As you revisit your own call to ministry, take time to both celebrate it and call out the called wherever you serve.
By Mark Dance
How old were you when God called you into the ministry? A few months ago, I floated that question on social media and was surprised by the sheer number of responses. Although I only asked their ages, many celebrated their calls as they fondly looked back on them.
It didn’t surprise me that most said they were teenagers when they first heard God’s call. I was sixteen. And I clearly remember two dynamics that Sunday evening in my bedroom: clarity and calm. Soon after, I experienced confirmation of my call, which was encouraging, followed by some confusion, which was discouraging.You are likely to experience clarity, calm, confirmation and confusion related to your call to ministry. — @markdance Click To Tweet
At some point, you’ll likely experience all four of these dynamics in your call to ministry as well. As you revisit your own call to ministry, I pray you’ll both celebrate it and call out the called wherever you serve.
1. The clarity in my call to ministry
I was not on a quest for a career path in 1981 when God called me into the ministry. I had just gotten my driver’s license, so other things were on my mind—like tennis and dating. At the time, I was a relatively new Christian and wasn’t sure where I wanted to go to college or what my major would be.
Yet, God spoke to me as clearly as I’ve ever heard Him. When someone answers God’s call to ministry, they’re rarely clear on exactly what that call will look like. However, what’s clear is their sense of purpose for their lives. When that happens to someone in our ministries, we need to be ready to help them embrace and celebrate it and to equip them to fulfill it.
2. The calmness in my call
People’s experiences with God’s call are as unique as each person’s call to salvation. Some have dramatic burning bush experiences, while others, like me, experience an inaudible voice in quiet solitude. An angel or talking bush would’ve had me swimming in whale guts!
Whether you heard God’s still, small voice or a booming voice—celebrate that Jesus chose to place you in a position of leadership to advance His gospel.Whether you heard God’s still, small voice or a booming voice—celebrate that Jesus chose to place you in a position of leadership to advance His gospel. — @markdance Click To Tweet
“I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because he considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry…” (1 Timothy 1:12, CSB).
Ask God to take you back to that place and to “guard your [heart] and [mind] in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, CSB).
3. The confirmation of my call to ministry
When I shared my call to ministry with my student pastor and senior pastor, they were both supportive, rather than surprised. My parents were supportive, but they were also surprised and perhaps a little skeptical. Who can blame them since I was a teenager, the least verbal person in our family, and a mediocre student? They eventually became my greatest cheerleaders and took every opportunity to tell me how proud they were of me.
Last summer, I was privileged to visit several youth camps in Oklahoma. Over the course of the summer, over 2,600 students were saved and over 600 answered God’s call to the ministry. At the same time, I was preparing for the launch of Oklahoma Baptists’ Ministry Pipeline, a network of over 100 mentoring cohorts ranging from the 10th grade through the 10th year of ministry. Each Ministry Pipeline cohort is currently being led by a seasoned pastor who’s connecting with them in person or online every month during the school year to prepare them for their life and ministry. I was a part of a similar cohort in high school that the staff of my home church led. This was an encouraging confirmation of my call to ministry.
What about now? Are you ready to help those who say “yes” to God’s call to ministry?
4. The confusion since my call
Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the number of pastors stepping down from ministry. Many discuss it as if this were a crisis churches are facing. But this past year, pastors and the general population considered leaving their jobs at similar rates.
I think it’s normal to consider leaving your job—ministry or otherwise. Paul warned Timothy to “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2, CSB)—because both seasons are a reality in ministry.We all desire to finish our ministry race well. But this is hard when we’re living overspent. — @markdance Click To Tweet
Comparing 2015 and 2021 studies, Lifeway Research found less than 2% of pastors leave the pulpit each year. And they do so for many different reasons. I realize we may not have experienced all of the fallout from COVID yet, but pastors aren’t quitters. Jesus is faithful to pastors, and pastors have a 2,000-year track record of being faithful to Jesus and His bride.
Although pastors face spiritual needs and wrestle with their call to ministry, I don’t think the pessimistic predictions of pastoral exits are accurate. Still, pastors desperately need to be recharged this summer. We all desire to finish our ministry race well. But this is hard when we’re living overspent.
Consider dedicating time away to revisit your call to ministry and catch your breath. Also, make time this summer to connect with people who can re-fan your flame before ministry kicks back into high gear this fall.