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?