I realize many debate the nature of a call to gospel ministry, but God does call people to serve Him in unique ways. I know without question, for example, that God called me to preach His Word—and He still calls out people today.
At the same time, I’m convinced it’s the pastor’s responsibility to help believers recognize their calling, guide them toward obedience, and then launch them into His work. We must call out the called. Too often, though, we don’t fulfill that calling. Here’s why:
1. No one’s challenged us to call out the called. In my 45+ years as a Christian, I can recall only a few pastors who intentionally introduced their church to ministry calling and challenged their members to pray about it for their own lives. We haven’t seen it modeled, so we don’t do it.
2. Our approach has been to wait for someone to come to us—not to seek out those who might be called. It ought to work both ways, in fact. On one hand, some who are wrestling with a call might initiate a conversation with us. On the other hand, though, we need to keep our eyes open for believers whose lives might suggest a calling. Like Paul seeking out Timothy (Acts 16:2-3), we need to watch for those to affirm—and at least initiate a conversation about ministry with them.
3. We often struggle with the possibility of sending out our best. After all, we’ve already worked hard to reach people and then equip them. We’ve spent hours with them to prepare them to do ministry—and now we want to encourage them to think about taking steps of faith that might move them beyond our church? At least from a human perspective, it makes little sense to send out our best.
4. Sometimes ministry has been so difficult for us that we’re not sure we want to recommend it for anyone. When you’ve been wounded one too many times, it’s not easy to call the next generation into that potential anguish. Indeed, it’s often easier to discourage rather than encourage them, to push them away from ministry rather than toward it. That personal pain, though, doesn’t eliminate our responsibility to raise up the next generation of church leaders and missionaries.
5. If our church does have some members who are called to ministry, recognizing that reality usually means more work for us. That is, we now must consider how to disciple them, how to give them opportunities to test their giftedness, how to hold them accountable for their spiritual growth, and how to guide them into future preparation like seminary. It’s a lot of work if we take this responsibility seriously.
Here’s my suggestion. Look around to see whose giftedness might suggest a call to ministry. Ask other leaders if they know someone in the church who’s expressed interest in ministry. Preach a message on calling, and invite those who want to know more to have lunch with you. Follow up, and see where the Lord leads. You won’t regret calling out the called when you see God use them among your neighbors and the nations.
Posted on April 26, 2022
Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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I agree, that we, as pastors, should be part of the calling process! However, we’re most often wounded and hardly remember to be involved! I wish the ministry would be less toxic.T
Ministry certainly can be difficult and painful.
I agree with a lot of the observations. Ironically, sending people out often begets people being sent out. In our denomination there are some churches that seem to regularly send lay people to ministry. One observation from a younger member of the congregation was “if they are willing to let Mr. ‘Smith’ (a leader in the congregation) be supported in their ministry and to encourage them to answer their call, I bet they would do the same for me.”
And that health is not lost on both members and newcomers.
I like the list. I especially like the recommendations to pastors/leaders at the end. Practical and actionable. One of the principal duties of the pastor is leading the flock to align themselves with God’s purpose and thus build his kingdom.
I would add one more challenge: We often don’t see the calling to ministry when the ministry does not fit our models, eg. marketplace ministry.
Thanks, Phil. I agree that the additional challenge is indeed a real one.