You’re at camp or in a church service or reading your Bible when suddenly you feel a strange tugging on your heart. It feels like God is asking you to do something, maybe something very specific. Like:
Go to the foreign mission field or . . .
Study children’s ministry or . . .
Funnel your musical gifts into a career leading worship.
And suddenly you’re faced with the question: Am I called into the ministry? Gulp!
How can you know for sure if God is calling you into the ministry? And if He is, what should you do next?
A Very Short Blog Post
The answer to the question, “Am I called into the ministry?” is shockingly simple. It’s yes! Leave us a comment below with your questions. Just kidding! If we just looked at the bottom line, that sure would make a short blog post, but let’s peel back the layers.
Check out 1 Peter 4:10: “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (NLT).
You have been given specific spiritual gifts, and God’s Word asks you to use them for the good of the Church. Whether that’s music, teaching, or administrative gifts, God has called each of us to be busy using our gifts to build up the Body of Christ and fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples (Matt. 28:16–20).
Consider that one piece of the ministry puzzle. Here’s another one:
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Col. 3:23).
God’s Word asks us to consider all work ministry and all work worship. You don’t have to go to Bible college to be in ministry. You don’t have to work at a church to be in ministry. You don’t ever have to have your passport stamped to be in ministry. You don’t even have to graduate high school to be in ministry. When we work hard and seize every opportunity to shine a spotlight on Christ, we can do “ministry” in every job.
And we need to! Here’s why . . .
Bursting the Bubble
Consider this for a moment: What if Christians only worked in jobs that were officially faith-based? What if we only pursued careers like missionaries, children’s ministers, and student ministry interns?
How would we influence non-believers if we never stepped outside the bubble?
We need Christians working and serving and having an impact in every corner of our culture.
We need Christians in every field. We need Christian doctors and Christian lawyers, Christian teachers and Christian scientists. We need Christians in marketing, in publishing, and in the technology sector. We need Christians working and serving and having an impact in every corner of our culture. After all . . .
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14).
God asks us to be the light of the world, not just the light of the Church. If you use your gifts, work with excellence and integrity, share the gospel, and proclaim your faith, you are doing ministry no matter what your official job title is. We desperately need an army of young women who will minister faithfully on (and off) the job!
But what if you’re feeling a tug toward full-time vocational ministry?
As a full-time writer, a full-time mom, part-time speaker, and part-time director of women’s ministry at my church, vocational ministry is my more-than-full-time gig. My paychecks come from other ministry organizations. No one is more surprised by this career path than me. (I thought I was going to be a dental hygienist!) And it didn’t happen all at once. Slowly, over time, God reshaped my career path by presenting opportunities for me to work for the Church.
With each step I’ve faced an internal battle. Ministry was never a part of my dreams, and I’m amazed and, at times, alarmed that this is the path God has set my feet upon for now. So how did I know this was what I should do? Looking back, I can see there were three major sources of confirmation.
1. God’s Word.
The more I read God’s Word, the more I see that true faith means giving God everything, including my hopes and dreams for my career. As I opened my hands and surrendered more and more to Him, He changed my career goals.
2. Other Christians.
Other Christians recognized the possibilities in me that I didn’t see. My husband, Jason, is the one who encouraged me to be a writer. It’s a long and precious story that I will save for another day, but when I didn’t feel capable to write a single sentence worth reading, he created an adorable office for me, prayed for me, and told me to get to work. Without his influence I never would have attempted to write for God’s glory. More than a dozen books and thousands of blog posts later, I’m grateful for that nudge!
My pastor spent more than a year patiently encouraging me to join the staff at my church. I finally accepted the job with more than a little internal kicking and screaming. I didn’t see the gifts he saw. Eventually I took the leap.
Is there someone in your life encouraging you to use specific gifts? Have your parents or youth leaders mentioned your role in a specific area of ministry? Listen up!
3. A weird restlessness.
There’s this other thing that has happened for me that is much harder to define. When I worked other jobs (I was a newspaper reporter, a high school social studies teacher, and a professional speaker for a college recruiting organization), I worked hard and shared my faith, but I couldn’t shake a sense of restlessness. It was a feeling that “this isn’t it.” Looking back, I think that was the Holy Spirit nudging me toward a career change.
Now that I work in ministry full-time, there are still lots of hard days. There are plenty of days I want to jump ship and go back to my desk at the newsroom, but I don’t have that same ache. I know I am where I need to be, doing what I need to be doing for now.
As you pick a college major or start work in a specific field, you may feel a nagging sense that God is redirecting you. Don’t ignore that feeling. Ask the Lord to give you clarity. But don’t jump ship just yet either. God has used those years when I was wasn’t in full-time ministry in more ways than I could ever tell you. Keep listening. Keep obeying. And humbly wait for God to make the next step on the path crystal clear.
Better Than a Paycheck
At the end of the day, I’m grateful that God has allowed the gifts He has given me and my passions for you and for His Word to be used in my day job. Meaningful work is a tremendous gift that I don’t ever want to take for granted.
Laying down my dreams and picking up the dreams God has for me has proven to be the best trade I’ve ever made.
There’s a quote from missionary Helen Roseveare that sits on my desk that sums up serving in ministry better than I ever could.
Looking back, one has tried to ‘count the cost,’ but I find it all swallowed up in privilege. The cost suddenly seems very small and transient in the greatness and permanence of privilege.
Whether in vocational ministry or as a volunteer.
Whether we serve in a village in Africa or in a Sunday school classroom on Main Street.
Whether we have one career our whole lives or many.
Serving God is an absolute, unbelievable privilege.
Serving God is an absolute, unbelievable privilege. It’s an honor to be asked to use our gifts to bring Him glory and spread His gospel. If you’re sensing a call to pursue full-time ministry, say “yes!” There will be a cost, but like Helen, you will find it swallowed up in the privilege. If you’re already working in a sector outside of the ministry or you plan to pursue a career in that direction, that’s great! Just plan to work your guts out for God’s glory. We need people of faith to live like Jesus on (and off) the job.
Let’s get to work!