The Word Ministries
In the Old Testament, the call of God upon a personís life was very clear and evident. God often spoke audibly, through dreams and/or visions, or in person with those whom He had chosen to do His will or carry out a specific task in His name (Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, etc.). The same thing can be said of the early days of the New Testament and Christianity (Mary, Joseph, the Twelve Disciples, Paul, etc.). Today, however, when a person makes such a claim it should (rightfully) cause critical-thinking Christians to question the veracity of such an assertion. Why? Because we seldom (if ever) personally witness this kind of communication between God and ďordinaryĒ Christians like ourselves. For however much we would like to believe God still works in this manner, most of us know these are not the normal channels of communication God uses to speak to us today. Yet, all too many believers expect to hear nothing short of such a claimóespecially when inquiring into the ďcallĒ of a Christian minister. If this model is to be followed then we must conclude that God speaks directly and clearly to a select few believers while leaving the vast majority in silence and confusion. Proof of this confusion can be seen in the 20th century proliferation of books, tapes, and seminars on how to discover Godís will for oneís life. To be sure, this two-tiered model does not follow the clear teaching of the New Testament!
Spiritual Gifts, Ministry, and The Call of God in the New Testament
Unlike the Old Testament saints, every New Testament Christian is called to full-time service. Every believer must be willing to take up his cross and follow his Lord in daily faithfulness and service. The spiritual service of every Christian is to present himself as a ďliving sacrifice,Ē and in that total dedication prove the acceptable will of God (Rom.12:1-2). But what determines the form of a personís service or calling? The particular calling of every man or woman of God is primarily determined by three factors: (1) the spiritual gifts he or she has been given (Rom.12:3-8), (2) the often-neglected principle of Biblical stewardship (Matt.25:14-30), and (3) public recognition and approval of Godís call by the people of God (Acts 6:1-6; 1Tim.4:14; Titus 1:5). In the case of a call to church eldership/pastoral ministry, (which includes shepherding and leadership, along with various degrees of preaching, teaching, and rendering church discipline) this third factor is particularly important.
The Bible teaches that every Christian has been given at least one spiritual gift (1Cor.12:1-11). Most believers have, in fact, been given several complimenting spiritual gifts. God graciously bestows His gifts in just the right combination and measure for the work He has ordained each of His saints to accomplish (Eph.2:10). Once a person has the opportunity to identify his gift(s) there comes the responsibility to use those gift(s) for the purpose God intended. At this point, the principle of Biblical stewardship insists that no Christian dare pack his spiritual gifts away in a box, nor bury his gifts for safekeeping. Whether out of a sense of fear or for the sake of convenience, no Christian may ignore his gifts and the calling they represent lest the Lord return and find him to be an unprofitable servant (Matt. 25:14-30). In short, oneís gift(s) designates his or her calling, and oneís calling may not be ignored. This is true of any and all the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament.
In Regard to the Teaching or Pastoral Ministries
It follows, then, that the call of the Lord to church eldership or pastoral ministry (as in every calling) comes to all those who have been given the necessary gifts for such a ministry. In possessing these particular gifts, the man of God is made responsible to all who would hear the Word and Gospel from his mouth. If a man has the necessary gifts, desire, and temperament (1Tim.3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9) for this ministry, he may reasonably rest assured he has been called to such a ministry. There is no special revelation from God needed to prove oneís calling. In fact, those who wait for such a confirmation often squander precious months or years waiting for a word from God which never comes, or unconsciously manufacture such a word out of frustration or desperation. Yet, as with any spiritual gift, the voice of Godís people should be consulted. Honest feedback from trusted, mature saints and church leaders should be sought and highly pondered. One of the many functions of the local church is to give public recognition and approval of Godís gifting and calling by the people of God. However, the church alone cannot call a man to pastoral ministry; It may only publicly confirm to others that God has indeed made such a call on a personís life.
If you feel called by God to a formal or vocational form of Christian ministry thatís great! As stated earlier, every believer must be willing to take up his cross and follow his Lord in daily faithfulness and service. The spiritual service of every Christian is to present himself as a ďliving sacrifice,Ē and in that total dedication prove the acceptable will of God (Rom.12:1-2). Whether you feel your ministry direction is vocational or not, let me suggest four things you could do to get started.
One: Pray! Pray sincerely and often, alone and with others, for Godís leading and guidance in your life and the work He has called you to do.
Two: Try to "find" yourself in some good, balanced books on the subject of spiritual gifts. Below is a short list of books Iíve personally found helpful in the past. (Please be advised I do not endorse every idea found in every book listed!)
Three: Contact the leadership in your local church and ask for their guidance and direction. If they understand their leadership roles correctly they should recognize that one of their duties as under-shepherds of Christ is to help believers fully discover and exercise their spiritual gifts for the benefit of the church and the glory of God. If the leadership in your church will not assist you (and unfortunately many church leaders simply will not or donít know how) you may need to seek counsel outside your church. In some cases you may even need to move to a church where the gifts of the Holy Spirit are expected, valued, developed and encouraged.
Four: Itís Ok to try several different types of ministries before finding the one that best suits your particular gifting and desires. However, try to avoid being pushed into a ministry or leadership role just because someone else has a gap to fill or has been praying for God to send him/her help. Help them if you want to, but apart from a serious discussion of your particular desires and perceived gifting this will not likely aid you to determine Godís call upon your life. Everyone's situation is somewhat unique. Generally speaking, I would offer this minimal advice: gifting + temperament + desire = calling. If you feel youíre being pressured or shamed into filling a ministry gap in your church for which you don't have the gifts, temperament or desireóyou may be right! However, offering to temporarily fill this gap may be a good stepping stone to better understanding yourself. After a time you may want to go back to step one to reassess your particular place in Godís kingdom!
Many blessings on your journey!