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?
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.
 Oden, Thomas. Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry, 18-19.