I suppose I’ve had the conversation with hundreds of people
over the course of my life.
feeling a calling to a life of ministry—pastoral ministry, children’s ministry,
cross-cultural missions, etc.—they all have this question.
How does a person know if they have a calling
to life of ministry or not?
In this post, I’m addressing a calling to vocational
ministry or full-time ministry that requires a person to orient their entire
lives around their sense of calling.
In my own life, it’s been a really important question that
has shaped nearly every important decision I have ever made.
Since I became a Christian at the age of 13
and felt like God had spoken to me that I would spend my life serving him as a
minister and then at age 14 when God spoke to me about someday serving him
outside the United States, the woman I married, the university and graduate
education I pursued, the jobs I took or turned down, how many children my wife
and I decided to have and when we decided to have them, the houses we built or
bought, as well as the ways we spent our time, refreshed ourselves or spent our
I’m sure I could mention more
things, but the point is that our pursuit of the calling on our lives has
impacted nearly every other life decision we have made.
So, answering this question about whether you have a calling
to a life of vocational ministry is an important one.
It’s central to your life.
you’re like Moses, and God has called you from a burning bush with an audible
voice, but if you’re like most people out there, you have a sense that God is
leading you to that future and maybe he has spoken to you about it.
I think discerning a calling to “the ministry” is kind of
three-legged stool. These three things
accompany every true “call”.
- A deep,
inescapable desire to do it. This
can be a tough one to figure out. Some
people want to enter the ministry because that’s what their mother or father
have said that they wanted for their child.
Others have a desire to be in front of people and the center of
attention. Those reasons will never be
sufficient for sustaining a person through the ups and downs of life in the
ministry. The ministry often involves
hardship, dealing with conflict, and even sometimes leading people who hate
you, not to mention a number of other things that are fundamentally
unpleasant. When I suggest that a deep
desire to do it is key to a “call”, I mean you can’t imagine finding
fulfillment in doing anything else. I
mean that you daydream about ways you can serve God or how God could use
you. This is an unavoidable leg in the
stool to a calling to ministry. This has been the case in my life. Over the past nearly 25 years of public
Christian ministry, I thought about what it might be like to be a salesman in
corporate America or a lawyer or some other profession, but truthfully, these
have been fleeting thoughts. I cannot
imagine finding fulfillment or contentment doing anything else with my
life. If you have a call, I imagine you
feel the same way.
- Gifts. Simply put, you recognize that God has
given you some of the skills or abilities or gifts that will be required in the
ministry. That’s not to suggest that
anyone who is called to the ministry is perfectly suited for a life of serving
others in the ministry, but it is to say that you may already have some
abilities that you recognize as the markers of a person who is going to pursue
being a pastor or a missionary or an evangelist. Maybe you’re able to dispense great biblical
advice that comforts and gives direction to someone who needs it. Or maybe you’re able to explain the
scriptures in an extremely helpful manner.
Maybe you’ve got a great ability to lead others into the presence of God
in leading worship or in prayer. Maybe
you find that in nearly any group, you’re the one that others are looking to
for leadership. Whatever the case—and
there are many gifts beyond these—look for some of the ways you’re wired in
identifying gifts for public ministry.
You may find you’re ill-suited for ministry right now, but that’s
OK. God equips and refines those he
from others. A person’s calling is
generally affirmed by others. When they
preach or teach or lead, others can clearly see a divine calling at work. This is particularly important to recognize
if you are going to seek credentials. In
the church that ordained me, I had not only to take a test and be interviewed
by others, but I had to receive recommendations from others who said that they
could confirm my calling.
You can’t wait until you’re
perfectly prepared for a life of ministry.
Instead, you need to apply yourself to
prepare yourself for a life of ministry through study and working hard at being
open to opportunities to grow and gain experience.
But that being said, the big key, I have
found, is determine is God is calling.
How about it?
Is God calling you?