HomeFaithDooley Noted: Is God calling you to ministry?

Dooley Noted: Is God calling you to ministry?

One of the distinctive characteristics of my home church was the clear invitations offered by my pastor each Sunday. Added to his encouragements for people to repent of their sins in order to follow Christ were the consistent appeals for baptism and church membership. Nearly every weekend, he also proposed the possibility that God was likely calling some to ministry as he admonished us to discern the Lord’s leading.

Without question, God is still calling individuals to offer their lives in ministry service to Him today. What is less frequent, though, are the regular appeals that used to be commonplace in the church. My conviction is that we should talk more, not less, about raising up the next leaders for Christ’s church.

So, how does one identify an initial call to ministry? What signs give evidence of a genuine directive from God that a person is set apart for vocational service? If God is still raising up leaders to shepherd, teach, and oversee congregations, how does He do it? The following patterns served me well as a teenager wrestling with questions like these.

You have a deep desire to know the Lord and a compulsion to do His work. When I was 17 years old, God began burdening me that I should preach the gospel and pastor His people.  Initially, I resisted the urge, but through prayer and fasting I was able to evaluate my motivations and reservations. Over time, my excuses gave way to enthusiasm for people and Scripture. At a pivotal moment, I concluded that God indeed was calling. Much like the words spoken to Jeremiah the prophet, it seemed as though the Spirit was whispering, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations (Jer. 1:5).” 

From that time forward, the word became like a fire in my bones (Jer. 20.9) that had to come out. Despite earlier plans to pursue a career in pharmacy, I found myself saying with the Apostle Paul, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel (1Cor. 9:16).” Today, I cannot imagine spending my life on anything but serving the Lord in this way. Because God entrusted me with His gospel, I dare not violate the privilege of declaring it (1 Cor. 9:17; Gal. 2:7; 1 Thess. 2:4; 1 Tim. 1:11; Titus 1:3). Though we arrive at this conclusion in different ways, all pastors share a common conviction that we are stewards of an assignment from the Lord. 

God will empower you for the tasks that compel you. Desiring to serve the local church is noble, yet doing so effectively requires God’s gifting for service. Not only is this true regarding those who lead a body of believers, but also about those who make up the body as well. God grants spiritual gifts to each member of the church to promote the health and vitality of the congregation (See 1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12).

The focus here is not on the talent of individuals, but the supernatural enablement that accompanies each assignment from the Lord. Ephesians 4 emphasizes that God gives apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers to equip “the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12).” Thus, when speaking of the pastor, Paul insisted he must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2) and Peter requires that he should be able to exercise oversight (1 Peter 5:2). Those whom the Lord calls to particular assignments will receive divine empowerments that each role requires.

Others will confirm the unique activity of God in your life. The importance of the local church for ascertaining one’s call cannot be overestimated. Long before I recognized God’s movement toward ministry in my life, godly men and women within my home church began to encourage me with their words and prayers. They seemed to sense what I was anxious to deny.  My pastor mentored and positioned me to pursue God’s unfolding plan for my life, which seemed apparent to him. Even more remarkable, unbelievers would frequently announce, “You are going to be a preacher!” The Lord used many people to confirm what now seems so obvious to me.

The same pattern emerges in the New Testament. Even as Timothy was gifted for service, the spiritual leaders in his life confirmed his initial calling (2 Tim. 1:6). Before Paul sought this young man to join him in ministry, Acts 16 tells us Timothy was “well spoken of by the brethren.” In addition, church leaders commissioned Timothy to join Paul through the laying on of hands (1 Tim. 4:14). Today, through a process of ordination, the local church not only recognizes a unique call on a member’s life, but also affirms it as evident and effective for gospel service. 

God will create opportunities for you to utilize your gifts while serving others. When God calls, He opens doors. While seeking God’s will for my future, one compelling motivation was the number of opportunities I received to exercise my gifts. First, I began speaking at Fellowship of Christian Athletes worship services. When these messages became sermonic, invitations to preach in churches followed. My pastor gave me a Sunday School class to teach.  Working with children and students also honed my ministerial development. To this day, I’ve never sought an opportunity to preach, and yet, God continues to open doors. 

Similarly, God enlisted Noah to build an ark (Gen. 6), He sought Moses to lead His people (Ex. 3), and He reoriented Paul to serve the Gentiles (Acts 9). Certainly, a unique call predicated these opportunities, but each calling had a particular goal in mind. Likewise, when God calls ministers today, He beckons us to a particular area of service.

Is it possible that God is calling you to ministry?

Dr. Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at adooley@ebcjackson.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.

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