One day, at a Christian bookstore just across the street from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Fort Worth Hall, I was looking to purchase several books when I heard an excited voice call to the other side of the bookstore, “Pastor!”
A pastor was there with a few members of his congregation and as I watched the interaction between shepherd and sheep, I thought to myself, “Who is worthy to be called such an honorable title of a pastor?”
That was 45 years ago, in 1973, but the voice that shouted “Pastor” still rings clearly in my ears like it was yesterday.
During our short time on earth, we can serve God in many different capacities, but those who are called to be pastors are given the special privilege of servant leadership (John 21:15-17; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Peter 5:1-5).
Why does God call certain individuals into the gospel ministry? Ultimately, it is for His glory and purpose (Ephesians 1:4-6; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Peter 5:1-4). God called Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samuel and the prophets in their generation. He still calls His people to do His work in every generation until the return of Christ our Lord. What a great honor and privilege it is being called by God to be a pastor, to be His servant, a shepherd over His flock. We are to proclaim His Word faithfully so that sinners can be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20-21; Colossians 1:27-29).
Ever since hearing the lady calling her pastor at the bookstore, I always held the title of “pastor” with precious reverence. But I never dreamed that one day I would be ordained into the gospel ministry by Dr. W.A. Criswell at First Baptist Church in Dallas on July 7, 1976, upon my graduation from Southwestern.
Dr. Criswell provided such a powerful model of pastoral leadership in serving as senior pastor of First Baptist where, for 50 years with a Bible in his hand, his expository preaching declared the authority and truth of God’s Word.
It’s been a long journey in pastoral ministry, beginning with a collegiate church plant at U.C. Berkeley in 1981 with my family of five. By God’s grace, the ministry grew to more than 500 active students. After 10 years, in 1991, my family moved to reproduce another church with the same DNA in the Boston area to reach students in the many nearby colleges. Over nearly 37 years of planting and growing churches among predominantly Asian-American students and young professionals, God has been faithful in starting more than 40 churches at home and abroad. I am forever grateful to my wife, Dr. Rebekah Kim, Southern Baptist chaplain at Harvard University, who has been a faithful co-laborer in planting churches and equipping disciples.
Although I now serve as pastor emeritus, the vision my wife and I had has remained the same as we hand the baton of pastoral leadership to our homegrown disciples for the 21st century – pastors, missionaries and church leaders in fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Like the apostle Paul sharing spiritual insights with Timothy or Elijah passing on his prophetic ministry to Elisha, this takes cultivating deep-rooted trust relationships. It isn’t easy. You need to commit to a lifetime of taking up your cross and many times getting on your knees in desperate prayer. But if anyone calls you “pastor,” then this is the life God has called you to live.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Paul Kim is the Asian-American relations consultant with the SBC’s Executive Committee. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)