A lot of people get confused by the idea of a “call to ministry.” I was talking with some friends recently about how God called me out to California, and then how he called me into full-time ministry. My daughter overheard the conversation and blurted, “It’s like the Force.” Hmm. Not exactly the analogy I was looking for.
But if the call to ministry is not like the Force in Star Wars that binds all things together, what is it like? I would define God’s call as an intense desire to serve the Lord in a specific area that aligns with one’s gifts and is increasingly affirmed by the body of Christ. We should not be seeking some mystical experience as much as a spiritual prompting accompanied by great joy and an affirmation of godly people.
A few verses that come to mind:
1 Timothy 3:1 “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” Paul speaks of aspiration or earnest desire (Gk. epithumia, often translated “lust” or “strong urge”). Far from ambition being a bad thing, Paul says it can be a very good thing, as long as the focus is on the Lord and not our own reputation. When evident in a young man’s life, this holy flame of desire should be fanned, not extinguished.
Romans 12:3 “Everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” Here the Bible says we need to take a sober, honest reflection of our gifts and long-term usefulness to the Lord. The question is not if we have a gift, but what gifts God has endowed uniquely to us, and how we can best use them to glorify God and build up his church (Eph. 4:11-13; 1 Cor. 14:3, 26).
Acts 6:3 “Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.” Here we have a great example of biblical qualifications, congregational consent, and God’s providence all working together. God gave clear requirements to the church, then led them to select certain people who met those qualifications and who joyfully served. There was freedom in decision making, but all within the boundaries that God had set. As a result, “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly” (Acts 6:7).
If you are interested in learning more about the call to ministry or God’s calling on your life, I recommend the book “Am I Called?” by Dave Harvey.