Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Call of God (Part 3) - What Does it Mean to be Called?

In scriptures the term “call” of God is used several ways. There is the call to SALVATION (Romans 8:30, I Corinthians 1:9; I Thessalonians 2:12). In fact, it is more than a calling, it is a COMMAND (Acts 17:30).

After salvation, God calls believers to FELLOWSHIP with Christ (I Cor.1:9), to HOLINESS (I Thess.4:7) to LIBERTY (Galatians 5:13) to PEACE (I Cor. 7:15) to VIRTUE (2 Peter 1:3) and to WALK WORTHY of the calling they have received (Ephesians 4:1).

Beyond this, there is a call to SPECIFIC MINISTRY service. The Lord has been calling individuals for specific ministries for millennia. He called Abram out of Ur; Moses out of Egypt; and Aaron from among the Levites (Heb.5:4).

The Lord also called many others in the Bible for certain ministries. From Isaiah (Isa.6:9) to the twelve disciples, to Paul (I Tim. 1:11), the Lord has been calling men and women into service.

Many people today are recognizing God’s call to minister in a variety of different capacities. One type of minister directs works of compassion and relief for people suffering from hunger, homelessness, sickness, addiction, economic hardship, and disaster. Other ministers serve as chaplains in the armed services, in hospitals, prisons and retirement centers, and with police officers and firefighters.

God may be calling you as a staff pastor to a specific age group of the church like children, or youth, and their families, or senior adults. You may have special talents in outreach evangelism, church administration, or music that God will use to build his church.

Some men and women are called to bi-vocational ministry. These ministers hold significant employment outside the church, to maintain community contacts and provide financial support for their families while they also serve as congregational leaders.

A call from God into a ministry is a high and heavenly calling (Phil. 3:14) which unfortunately is taken lightly by some today.

The traditional and most common view of a calling from God is the call to preach, especially in pastoral ministry, and in a full-time capacity. It also includes missionaries, evangelists, or church planters.

Inwardly, there will be an irrepressible desire to engage in the work of the ministry. The evidence of this inward compulsion is found in I Timothy 3:1, "This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." This inward compulsion begins to take place with the individual long before other people recognize the person as a candidate for ministry. Some people may become aware of a call to ministry through their reading of the Holy Scriptures. Others may sense this summons through a deep love of things spiritual, and a changing of the heart. Regardless of the means that God uses to awaken you to His call, your encounters with the scriptures will nourish and affirm this call.

In my own experience, I vividly remember going through this process for at least two or three years before I let the idea “leak out” to those around me; specifically my family. But it was an irresistible call for me… without choosing to think about it, I thought about it all the time. The more I tried to ignore it, the more preoccupied I became with it. I felt drawn to preach God’s Word… to honor God… for the conversion of souls… and the building up of His people. What’s more, I wanted to do it. My heart was in it. I was frightened to death about the prospect, but I craved the idea nonetheless.


In ones character, there will be evidence of growing in Christ and Christ-like behavior. Such a person will be maturing in life, character, and conduct. Those who are called to preach will become models of personal piety and devotion to Christ. Without this no one can be an example to the flock of God (I Peter 5:3).

Additionally, such a person will meet the ministerial qualifications found in I Timothy 3:11-7 and Titus 1:6-9. While no one is perfect and perfectly qualified, any glaring violations of these standards would mean disqualification.

Then there is the matter of gifts and talents of those whom God calls. One essential for pastoral ministry is the ability to teach (I Timothy 3:2). When God calls people into a preaching or teaching capacity He gives them the ability to communicate His Word effectively, understandably, and with power. Ministerial training is important, and good training will develop gifts. But training will not furnish what God has not given.

Another and necessary aspect of God’s call to the preaching ministry is confirmation by others. As your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ observe your life and service, and compare what they see with the qualifications for ministry, the Holy Spirit will bear witness to them that God has called you…. and they will tell you so.

Not everyone will affirm you. In fact, many will try to discourage you. Therefore your inward witness must be stronger than outward opposition. But the people whose opinions do matter will be your pastor, perhaps other ministers you know, as well as spiritually mature believers in your church family. Eventually the church body as a whole will come to recognize and validate your call.

A question often asked by those who are wondering if they have a call into the ministry is, “How can I know if I am called?” The answer is simple. You will know in the same way that you know if you have certain natural gifts. A watchful parent carefully looks over their children to discover what natural bent they display which may indicate a future career choice. So it is in the spiritual – a Spirit-gifted child of God who has been called into some definite office of ministry will QUICKLY DISPLAY WELL-MARKED CAPABILITIES along a certain line.

These will be further proved as coming from the Lord by the simple fact that BLESSINGS WILL QUICKLY RESULT and ones “talent” will soon begin to MULTIPLY making “OTHER TALENTS.” Moreover, the local church will BEAR WITNESS that such a person has a definite ministry entrusted to him/her from the Lord.

The proof is in the pudding… in results… in fruitfulness… in multiplication.

If you believe God is calling you into a preaching or pastoral ministry, your first step (once you are ready and have the matter resolved internally) is to tell your pastor. Tell him that you are conscious of a call. He can give you wise counsel from years of experience, and inform you of any formal process to follow in your church.

After that, you should begin or continue your personal preparation. Develop your spiritual disciplines, especially those of the Word, prayer, and personal character. Devote yourself to your local church. Find a place to teach there. Study the Bible and theology as much as you can.

If you can do anything else and be happy doing it, then do that. But if you can say like the apostle Paul, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel” (I Cor. 9:16), then you are probably called of God and will never be happy doing anything else.

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