How do you really know you are called to ministry leadership or to a specific ministry assignment? Life is dynamic. God works in different ways with circumstances unique to each person. Our understanding is often murky, not always crystal clear. Discernment is required to really know God is calling.
You are in a relationship with God, an ever-changing process of learning from him, understanding his ways, and discovering more and more about him. This means a call process can be confusing. You struggle to be sure you are hearing from God because you know the life-altering consequences of your decision. This is one issue we all really need to get right.
Over the years, I have spoken with dozens of ministry leaders about their call experiences. These discussions revealed some common denominators among their calling. These commonalities are helpful when discerning either a call to ministry leadership or a call to a specific ministry assignment. They are signposts to help to help you find your way to a conclusive answer to the essential question “Is God Calling me?”
The importance of inner peace or inner conviction about your call can’t be overstated. When God calls, you will come to a core conviction you have heard him speak and you must obey. You will then be able to move steadfastly forward, buffered against opposition and turmoil resisting your call, with quiet confidence God is leading you. The peace of God “which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). An inner conviction about your call can give you strength to endure anything—from verbal abuse to financial struggles to martyrdom.
Confirmation by Others
God can also confirm his call through other people. Sometimes this can be a direct message. Most of the time, however, this confirmation takes other forms. Sometimes it’s informal confirmation. For example, a fellow believer might compliment your effectiveness in ministry and ask whether you have ever considered God might be calling you to ministry leadership. Or, perhaps you go on a mission trip and do an exceptional job relating to people of a different culture. As a result, the host missionary challenges you to consider a call to missions. These informal comments are often the way God first gets our attention or confirms prior impressions about considering his call.
Effectiveness in Ministry
Another way to discover whether God is calling you is to evaluate your effectiveness in ministry. Younger people may not have much experience to measure, but they can still analyze the smaller sample size of the results they have achieved. More mature believers, perhaps persons considering God’s call after many years in secular employment but active in church participation, have a longer track record to guide them. Effectiveness in ministry doesn’t mean stellar success in everything you have attempted. It means you have seen God work through, appropriate to your skill level and opportunity, to effect spiritual results in people’s lives.
Joy in Ministry
God-called leaders have bad days, but for the most part, ministry leadership is a joy for them. They like people and enjoy being part of developing them into the image of Jesus. God-called ministry leaders find joy in the ministry.
Ministry is draining. People can be extremely difficult but ministry is a people business. Ministry leadership involves celebrating weddings, anniversaries, graduations, and memorial services. It’s baptisms, mission trips, church socials, and ministry projects. If that brings you joy and fuels your passion, if you can’t imagine anything more fulfilling, then perhaps God is calling you to ministry leadership.
As God shapes your understanding of his call, be sure you are listening for his voice alone—even as he speaks through people and guides through circumstances. Be sure you aren’t pursuing ministry leadership to meet personal need. Discern how God is working to reveal his call—or not—and respond in obedience to him.