The Call to Ministry
An experience one has that is understood as a direct communication from God asking or directing that he or she to take up a task of some kind.
Are you called?
In the most basic sense, all Christians are called to ministry. The Great Commission applies to all believers. Every Christian is part of the Body of Christ. Fulfilling one’s role as part of the Body – no matter what that role is – means ministering to others. This is your purpose and calling.
Before we even existed, God had plans for us.
Jeremiah 1:5 NLT “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
When you receive Salvation your calling is activated. How you are called will generally be revealed later.
Matthew 28:18-20 NLT “Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
However, most people who ask this question are really interested in whether they are called to vocational ministry, such as the pastorate. This is an excellent question. Certainly, vocational ministry has unique demands. The following are some guidelines to help you find out what your purpose and calling are.
In confirming any calling, it is important to first examine your heart and motivation. Do you truly feel this call is from God or is it a personal desire? Or is it an attempt to live up to someone else’s expectation of you? If the motivation is pride or people-pleasing, you should pause, rethink and pray. Are you feeling “called” because you think that in order to be “most Christian” you must work in a distinctly “Christian” ministry?
Jeremiah 17:9 NLT “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
2 Corinthians 2:15 NLT “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.”
Christians are the fragrance of Christ no matter where they serve. You can be light and salt and “do ministry” outside the church, or in a secular job, just as well as you can within the church or in a distinctly Christian vocation. Guilt can sometimes be mistaken as a call to ministry. Many Christians hear that serving God requires sacrifice, which it does. But this does not necessarily mean all Christians are called to the mission field in Third World countries. Yes, living for Christ requires sacrifice, but not misery. There is joy in living out our calling. Paul is a great example of this. He suffered greatly for his ministry, yet he was always content and joyful in Christ (see especially Paul’s letter to the Philippians).
Gifts and Inclination
After you are certain that your heart is rightly motivated, consider your natural (and spiritual) gifts and strengths. Do these seem to fit with the vocational ministry you are considering? Yes, God is shown strong in our weaknesses and calls us to serve out of His strength rather than our own. But He also gave us gifts and talents to use for Him. It is unlikely that God would call someone who is manually unskilled to be a repairman. Are you gifted in the area in which you think you are called? Every Christian possesses spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-7) and is called to participate in edifying other believers with those gifts (! Corinthians 12:7). This is why we do a spiritual Gifts inventory, to help you determine what your gifts are.
Another important consideration is your natural inclination. Someone invigorated by accounting facts, for example, is likely not going to enjoy a position in pastoral care. You will find spiritual gifts tests, and even personality tests to be helpful in determining your natural gifting and inclination.
Another area to consider is your experience. God prepares us before launching us into our calling (in the Bible we see this occur with David’s training under Saul prior to his taking the throne. Reggie McNeal’s ‘A Work of Heart’ does an excellent job depicting this time of preparation). Are there things in your past that God will use to contribute to your work in the call?
Proverbs 11:14 NLT “Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.”
Proverbs 15:15 NLT “for the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.”
Also, you’ll want to seek counsel. Others can often see strengths and weaknesses in us that we cannot. It is helpful to receive input from trusted, godly friends. It is also helpful to observe others’ reactions to you. Do people seem to naturally follow you, or do you often have to force your leadership? Are people naturally open with you and share their concerns? While it is important to seek counsel, it is also important not to rely solely on this. Sometimes our friends and family are wrong. However, honest feedback from those who love you should help confirm your calling.
1 Samuel 16:7 NLT “but the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
Every person has a unique calling from God. The call to vocational ministry, however, is particularly public, and those in public ministry are often both highly regarded and highly criticized.
James 3:1 “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
Those in ministry leadership positions are held to high standards because they are guiding others.
When determining whether or not you are called to vocational ministry, consider what it will entail, be courageous, and trust God. If God has called you He will fill you so that you may be poured out for others. One more thing. It is important to keep moving. We sometimes refuse to move until we are certain of the call. But it is easier to redirect something already in motion than to get something moving. When we step out in faith – even if our step is not quite in the right direction – God is faithful to guide us. When we move in Faith, He moves with us.
Matthew 6:33 NLT “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
Hebrews 13:20-21 NLT “Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood— may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.”
Ephesians 3:20 NLT “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
Psalms 37:23-24 NLT “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their
lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.”
Isaiah 30:21 NLT “Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.”