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Thursday, June 11, 2009

How Do You Know If You Are Called into the Ministry?

First, let's clear the air. Every Christian is called into the ministry. Your vocation is how you finance that ministry. Luke 14:26 will become much clearer once you accept this.

But I still understand this question. How do you know that God is calling you into a vocational ministry. It will not only provide the funds to support you and your family but also demands the lion's share of your time.

My own story is not one of "surrendering to the ministry." I was quite willing to go into the ministry. I just wanted a clear direction from God. I told God that I needed a "Damascus Road" experience referring to the Apostle Paul's conversion while he traveled to persecute Christians. I was afraid of two things if I didn't have such an experience.

I was afraid that I might not be truly called. A preacher who is not called to preach persecutes Christians every week from the pulpit. The messages cannot be consistently from God because the preacher is not following God's will. He was supposed to do something else with his life. These messages will become a torture to the preacher and the congregation.

I was also afraid that I would quit the ministry when times got tough. Paul spoke of all the things that happened to him, yet he never wavered from his ministry. I believe that was because he had a clear calling. The ministry is the toughest job I have ever had. It contains scads of wonderful people. It has a few that will make your life a living hell. The ministry will put you in tough situations where you don't want to confront someone in sin but know that you must. Many people will misunderstand you and criticize you. It will not come close the number of people who will compliment and love you but for some reason you remember the criticisms a whole lot more. There are days when you would do anything else if you could. The sad truth is that you will do something else if you do not have a clear calling.

I never watched "Survivor" on tv. You can get voted off the island at any business meeting in a Baptist church. Why would you put yourself through all this unless you know you are called by God?

It is God's prerogative to call you. He will make that contact. He will do so through many ways. He will put people in your life that will encourage you to take the steps to go into the ministry. These people may do so in natural or miraculous ways.

I visited a church with a friend while I was in college. He was a part time youth pastor at this church so I also went to the evening service with him. During that service one of the members, a retired pastor, walked up to me and said that God was calling me to preach. Up until that time I had not considered the possibility. It really scared me.

I had the staff of subsequent churches tell me that God was calling me. I waited until I had a real word from God I didn't want to go into the ministry because humanity called me.

I began to teach school. I loved it. I thought that would be my profession forever. I loved my church. My wife and I were very involved. One Sunday I was sitting on the third or fourth row in the church when the pastor asked the question, "What if God had called me into the ministry and that was the last time He would do so and I said, 'No'?" I cannot explain how I knew but I absolutely knew that God was calling me at that moment. It was my "Damascus Road" experience.

The pastor offered an invitation for people to share their commitments to God. I stepped out in the aisle and walked right out of the church. I still didnt' want to be called by an emotional experience. However, the conviction would not go away. I made an appointment with that pastor during the week.

He asked me two questions: Do you enjoy what you are doing now? (I realized that many people go into the ministry because they hate what they are doing. The ministry looks like a great option. ) Can you continue doing it?

You should continue to do what you are doing if you can keep doing it without conviction that you are called into the ministry. God will give you a very clear calling.

Personally, I would hold out for your own "Damascus Road" experience. Mine came when I never expected it. I suspect Paul would tell you the same thing.

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