Among evangelical churches, the call to ministry is often misunderstood. Some view the call to ministry as an altogether personal, individual decision. If one believes themselves to be called to ministry, that settles it. What gives the church, or any other deliberative body, the right to question what God called me to do? If a person self-identifies as called to ministry, that is evidence enough, so the argument goes.
Others view God’s call as an entirely mystical, subjective experience. They believe that to evaluate one’s call to ministry in objective terms is altogether unspiritual. They shrug off biblical expectations for ministry, such as I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. They view God as too big, too dynamic to confine himself to his written Word. If someone thinks the Spirit is leading them into ministry, one need not be held up by biblical or congregational expectations.
However we view calling, we must be sure about God’s qualifications for ministry and certain he has set us apart for such service. Along these lines, review with me seven questions, indicators that God has called you into the ministry.
1. Does your character match God’s expectations? First Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 are paramount here. You should carefully review and reflect on these passages. Moreover, you should invite others to assess your life along these lines, and remember that these qualifications are not a one-time threshold to cross, but are an ongoing expectation for the minister.
2. Do you desire the work of ministry? As we have seen, longing for the work of ministry is not only appropriate, it is essential. That inner longing for ministry will serve as a magnet, pulling you forward throughout various seasons and trials of ministry. If ministry is one of many opportunities before you, each seeming similarly attractive, that is a sign that you may not be called to the ministry. As the Apostle Paul makes clear, you should desire the work of ministry.
3. Are you gifted to teach the Word? As you review I Timothy 3, you will note the only real difference between the office of the deacon and the office of the elder is the ability to teach. Of course, there are varying levels of accomplishment. Gifting, training, experience, and a host of other factors will determine how strong you are as a preacher and/or teacher, but the pastor must have a baseline ability to minister God’s Word to God’s people.
4. Do you currently see fruit from your ministry activities? By this, I mean: Have you seen God bless some of your efforts in the ministry so far? Have people seemed to benefit from your teaching and preaching? Have you been able to lead anyone to Christ? These are just a few questions that you can use to gauge the fruit of your labor. If you have not seen any fruit so far, that does not mean necessarily you should give up. Rather, go to your pastor and seek more opportunities, and pray fervently for God to bless your efforts.
5. Are you passionate about the gospel and the Great Commission? A passion for the gospel is a good sign that the Lord is calling you to ministry. As we shall see in the pages ahead, when Paul reflected in Romans 10 on the gospel, he was emphatic that people cannot hear the gospel message without a messenger delivering it to them. If the idea of people coming to faith in Christ does not stir you, that is not a good sign.
6. Does your church affirm your calling? Ultimately, all the preceding questions are to be adjudicated by the local church. The Bible indicates the local church is responsible to call out the called. More specifically, the local church is responsible for who it calls to minister to the congregation. The church knows best how fit an individual in their midst is for ministry. Look to them for affirmation.
7. Finally, are you willing to surrender? As I wrote earlier, the idea of surrendering to ministry is often misunderstood, and I once misunderstood it. But, the one who would minister faithfully must be submissive to God’s call whenever and wherever he issues it. That is not just as you enter ministry, it is throughout your ministry. Throughout your ministry, God will call you to specific tasks and to specific people, some more desirable than others. Will you follow wherever he leads?
*This article is an excerpt from Letters to My Students, Vol. 2, On Pastoring, by Jason K. Allen.