This interesting quote, from Daniel-Rops’ Jesus in his Time:
God does not seek to take men by surprise and the Church has always frowned on sudden vocations dictated solely by sentiment. It is only to the soul fortified by preparation and knowing its way and its strength that the spirit gives the supreme impulse.
The call to ministry (or vocations, to use the Roman Catholic term Daniel-Rops does) has always assumed the aura of a mystical legend, especially in Pentecostal circles. Although dramatic calls to the ministry aren’t unknown in the New Testament (Paul’s Damascus Road experience is the most prominent example) most are multi-stage processes with stumbling along the way, in the case of the Apostles right up to the day of Pentecost. It’s a good reason why churches are wise to have a discernment and training structure built into their credentialing process. (The big problem with independent churches is that there is little or no such discernment going on, with predictable results.)
Having said that, there are three errors churches make in their ministerial development process.
The first is non-existent or inadequate development, which I’ve discussed.
The second is too heavy of a requirement, especially with formal education. The sad truth is that most churches–especially these days with changing stewardship patterns–can’t afford the student-debt larded “Jeremiah Generation” as pastors or other ministers. We need to focus our attention more on character and maturity issues rather than raw formal education, encouraging life-long learning.
The third is to impose requirements or encourage things that should not be imposed or encouraged. The most egregious one I can think of (although it’s doubtless not unique) is that of the infamous Jesuit James Martin, who was asked during his discernment process whether he was “experienced,” with the expectation that he was before his ostensible vow of celibacy. So he lied about it to please those “over him in the Lord.” It’s little wonder that he has strayed so far, along with many of his colleagues.
We also have the tales of those who lost their faith in seminary and no one really cared. Latta Griswold complained about the “excuse-oriented” presentation of the faith he heard from Episcopal pulpits, but much of that (during his day and up to now) started in the seminaries.
The way our ministers are prepared is as important–if not more important–than their original call, and that should never be overlooked.