Ever wondered if God is calling you into ministry? The idea of calling is a subject that was recently discussed in our Church Planting Cohort. Here are some ideas from that discussion that will help you discern if God is calling you into ministry leadership.
Called to What?
A personal calling gives focus to your life. Christians who explore the idea of being called to ministry usually have in mind the idea of working vocationally for a specific Christian cause such as leading a church, starting a non-profit, or living cross-culturally as a missionary. The reality is all followers of Christ have been called in at least three ways:
- God calls us to himself in salvation.
- He calls us collectively as the church to one another.
- And he calls us to be his witnesses in the world through exemplary character, verbal testimony, and sacrificial deeds.
So regardless of the vocation a Christian chooses, these three callings should mark and order his or her life.
Perhaps, then, it is helpful to distinguish between the call to ministry and the call to ministry leadership. Every follower of Jesus has been called to ministry. God has designed the health of his church to be contingent on every member contributing (Ephesians 4:15-16). Then there are some within the church who have been uniquely gifted and called to serve as leaders of the church. Their role is primarily to equip the other believers in their ministry (Ephesians 4:12). If you have a desire to lead others in this way, then here are two key steps to discern if you are indeed called to ministry leadership:
1. Scrutinize Your Desires
The call to ministry leadership is coupled with a desire for the specific task (1 Timothy 3:1). But desire alone is not enough to legitimize a call. In fact, our desires often lead us astray. We often assume or convince ourselves that our desires are the same as God’s desires for us. But we learn from Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” So we must scrutinize our desires and put them to the test. The best way to do that is not further introspection, but to share your desires with others and invite feedback.
If you have a desire for ministry leadership, ask those who know you well to be brutally honest with you. Ask how they see that God has gifted you. Ask how they have observed you leading others and about the impact you’ve had on others. God will not call you to do something he hasn’t gifted you to do.
2. Serve the Church
The other tricky thing about our desires is that they lead us into expectations that may or may not be realistic. Your admiration for another Christian leader may inspire you to pursue a similar role. But the fruit that you observe in that Christian leader may obscure your view of the labor and toil it takes to produce such fruit. The call to ministry leadership is, above all, a call to serve. Jesus, our Head and Master, came to serve and instructs us to do likewise (Mark 10:42-45; John 13:12-17). So, in addition to scrutinizing your desires, explore God’s call to Christian leadership by serving his church.
One of the best pieces of advice I have received was to serve my local church in any capacity they needed me. What I desired was to be up front teaching my adult peers. But my church needed help where churches could always use more help: Kids ministry. I learned many great lessons from sitting on those miniature chairs with children of all ages that helped prepare me for my ministry today. As Dave Harvey articulates, “[God’s] priority for me was not about what I was doing but who I was becoming. Serving in obscurity for a while can do more to shape your ministry future than a dozen years spent combing the world for the perfect ministry fit.”
-Bryan Miller (Connections/Missions Director)
 See Chapter 2 “Three Types of Call Experiences” in Is God Calling Me? by Jeff Iorg