John Bunyan and Pastoral Calling

ChurchLeaders | 10/17/2019 | Staff
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At the southwest corner of St. Peter’s green in the English town of Bedford, a bronze statue of a man sits close to the street. The man’s eyes are lifted to the sky and a Bible rests in his hands; he bears a grave expression, yet he looks ready to speak a word of truth at any moment, to plead with passersby. This, it seems, is exactly how John Bunyan would want to be remembered.

His depiction of the ideal pastor in his famous allegory Pilgrim’s Progress supplied the inspiration for the statue. With his back to the world and his gaze on the heavens, the man was among the select few authorized to guide others along their way to the Celestial City. John Bunyan was typical of the Puritans in his veneration of the pastorate. With such a lofty vision for pastoral ministry, one might wonder, how did the Puritans discern who was called by God to this great work?

Puritan - Concept - Reformation - Convictions - Vocation

The Puritan concept of calling was built on Reformation convictions about vocation. As William Perkins put it, one’s calling is a stewardship “ordained and imposed on man by God for the common good.”[1] In the Puritan mind, God appointed each person to a particular vocation for his own sovereign purposes. If God called a man into the pastorate, the Puritans believed his life would display certain characteristics that confirmed this calling. A survey of Puritan writings on the subject reveals that the Puritans did not elevate one aspect of calling above the rest but rather sought a confluence of characteristics that demonstrated God’s wise hand of preparation. When a man established the necessary qualifications—conviction to lead and teach, competency for the work, Christ-like character, and the confirmation of God’s people—then, and only then, could he consider himself called to the ministry.

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