Do pastors and other Christian workers, such as missionaries and teachers, need a definite call from God to go into their fields of ministry? If so, how does one get a call and know it?
One type of call found in Scripture is an audible voice message from God, but that is not the pattern God uses today, since we have a completed canon of Scripture. God calls every believer, regardless of vocation, to serve, live for, and be holy unto Him. For example, 2 Corinthians 5:20 tells believers, “We are ambassadors for Christ.” The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18‒20 also speaks to all believers. Acts 1:8 tells the believer, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Other passages that mention the call of every believer include Ephesians 4:1‒7, 1 Peter 2:9, and Jude 1. No one in the family of God should feel left out, unimportant, or unusable. God calls everyone in the household of faith.
So we are left with other aspects of this matter of calling, which I am sure you are asking about. God calls certain people to further his work, people whom He leads into various leadership phases for equipping other believers and evangelizing the lost (Ephesians 4:11). Our Lord has the prerogative in selecting people for these roles. For example, He called His disciples. They did not apply for the work of the ministry (1 Timothy 1:12; 2:7).
God issues a call on a person’s life. Consequently, it is vital not only that the Holy Spirit prods the person being called but also that the person being called is aware of the prodding of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:4). God governs circumstances in a way that results in a person’s becoming involved in some facet of ministry. Both the individual and others around him or her recognize that God has led in that ministry (Acts 9).
Another aspect of calling is that a church or spiritual leaders see a person’s gifts in pastoral or other kinds of work; they let the individual know; and they give the person opportunities to minister (1 Timothy 4:14). The person is literally beckoned into Christian service. Furthermore, the person’s life and service to that point have indicated that the person is fit for ministry. The wonderful thing about serving God is that a person doesn’t need to become flustered about whether he or she is called. If Christian leaders don’t see in a person the gift of pastor-teacher, for example, that person would be wise to question whether God is leading him into pastoral ministry.
Here are three questions that come up regarding the call to a specific leadership ministry:
Does the person truly want to be in a certain ministry? Ministry of any kind, though it has plusses, is grueling and means much responsibility (1 Timothy 1:18). A believer needs to know the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15), teach what he or she has learned (2:2; 4:2), and live what he or she teaches (1 Corinthians 9:27).
Has ministry been a burning desire and conviction in the person for some length of time, or is it a whim or something that a friend is doing?
Also, is God opening a door for ministry? The opening and closing of doors is vital (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3). If God wants someone in something, He opens the door of opportunity. God also equips a person for the ministry He wants that person to have. God doesn’t call into a ministry someone who cannot handle whatever the particular ministry entails. No person is perfect (thankfully God doesn’t require perfection; otherwise, no one would be qualified for a call).
Jesus’ disciples are a good example. From a human standpoint, these men were unlikely candidates for propagating the gospel, building the church, and serving in ministry. Yet these men carried on vital, successful ministries that touched the world. In spite of shortcomings, a believer must be willing to follow, to grow, and to possess the character and spiritual gifts necessary for the task God has for him or her (2 Timothy 1:6, 7).
People might ask, “Are there people in these fields of service who shouldn’t be there—in other words, people who haven’t been called?” Of course. This may be why some drop out of their ministries over time. But more importantly we should concentrate on the fact that many people should be in Christian service but, for one reason or another, are not. “The laborers are few” (Luke 10:2).
Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.