How do I know if I’m called to ministry?

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This is a common question posed by men and women who are feeling a tug to full time vocational ministry. Now, I get it. In one sense we’re all called to ministry. Each of us is called to love our neighbor as ourselves and each of us is called to the ministry of reconciliation that Paul speaks about in 2 Corinthians 5. I’m all for this!

But while each of us is called to ministry in that way, I do believe some are called to pastoral ministry as a vocation. Thomas Oden, in his book, Pastoral Theology, offers some very helpful and probing questions to ask yourself if you think you’ve received a “call” to life-long church ministry.

The questions speak for themselves. They are as follows:

Is my intellectual ability up to it? Can I write complete sentences? Think critically? Spell sacrament? Speak intelligibly? Identify a leap in logic?

Have I learned to pray? Have the means of grace (worship, sacraments, Scripture) begun to be deeply ingrained in my lifestyle?

How much am I willing to give up in order to serve the poor, the alienated, the sick? How deeply have I probed my own willingness to offer my very life sacrificially, if need be?

Am I competent to lead a community of faith? Can I learn to communicate the Christian message with persuasiveness and integrity? Am I cultivating the spiritual disciplines? Am I a person in whom the community of faith can place full trust? Am I capable of becoming a competent interpreter of Scripture?

Am I willing to be instructed by the wisdom of the Christian tradition? Can I reason consistently about faith sufficiently to present the Christian message sensibly to intelligent contemporary people? Can I in good conscience be accountable to the authority of my church body, abide by the demands it places upon its ordained ministry, and be faithful to the vows of ordination? To what extent have my gifts to ministry been tested out in public teaching and service so as to be well received by the believing community?[1]

These questions served as a good gut-check as I read through them. How much am I willing to sacrificially give of myself and what truly are my motives? Oden even suggests that if the reader is unsure in his answers, it might be best to revisit the questions at a later date and allow time for God to further confirm or disprove the calling.

At the end of the day the call to ministry should certainly not to be taken lightly. While no set of questions can provide full assurance that one is “called” to vocational ministry, they can certainly encourage careful reflection.

Here are some additional resources on “calling.”

  • Preston Sprinkle offers a more exegetical study on “calling” here.
  • Kevin DeYoung adds his own set of questions here.

Enjoy!

[1] Oden, Thomas. Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry, 18-19.

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2 thoughts on “How do I know if I’m called to ministry?

  1. Every person calling himself or herself Christian should go out in the world and proclaim the Good News of the coming Kingdom of God. Christians should also come together and hold gatherings and as such are called to minister or to build up an ecclesia.

  2. Reblogged this on Stepping Toes and commented:
    Lots of people do think only theologians may lead the church. they forget that the first churches in Christianity were not lead by theologians nor by very highly educated people, except the ecclesiae lead by Luke and Paul.

    The followers of Christ arranged the meetings to bring and to keep people in the faith. also today it are those who have come into the faith who should arrange meetings and make the best of a service to study the Word of God and to worship God.

    Each believer should take up his or her task according the talents God has given him or her. Each person in the Christian community should remember that it is God Who calls and gives the blessings. We should be pleased with God’s election unto salvation and treat it carefully (Matt 9:13; 1 Cor 1:9; 7:18, 22; Gal 1:6, 15; 1 Thess 2:12; 1 Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 1:9).

    We do have to follow God’s call and have to pursue the mission we are required to fulfil by Jesus Christ, going out into the world proclaiming the Gospel of the coming Kingdom. Those who are married, have no excuse saying they can not be a priest or ‘theologian’. There is no obligation of celibacy. It may be more difficult as a married person to work for God and having a family, needing to work for a living, etc. when we do feel like we should engage ourselves in the work of God we should go for it. We should make work by studying the Bible and not as much all those theological books , writing of human beings, who were themselves not the chosen ones from God. Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Mordecai David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Habakkkuk, Zephania, Zecchariah, Malachi, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter and Jude were the men god has asked to write down His Words. Their writings we should take as the most important study material. Writings of others may be of help, but never may be receiving the priority, like they get at university and theology colleges.

    We always should remember that Jesus asked his disciples to proclaim the Word of God, and that is what each Christian should do. The biblical criteria for being qualified for ministry is not having a degree in theology but is most of all the will to be a servant for God. It is lowering yourself and giving yourself to take any position needed to have an ecclesia or church working and growing. To get life into an ecclesia there has first to be enough desire (1 Tim 3:1) and the right character to help all those in the group of believers.
    (1 Tim 3:2-7).

    God Himself has given the directions for creating, making and keeping a community of believers = an ecclesia or church. We should follow His directions and offer ourselves as a person willing to take up the necessary job in that ecclesia. Please never come with the excuse you are not a theologian, for not having to organise a bible study class, or to bring prayers in front of the community, or to lead a worship service.

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