Some Questions and Thoughts on Ministerial Calls I

If the great need of this hour, as of every other, is preachers of the gospel, then it is surely worth while to reflect on a regular basis on the nature of, and qualifications for, a call to the ministry.

I start with a quotation from Bishop Robinson -- no, not that one; rather Donald Robinson, the Australian bishop and stalwart of Moore Theological College:

`The function and purpose of a theological college cannot at present be dissociated from certain facts about the pattern of the ministry as it is accepted in our churches.  Often men are ordained to the oversight of a congregation -- what, in the New Testament, is the ministry of an elder -- while still in their middle twenties.  They become, at this age, what in the second century would have been the monarchical bishop of a local church.  We have insufficiently examined the problems created by this patter.  Two such problems may be mentioned: how can a man's qualifications for such a  ministry be confidently judged at a time when he still lacks those criteria which were employed in the New Testament for admission to the ministry of oversight, namely, the satisfactory discharging of the duties of being the head of a household, the successful educating of his children, his aptness to teach and discipline his household, and his blameless reputation among his neighbours?   The second problem is similar: how can such a young man adequately exercise the ministry to which he is ordained, when he has no experience (of the kind mentioned in the New Testament) on which to draw?  Does he not shoulder an intolerable burden?'  Selected Works, vol. 2, 152.

I have often wondered why it is in Presbyterian circles (and probably other churches too) that we routinely call men in their twenties, straight from seminary, to be ministers when we would never dream of calling someone of such an age to be a ruling elder. It seems odd to apply the biblical norms only to the latter.