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Altar Call and Red Tape Alternatives: How a Church Can Confirm the Called

Darrin PatrickVice President of the Acts 29 Network and lead pastor of The Journey Church in St. Louis, authored Church Planter, published by Crossway. With permission, we are sharing from Chapter 2, on how churches can help confirm the called.

There are two ditches that church leaders can fall into as they help confirm a man’s calling to gospel ministry. First, they can make it too easy to be affirmed in gospel ministry. A church can accept uncritically a man’s internal call — the man’s subjective sense of calling — as God’s affirmation. Churches who fall into this ditch have the attitude, Just let the boy preach! Many times this approach produces a man who relies on his gifts and fails to develop his character, which all but ensures future disqualification.

The other ditch is when the church makes it too hard to be affirmed in gospel ministry. Such churches set the bar too high with regard to skill development (being a great preacher) or with regard to education (a candidate must have finished seminary). Many gifted pastors started successful ministries even though they had never been to seminary, like Mark Driscoll or Matt Chandler, two pastors whom I serve with on the board of Acts 29 and who have had great pastoral influence. We need to be careful not to set the bar so high that we exclude from ministry men whom God is genuinely calling.

How should a church test whether or not a man is called into pastoral ministry from a skill perspective? There are at least two tests a church should consider. The first test involves the man’s understanding of Scripture. Questions that should be answered might include:

  1. Does he have a working knowledge of the whole of Scripture?

  2. Can he articulate the gospel story throughout the Scripture?

  3. Does he understand the controversial verses that have caused division in church history (Calvinism vs. Arminianism, method and mode baptism, and so on)?

  4. Can he explain the Christ-centered nature of Christian theology?

The second test involved inspecting the fruit of his ministry. Questions that should be answered here might include:

  1. Can he inspire the church for mission?

  2. Can he cast vision for the church and inspire people to pursue that vision with him?

  3. Can he organize the church to reach its goals?

  4. Can he set up systems and structures that run apart from his direct influence?

Stay tuned for the free release of Chapter 2 coming soonGet a copy of Church Planter here. Also, we'd love for your to join us for our Church Planter boot camp and conference on June 3-4 in San Jose.

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Darrin Patrick is the lead pastor of The Journey, a church in St. Louis, and the Vice President of Acts 29, a global church planting network. He also serves as the chaplain to the St. Louis Cardinals. Darrin is the author of The Dude’s Guide to ManhoodChurch Planter, co-author of For the Cityand contributor to the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible and Don't Call It A Comeback. His next book, Replant, is set to release in May 2014.