Make Sure You’re Supposed To Be Here, part one

This post begins a four-part series on calling to ministry.

Not everyone is supposed to be in ministry.
Not everyone is supposed to be in seminary.

This may seem a little insulting as a starting point, but hang with me for a bit.

Your true fitness for a life of ministry will be tested. It’s inevitable. Seminary is the first of those tests. The multiple stresses of seminary function very much like an Organic Chemistry does for would-be med students. It’s a “weeding out” class. Not everyone can cut it. And many times, flunking Organic Chemistry is how they get the message.

Unfortunately, the weeding process for ministry isn’t as clear cut as a poor grade in a critical class. If only it were! The true weeding out happens gradually, and often painfully. I’ve seen people in ministry that I and others could easily tell weren’t supposed to be there, but sometimes it took them 10 or 15 years to figure it out.

For most Christians and churches, the idea of divine calling to ministry isn’t understood very well. It’s mysterious. Nebulous. Ethereal. Hard to nail down. So when someone in the church claims to have a call of God on their lives to lead in ministry, people don’t usually question it. They accept it uncritically, and assume that the called person has it right.

And admittedly, genuine calling from God is… well, supernatural. You can’t analyze it too closely.

But that does not mean it’s not important. I believe the call to ministry is a real thing, that it comes from God, and it can be rightly discerned by mature believers in Christ. I also believe it’s important. A person who wants to lead in Christian ministry ought to have a divine call on their lives that goes beyond the general call to ministry that is incumbent on every follower of Christ.

Unfortunately, there are lots of people who pursue ministry careers without a divine calling. My hunch is that most churches will recommend anyone to seminary who claims to be called, without seriously examining whether in fact they are.

Since you’re at seminary, I’m assuming that you intend to lead in Christian ministry in some capacity. (There may be some exceptions among seminary students these days; there are lots of innovative degrees aimed at laypeople.)

If you are going into ministry, it is imperative that you have a clear calling from God to do so. I say this for your sake, and for the sake of the church and the kingdom. People who get into ministry without a genuine, divine calling to it put themselves, their families, and the church in danger.

If you’re in seminary, it’s important that you make sure you’re supposed to be there.
In my next post, I’ll talk a little bit about how true divine calling can be examined and authenticated. But I’ll leave you with this question:

Has your calling to ministry been examined? When and by whom?

9 Replies to “Make Sure You’re Supposed To Be Here, part one”

  1. I John 5:11-13 really helped me nail down the security of my salvation. There’s no question for me there. Even though I struggle at reflecting Christ in my life, I know He is in my life. “Calling” is tough. In talking with the IMB, a definitive “call” was one of the necessities of missionary appointment (which is probably a good requirement!). However, how do we separate calling from obedience especially when it relates to evangelism? True born again Bible believing Christians are commanded to share the gospel, pray, study God’s Word, grow in our faith, etc. etc. Isn’t this the purpose of seminary? Aren’t we all called? Should all believers attend seminary to assist them in their personal growth even if they aren’t “called” to attend seminary?

    I don’t know that my calling has been formally examined, but I’m sure many have formed their opinions. How do you set up an honest examination by someone qualified to examine?

  2. Josh, some of your questions will be addressed in upcoming parts of this post, so I’ll save some of my responses.

    I do believe that the calling to ministry *leadership* is separate from the general command to believers to minister.

    “Let not many of you become teachers, because as such we will incur greater condemnation.” (James 3:1)

  3. I agree ministry leadership is different than believers’ obedience. I’m trying to focus on the distinctness of calling to ministry and seminary attendance. Dr. Albert Moeller made what I thought was a pretty bold statement at the SBTS preview conference last spring. He said that at some level the attendance increase at Southern was due to the failure of the local church to adequately educate believers in the Bible, theology, morality, etc. The relevancy to this post is that some seminarians may be fleeing to seminary because of the inadequacy of their home church to preach the Word of God. After seminary, ministry is “the thing to do.” Your point of confirming your calling to MINISTRY is HUGE.

  4. You know, I remember hearing Mohler comment on on the church-seminary link. I think someone told me that he had said he hoped for the day when seminaries were unnecessary because the churches picked up the baton. Pretty interesting.

    I think the difficulty for the American church going there is that the expectations for discipleship are ridiculously low. Frankly, I’d like to teach church history, philosophy of religion and elementary Greek at our church…but who’d come? And how in the midst of running programs would I prepare?

    Having said that, however, when I look at the Puritan Resurgence (my term for it) among younger ministers and its attendant virtues, I could see a day when that kind of scholarship and study became normal again in local church life. The rising generation of leaders gives me hope.

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