How do I know if I am called to the ministry? Dr. Michael Allen provides practical advice and encouragement for those who are wondering if they are called to ministry.
Many of us have at different times struggled with the question: am I called to the ministry? Would God be asking me to pursue formation and preparation that I might serve in some particular vocational capacity, perhaps in a full-time and employed manner? It can be a challenging question. It can be a daunting question. We can sometimes struggle with feeling we’re not up to it; we can’t possibly be holy enough or wise enough or charismatic enough to be of use. It can be a question that can be scary. Do I really want to dispose myself, to open up myself to the kinds of challenges and frustrations or to the kind of sacrifices that might be involved? You won’t typically get rich, but you just might get hurt if you’re in pastoral ministry. It is daunting both in terms of having the kind of confidence to step forward, as well as the sort of willingness to enter into the fray.
Don’t Consider Your Calling Alone
You won’t typically get rich, but you just might get hurt if you’re in pastoral ministry.I would encourage folks thinking about it to make sure not to think alone, to explore it with church leaders, pastors, elders, trusted laypersons who they respect, who know them. I would encourage them to think it over with family and friends, with academic and church leaders who would be able to speak into their experience, their aptitude, their gifting.
Consider the Essential Elements of Ministry
I would also encourage folks to think about it, mindful that there are certain things central to ministry and there are other things that are accidental and can vary. Devotion to prayer, concern about integrity and character, ability to study God’s Word and communicate God’s Word: these are central to ministry. You don’t minister apart from in some way being a person of prayer and scriptural commitment. You don’t study apart from being a person committed to growing in integrity and developing deep and rich character as a Christian.
What would it mean to give over who I am to love God with all that I am, heart, soul, mind and strength, and to do so by using that to serve others with the ministry of Word and prayer?Other elements—charisma, certain skills, certain giftings and ability to reach people of a particular sort—these vary, and folks ought not somehow believe that they have to match a given celebrity or a particular pastor’s unique gift set. It may be that God has designed you with certain unique experiences, certain unique interests and abilities, certain unique ethnic, cultural, and linguistic abilities that actually open up a particular outreach, a particular ministry. Don’t ask, “Can I be the next so-and-so?”, thinking of some famous person.
Ask: “What would it mean to give over who I am to love God with all that I am, heart, soul, mind and strength, and to do so by using that to serve others with the ministry of Word and prayer?” That doesn’t provide or foreclose the question, that doesn’t somehow guarantee a particular answer, but it does provide a space within which we can trust God and receive feedback from God’s people as we seek to be faithful to God’s calling.