Does God “Call” People into Ministry?

HomeChristianity and the BibleDoes God “Call” People into Ministry?

Every now and then someone asks me whether I think God “calls” people into ministry… that is, whether God speaks to certain individuals and tells them to make ministry their full-time work. It’s an interesting question… and one isn’t clearly answered in the New Testament.

Certainly, God does “call” people. There are a number of passages in the New Testament where we see this. The Greek word is KLESIS (clay-sis), which refers to an invitation, as to a feast. This word is used in Romans 11:29, 1 Corinthians 1:26 and 7:20, Ephesians 1:18 and 4:1 and 4:4, Philippians 3:14, 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 2 Timothy 1:9, Hebrews 3:1, and 2 Peter 1:10.

After reading through these verses, none of them seem to talk about a specific calling that has to do with one’s vocation. That makes the situation a bit confusing, since so many people claim to have experienced a specific call to ministry. On one hand, the verses that talk about a calling seem to say that all Christians have been called. Take a look at Hebrews 3:1, for example: 

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus…

The writer to the Hebrews addresses a group of Christians who SHARE in “the” heavenly calling, as if there’s only one kind. All of the verses listed above speak in pretty much the same way. I want to make that clear, before I share with you my own story.

I believe that God called me into ministry. I know exactly where I was, the date, the time of day, and what I was doing. On April 30, 1986, I was giving my girlfriend (now my wife) a good-night hug outside her college dorm at about 9:50pm. I was a Broadcasting major, and had no inclination to make ministry my job. In my mind, I could have chosen anything to do for a career. I wasn’t thinking about my future at that moment. Suddenly, in a very clear mental image, my mind made an instant switch: I realized that I could only do one thing with my life and be fulfilled. That one thing was to devote my life to serving God in ministry. God had inserted Himself into my thoughts in that moment, and I couldn’t even begin to pretend that those thoughts were mine.

I was attending a Christian college, so I had lots of friends who were studying for ministry. I went to a few of them, plus a couple of professors, and asked them two simple questions:

  1. Do you believe you were called to ministry, and
  2. How would someone know they were called?

I got virtually the same answers from all of them, which was comforting. Yes, they said, they felt they had been called to vocational ministry. Their advice was that, if I felt I had been called, to move in that direction. God would confirm whether I was in the right place, or if I had misunderstood.

So, I changed my major and studied Religion and Philosophy. I worked in a few churches for a time, and then God seemed to close the door to that being my career. I did not feel as if God changed His mind about me, but that the path of my ministry took a turn and went a different direction. Instead of continuing to be a pastor, I’m a layman. I’m on staff at my local church (adjunct staff, which just means I don’t get paid). I’m very involved in leading and teaching there, including being involved in leading discipleship groups. I have GodWords, which is around 20 years old right now… and that keeps me pretty busy. I also purposefully minister on Facebook, and spend quality time helping friends and neighbors. I’m no less “in ministry” than when it was my job, so I believe that I’m still fulfilling God’s call.

I couldn’t even offer an opinion on whether anyone else is actually called. It could be that every Christian is called to their own ministry, but that God just doesn’t notify everyone in the same way. Who knows? I don’t. I do, of course, have a verse for you: It’s Ephesians 2:10.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Every believer has been given good works to do, and we’re given gifts and talents and interests and experiences that prepare us to do those good works, and to do them in a way that pleases God and gets the job done right. Every single believer is in the same boat, whether they feel called or not. That’s exciting to me!

What’s your experience? Do you believe that God has called you into ministry?

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