In one of my first classes in seminary, a seasoned professor stood up and said, “If you are here because you think ministry is an easy job where you can hide or you are lazy and not ready to work hard, get out.” Those may not have been the exact words he used, but the spirit was certainly that. And he did end by saying, “Get out.” No one did, but it made us all think.
Ministry is regularly described as a “calling.” A man may choose to work as an engineer or brick layer, but it is said he is called to ministry. What does it mean to be called to ministry and how do you know if you are called?
Every Christian is Called to Minister
First, we must differentiate between a minister and vocational ministry. There are not two classes of Christians—those who are gifted to build up the church and glorify God and the “regular” Christians who sit idly by and watch. All Christians are gifted for service (1 Corinthians 12-14) and exhorted to ministry (Ephesians 4:12). However, as Scriptures such as Ephesians 4:11 make clear, there are those God specifically sets apart for leadership in the church.
Calling is Internal and External
When discerning a call to ministry, there are two categories to consider. Do you feel an internal weight? Is that internal feeling confirmed externally by others around you?
Do you have a burning passion to see people come to faith and be built up into maturity as disciples of Jesus Christ? That is the key question. If you think pastoral ministry guarantees you respect, is fun and easy, or provides you with lots of free time to sit quietly alone and study then you need to check your motivations. Few things will be more rewarding in life than ministry, but few will test your heart and mind so often.
An external affirmation of your calling is clearer to determine. Do Christians who know you affirm your character and competency? This is best seen among your local church. Have you preached a sermon or taught a class? What was the reception like? Are you currently leading a small group or discipling another man one-to-one? Those who are truly called to ministry will not wait to be paid for their service or only look to minister in high profile ways. Faithfulness in smaller, less public ministries is a great indicator of a man called by God to grow toward a more prominent role.
If you think you may be called by God to ministry, begin to discern whether that call is genuine. Meet with your pastor and ask his opinion. Seize opportunities to serve. Volunteer to teach, facilitate a small group, and keep an eye out for younger men needing discipleship. Consider seminary education.
One last word of caution: don’t rush in too quickly. God is sovereign and if He is calling you to pastoral ministry, He will lead you and equip you. More damage is done by immature, unfit pastors every day than will ever be done by pastors who waited an extra year to follow God’s call.
One last word of encouragement: we need more godly pastors! If you think God is calling you to vocational ministry, don’t be afraid and don’t be timid. Boldly follow God. Be humble. Be diligent. But, don’t be afraid. Pastoral ministry is a special calling. It is hard, but it is worth it.
Adam has a passion for preaching God’s Word and seeing people come to know the joy of life with Jesus. Nothing excites Him more than pursuing the glory of God. He is originally from Minnesota, but received his Master of Divinity degree from Denver Seminary in Colorado. Adam enjoys reading, sports, movies and spending time with his family. He and his wife, Holly, have two daughters.