“Regardless of the circumstances, a person must be ‘God-called,’ and not pastor-called, parent-called or pressure-called.”
One of the questions I’ve been asked multiple times over the years is this: “How do I really know if I’ve been called into the ministry?”
Sometimes this question comes from a teenager or adult wrestling with God’s will for their life. Other times, it comes from someone currently serving in full-time ministry who finds themselves questioning their life’s direction or calling.
For the person who is struggling with the answer to that question, here are some ways that God confirmed in my heart His calling upon my life into the ministry. Hopefully they can help you as well.
1) DESIRE: God is the one who has put it in your heart
I Timothy 3:1 If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
I believe that first and foremost, if a person is called to the ministry, there must be a genuine desire to serve in the ministry. This may be something that comes more naturally for some, while God may have to take more time to “convince” others. (For some people it’s a matter of God’s conviction over time prior to them being convinced over time. But in the end, it still ultimately ends in a desire.)
Regardless of the circumstances, a person must be “God-called,” and not pastor-called, parent-called or pressure-called.
For me, from the time I was just a boy, it was my heart’s desire to follow in the footsteps of my dad, who was (and still is) a pastor. Other than my childhood dream to one day play in the NBA (lol), my heart’s desire and longing was to serve people through the ministry. Where did that desire come from? I believe that God put it in my heart, in addition to using the circumstances around me (my parents’ example and passion) to grow that desire.
For many, the call comes at a specific time in their life when they surrender themselves to God and His calling upon their life to enter the gospel ministry. Every calling will be unique, but every calling will include a God-given desire.
God says clearly that to desire to be in the ministry is a good thing, and that is where a calling must start.
2) GIFTING: Because of your gifting and abilities
I Cor. 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…
Every person in ministry will have different levels of abilities, but there are some certain characteristics and abilities that usually accompany a call to the ministry. (I Timothy 3 is a great place to start for some basic requirements/abilities.)
It is highly unlikely that God is currently calling you into the ministry if you’re still struggling to make it to church from one Sunday to the next or if you’re simply struggling to be faithful as a layman.
As my former pastor, Bill Prater, used to always say…
“When God is looking for someone to call to the ministry, He’s usually going to reach down and pick the best of the best. He’s going to call people who are actively serving, and who will leave a huge gap in the ministry when they’re gone.”
If you’re not currently and actively involved in your local church, that is the best place to start for God to be able to confirm (either way) His calling upon your life.
My dad always used to say, “God doesn’t call the able, He enables the called.” This is so true. No matter what natural God-given abilities a person may or may not possess, God is ultimately the one who enables any of us to serve him in a ministry capacity. He still uses the foolish and weak things of this world.
3) CONFIRMATION: Validation from other godly leaders in your life
Proverbs 11:14 Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
Over the years, I’ve seen many people (young and old) called into the full-time ministry. And one thing that confirms God’s calling upon a person’s life more than possibly any other is when God also confirms that same calling in the heart of their pastor.
If your pastor is not convinced that you are called to the ministry, that is a red flag to be seriously considered. Equally, if your pastor is convinced that you are called to the ministry, that should also be greatly considered before you step out of it.
Although many people are gifted by God with similar talents and abilities, not all are called to full-time ministry. The ministry is not for everyone. The church greatly needs gifted laymen as well. And you would be better to serve as your church’s finest layman than to enter into the ministry uncalled.
If you are unsure of your calling, always seek the godly counsel of the spiritual leaders in your life. God has surrounded you with other people who will be able to recognize and validate God’s calling in your life, or at least steer you in the right direction.
4) PASSION: You can’t see yourself doing anything else
Jeremiah 20:9 But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones… and I could not stay.
If you can go find a secular job to make a living and provide for your family, and be okay with doing that long-term, then that’s exactly what you need to do.
The gospel ministry needs to be a passion within you that you cannot quench. And every time you try, it just keeps coming back.
The last thing that our churches need is more full-time ministers who are only part-time Christians. God’s ministry deserves people who are top-notch, full-throttle, passionate followers of Jesus who strive toward leading others to be the same.
If that is not who you are or who you’re willing to be, than for the sake of God, His kingdom and His Gospel, hang your ministry hat up on the shelf for someone else to wear, be faithful at the job God has given to you and be the best Christian employee at that job that you can possibly be.
God’s work is far too important for us to hem-haw around with whether or not we are serious and all-in. Either we are or we aren’t, and that’s a good indicator of God’s calling as well.
If you’re working outside of the ministry, but your passion for it seems to continue growing, keep praying and pursuing God’s will and godly counsel until He opens the right doors.
If on the other hand, at some time in your life, you knew that God called you into ministry, but that passion and desire has changed, don’t hinder the cause of Christ and hurt the kingdom of God by refusing to let go and move on (even if it’s just for a season).
However, if the reason your passion has waned is because you’re just not walking with God and simply need a spiritual kick in the pants, then get on your face before God, confess your complacency and pick up your sword where you left it!
I Thess. 2:4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak.
If God has called you, then God has trusted you with the most important message and mission that the world has ever known (as he has every Christian). And may we never take that calling lightly.
Hopefully these reminders will be helpful for the person who is wrestling with the call of God upon their life. If that’s you, and you’d like someone to talk to, please feel free to reach out to me. I’d be glad to help.
This article originally appeared here.
Andrew is a husband, the father of four awesome kids, and a children’s pastor at a thriving church. He is passionate about intentional parenting and helping other parents and leaders effectively reach the next generation. He blogs about kids and family at AndrewScottLinder.com, and provides proven resources for VBS and children’s ministry at KidzBlast.com.