When You Doubt Your Calling as a Pastor

Editors’ note: 

For more reading on long-term faithfulness in ministry with practical wisdom from veteran pastors, see Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime from The Gospel Coalition.

In this video, Jeff Robinson provides insights for pastors who are questioning their call to ministry.


The following is a lightly edited transcript provided by a transcription service. Please check video before quoting.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a pastor who didn’t at some point doubt his calling. I know men who’ve been in local church service for 40, 50, even 60 years, and there were times of doubt. Because of the effects of sin, we often are anxious about things, paranoid about things. Pastors are an insecure lot, and I know that can be true of me sometimes. So you’re going to doubt. There’s just no real way around it. You’re going to hear those internal voices, and sometimes you’re going to hear external voices. But really there’s no real silver bullet.
I don’t think there’s so much of an objective answer because you’ve already received presumably the internal call, you sense the call to ministry, you love the things of God. Or as Spurgeon said, you had an overpowering love and desire for these things. And that’s a good place to start. Externally, the church has confirmed your gifts, they’ve heard you preach and teach, they’ve interviewed you, and they’ve invested in you. so there’s that external call you’ve received that and so those things are important. So I think there are things you can do like go back to your church that called you, go back to those who mentored you or who are mentoring you.
I always encourage young men to have one or two or three or more men who’ve been in the ministry a lot longer and go to them and talk this through with them, because those men have been there. You need to have someone who mentors you who’s been in just about every conceivable situation. I’ve been blessed to have that, and so when I doubted my calling I went to them and said, “What do you think? Here’s what I’m thinking. Is this just anxiety talking to me, is this kind of a mirage, or is this really an issue?”
I wrote the chapter on this in the book, and then I went back and added something else because it seemed obvious to me and I missed it while I was writing. That observation is: talk to your wife. One of the most important people in my ministry is Lisa, my wife. When I had doubts in the ministry, she kind of kept me in the ring. She would kind of put me back and say, “Go back and fight on.” She knew my heart, knew my habits, knew what I was presumably involved in and not involved in.
Usually, unless you’ve disqualified yourself morally or something like that and violated 1 Timothy 3:1–7 or Titus 1, and you still want to be a minister, then you probably are still called the ministry. You’re just having doubts. And sometimes it may be helpful to take time away. I took about a year and a half between my last two churches, and it really helped to seal and kind of crystallize my calling. There are going to be times in ministry too when you just have that calling and that’s it. For me, there was a season when I knew, a season when I doubted it, but then came a season when I realized that I’m called and I’m going to stay with this because I have no doubt that the Lord is calling me.