every other child. These needs require undivided attention.
Every member of your family needs your undivided attention at times.
Each member needs to know and feel your love in a tangible way.
minister recognizes that his or her family is getting into trouble, or
that it is already in serious trouble, he must make some life-changing
decisions. By life-changing I mean decisions that cause him to
permanently alter his life and habit patterns. These kinds of decisions
and resulting actions are necessary even if not all of the problems are
the minister's fault. If the family is in trouble, the minister must be
at the heart of trying to remedy the situation.
have outlined below five steps to take to help your family. These steps
are not intended to be substitutes for in-depth counseling which is
Rather, I intend these steps as a self-help guide for those in the
recognize family problems and understand their responsibility in
Step Two: Have long, honest discussions with your spouse in which you accurately identify the problems. These discussions may take several days or even weeks. Usually the problems are too complicated and emotions too sensitive to identify them all quickly and accurately.
Step Three: Recognize that you are only responsible for your own actions. You are powerless to change another's heart. Only God can do that. Repent for your own sins and misdeeds and begin taking steps to make past wrongs right.
Step Four: Set the following priorities, allowing only valid emergencies such as a death or a life-threatening situation to alter them. To remind you again, the priority is, ONE: God, TWO: family, THREE: your ministry. This means you will spend time with your family, including non-spiritual time for games, walks and other fun activities.
Step Five: Listen to your family. Talk to your family. Communicate, talk and then communicate some more. This is key to any relational healing. This is key to maintaining every good, healthy relationship.
five steps will not offend God. In fact, they will please Him. He gave
you your family and your ministry. He wants to see you succeed in both.
Let us not, as Paul admonished, "... become weary in doing good, for at
the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Gal 6:9
NIV) Remember, as a minister, your first congregation are those who
live under your own roof, your family!
word of advice to every minister who reads this book is to be careful
to take your sabbath every week. I know this can be difficult because
usually your hardest working day is Sunday which is everyone else's sabbath. This means you must, I repeat must,
select another day of the week, declare it your sabbath, and rest from
your daily work. The most successful ministers I know are the ones who
reserve time for themselves, their families, and who keep their own
sabbaths on a regular basis.