Are you called to the ministry? I am going to begin an answer to that question by suggesting that you are actually asking the wrong question. The question should not be “Are you called?” But it should be “To what ministry are you called?” But let’s hold that second question for a moment and go back to the first.
The real question many people are asking when they ask themselves if God is calling them into the ministry is this: “Is God calling me into the professional ministry?” Put another way: “Am I going to make my livelihood through professional ministry?” That is an entirely different question. Most often that question is asked by the seventeen year old who is considering college and a career. Sometimes it is asked by an older person who is considering a change in his or her career.
Make no mistake, I am not belittling the question nor saying it is illegitimate. In fact, I am a “professional minister” of the second category. At the age of fifty, I changed careers, quit my job—let me correct that—quit my career as a lawyer, sold my house, gave away nearly everything that I owned and moved with my wife, who also quit her career as a data analyst, to Bolivia. There, we became missionaries—“professional missionaries” making $1,000 a month. (Allow me to define what I mean by “professional missionary.” It is through being a missionary that we earn money that sustains us. We currently have no other method of earning money.) Also, saying that I am a professional minister does not mean that I wasn’t called. I received the call of God at forty-seven. My wife received the call at seven and thought it had passed her by, but it was renewed and off we went. Ok, it was not that simple and I will be sharing more of that call, how it came to fruition and how it was financed, later.
So, back to the question, “Are you called into the ministry–professional or otherwise?” Let’s look at what the Bible says about calling, methods of calling, and how you will know that you are called by the end of this article (there are 5 parts) and that the question you really need to ask is, as I said, “To what ministry are you called.”
God’s method of calling is as varied as the people that he calls. There were certainly great, dramatic thundering type callings. Paul was blinded and then healed in order to get the message that his ministry wasn’t killing Christians but was leading them (Acts 9). Jeremiah explains his call in which God says he called him from the womb and then put his words in the mouth of Jeremiah (Jer. 1). Isaiah is in the throne room of God in the midst of a vision when God touches a coal to his lips, and Samuel hears God speaking as if He was in the very next room (Is 6:1-9). Certainly, those are unmistakable callings.
But there were much more subtle callings in the Bible as well. Elijah puts his cloak around Elisha and kisses him. Elisha then runs after Elijah and wants to tell his family good-bye. It is then that it could be said that Elijah discouraged Elisha and says, “What have I done to you? Go home.” But Elisha is having none of it, he burns his ox and feeds them to a bunch of people, burns his plow and takes off with Elijah. There was no thunder from God, no miracle, no voice. I Kings 19:19ff. (That will preach-Burn your bridges and follow God’s call without looking back.)
Phillip was called by Jesus and it is recorded that Jesus met him and simply said, “Follow me” (John 1:43). That was enough for Phillip. Now, while you might say that was easy, after all Phillip was standing face to face with Jesus. Remember, we have the entire bible, the word of God that has revealed the resurrected Christ to us. And God is saying “Follow me.” One might say that it is more powerful because it is written, it is a pledge, it is a promise. What about Luke, Mark, Barnabus, Aquilla and Priscilla, Apollo? There is no mention in the Bible of any miraculous call for them. They simply responded to the word they heard preached to them.
Let’s look at Abraham. God, by all evidence previously unknown by Abraham, says, “Leave your country and go to a land I will show you.” Abraham responds by going. What a great step of faith. Although, I believe that Abraham actually heard the voice of God, he did not know God, he did not have a bible and yet, he responded to the voice. (Gen. 12)
The point is that there is no one method of calling, but there is one method of response: With Faith. In fact, I can say that if you are thinking about going to seminary or starting a church because it would be a good way to make a living and you aren’t sure what else to do-stop. You need to talk to your pastor and seek God before you make that move-there are red flags that you may not be called to what you think you are called.
A walk with God is a walk of faith and a walk in ministry is a walk of faith. That means that many times we are not sure of what is going to happen, but we put our trust in God and take the next step.