Call to Ministry Series: #1 Called By God?
January 13, 2012
God "calls" everyone to ministry who is in relationship with him through Jesus Christ. But in many circles discussion of calling takes on a clergy-laity divide. Most Christian leaders acknowledge the missional call of every believer, but most of their attention is drawn to clergy, i.e., professional ministry persons. Does God still "call" people to specific ministry contexts or vocational action? If God does so, how might a person know that God is calling and what difference would it make in your response?
I remember at an early age how my father struggled with this question, whether he was called to the "preaching" ministry, as he termed it. While involved in service as a deacon in a Baptist church in Richland, Washington, he filled the pulpit on several occasions at a small church in the area that was without a pastor. The people appreciated him, and our pastor thought he should explore the idea. My dad decided on a career in health agencies (American Red Cross, American Heart Association, and the Arthritis Foundation). Still, his struggles over the call of God stuck with me.
When I was in the middle of college, my father's questions came back to me as I considered whether God wanted me in some form of Christian service. I sought my pastor's advice. He never questioned whether God still called people. Instead, he focused on whether or not God was speaking to me. He asked me, "Is there anything else you would rather do with your life, Mike? If there is, go and do it!" I have heard that same question and comment put to others since then; it never seems to impact others the way his remarks did to me that day. Perhaps his ear-to-ear grin and those large white-and-gold teeth acquired in Cameroon, West Africa, while a missionary, the grin used when most serious about a question, made a difference.
I left my pastor and turned to my Bible for direction and help. I found the calls of several prophets along with the calls of the disciples in the gospels. I think I was lucky to find the ones I did in light of my biblical knowledge at that time. Did they apply to me, I wanted to know. No clarity or super-truth jumped out at me. In the back of my mind, I kept wondering whether marine biology, my scholastic focus from junior high on, wouldn't make a better career or life calling. So what if I hated calculus; I could work around it. I concluded my biblical search with no clear direction.
The question kept returning to a subjective choice, and I was doing the choosing. Looking back (always an easier way to discern God's will), I believe God worked step-by-step to direct me eventually into specific vocational ministry.
Thus we come to this series as a resource for you. I want to provide you with more guidance on the call of God than I found when I searched for both objective and subjective guidelines for my life's direction. In the end, I still won't be able to provide a definitive answer for your life, but you will be able to make wiser decisions, based on biblical examples and reflection. In addition, if you are already in vocational ministry, you will be better able to remember or understand what God intended to get you to the place where you are currently. All Christians need reminding of God's call as they go through their life ministries and its ups and downs.