What is the first indispensable requisite for gospel ministry? I’ll let Spurgeon lead off:
That a teacher of the gospel should first be a partaker of it is a simple truth, but at the same time a rule of the most weighty importance. We are not among those who accept the apostolic succession of young men simply because they assume it; if their college experience has been rather vivacious than spiritual, if their honours have been connected with athletic exercises than with labours for Christ, we demand evidence of another kind than they are able to present to us. No amount of fees paid to learned doctors, and no amount of classics received in return, appear to us to be evidences of a call from above. True and genuine piety is necessary as the first indispensable requisite; whatever “call” a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry.
Bang on Chuck! The call to ministry begins with the call to holiness. Even if you have taken your classes, earned your degree, memorized your paradigms, and logged your internship hours, you may not be ready to teach the gospel. School loans and paper work a pastor does not make.
Spurgeon is absolutely correct: the first indispensable quality for pastoral ministry is Christlikeness. I’ve always loved that line from Robert Murray M’Cheyne: “What my people need from me most is my own personal holiness.” I believe this with all my heart. I don’t live it like I want, but I believe it. 2 Peter 1:8 promises that if we are increasing in godly virtues we will not be “ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As Spurgeon put it: “Sanctity in ministers is a loud call to sinners to repent, and when allied with holy cheerfulness it becomes wonderfully attractive.”
All this means I need to be with God more than I need to be with it. I need to be godly more than I need to be gifted. No matter how much I may stumble—and we all stumble—I, as the pastor (and anyone engaged in ministry really), must strive to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). I must keep a close watch on myself on my teaching (1 Tim. 4:16). When it comes to ministry effectiveness, piety is praxis.