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The Vocation of Minister

John_Calvin_2The vocation of the minister in Reformed churches is a vocation that is considered of crucial importance. That is why Reformed ministers must go through such a rigorous process to be licensed and ordained. That is why a Master of Divinity from Reformed seminaries is such a rigorous degree that includes numerous classes in Hebrew, Greek, Systematic Theology, preaching, and History (at a minimum).

This attitude of the office of minister or pastor has degraded in contemporary evangelical circles. The pastor can be someone with little to no theological training. In those circles, what is utmost important is how the person relates to people. It was Machen who stressed the importance of the minister knowing the Bible. More than knowing the Bible story, but knowing the small parts that were at work, the minister was called to be a specialist. It is the one thing they owe their congregation, to be a specialist in the Bible. Is that how you see your pastor? Is that how your pastor sees himself?

It should be no surprise that Calvin and his colleagues set a firm foundation of competent men in the office of pastor. The office of minister, according to Calvin, was the

chief sinew by which believers are held together in one body…neither the light and heat of the sun, nor food and drink, are so necessary to nourish and sustain the present life as the apostolic and pastoral office is necessary to preserve the church on earth.

There is an occasion captured where a minister was disciplined for leaving his post when he found the demands too difficult. Scott Manetsch notes that Jean de Serres, in the summer of 1572, was weary of the office of minister and quit then returned to France in secret. When Theodore Beza found out he was packing the Venerable Company confronted him. Demanding an explanation he listed his excuses. His health was poor, his mother-in-law was ill, he had family business back in France, he had grown so angry and frustrated with his parishioners that he said “he would go completely crazy if he stayed there a moment longer.” (Calvin’s Company of Pastors, p. 73)

The ministers of Geneva responded by excommunicating him for abandoning his sacred vocation. They reminded the pastor that “his ministry should be one hundred times more precious to him than all of these things.” Was that too harsh? Regardless of our opinion on the matter, their opinion was clear. The vocation of ministry was not one to be taken lightly, and it wasn’t to be laid aside lightly either.


1 Comment

  1. Katherine says:

    I know seminary is no picnic but didn’t realize how laborious the ministry could be as some make it “appear easy”. Good to know for prayer. Regarding the pastor who wss frustrated and angry with his congregation, I wondered if there was recourse to see if they were in sin, he was in sin, and or both. If he didn’t want to go through the process of reconciliation then he was abandoning his oath if office. Is this grounds for excommunication? I’m guessing he remained a Christian but not a pastor. That’s another topic..what are grounds for excommunication as we don’t see or hear of it anymore.

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