When you apply for admission to B. H. Carroll Theological Institute, we want you to supply an indication of your call to ministry. We also ask for a church’s endorsement of that calling. This is not a requirement of an accrediting agency or denomination. We want to know this because your calling is a major reason for answering the question “Why seminary?” We exist to equip men and women for God’s call on their lives through a program of theological education and practice.
In this series of blogs from the lives and ministries of biblical leaders, I want to offer four things God’s call on one’s life can bring to ministry. Paul, the Apostle, will be my example to follow.
The first thing calling brings to you is Mission. When God calls a person to serve in a ministry vocation, this call is the basis for your mission, and mission answers the question, “Why?” Saul of Tarsus lived under the why of protecting the Jewish faith from the Jesus cult which drew people away from the ancient beliefs and practices he defended. After the Risen Lord got Saul’s attention on the road to Damascus, he gave Saul his why for the rest of his life. Jesus said, “…he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” (Acts 9:15; ESV) Saul, who later went by his Gentile name, Paul, described himself as a “…minister according to the stewardship from God that was given me for you, to make the word of God fully known… .” (Colossians 1:25) Calling clarifies mission, and mission is why a minister does what he or she does each day.
The second thing calling brings to your ministry is the Message. We live in a self-centered culture which has affected our message as ministers. We sometimes make our story central to our message rather than the Gospel. We may do this as a way to build a bridge into the lives of our hearers, or, we may have believed the prevalent idea that our story is everyone’s story and our insights from our story equal divine wisdom. Don’t get me wrong. We do connect with our hearers when we are vulnerable and share the lessons we learn from our experiences, but those are not the same as the Gospel. As I quoted the Apostle Paul above, his mission was one of stewardship in order “to make the word of God fully known.” Paul wrote to the Galatians that the Gospel he preached was “not according to man … but [he] received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11, 12) The called one’s message is not his or her own but is sourced in the one who called him or her on mission.
The third thing calling brings to your ministry is Motivation. I have observed that mission is the source of endurance and vision is the source of enthusiasm for a servant leader. God’s mission call on your life provides the motivation for every day and whatever that mission brings you. God’s vision for your ministry or for those you serve and lead motivates you enthusiastically to pursue the greater things God has shown you. A lack of call can result in demotivation and escape when things get dangerous. Jesus warned, “He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd … sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees … he flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (John 10:12, 13) Paul returned to the people of Lystra after he was beaten, dragged out of the city, and left for dead. (Acts 14:19, 20). He wrote to his friends in Philippi that his motivation was to “… press on toward the goal for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13, 14) God’s mission call motivates you to stay in the game even when it looks like the other team is winning.
The fourth thing calling brings to your ministry is Meaning (I could also call this “Identity,” but that word doesn’t begin with the letter M). Call gives your life and ministry meaning—eternal meaning. When you realize the mission you live, the message you speak, and the motivation which gets you out of bed every day is not what you do but who you are, you begin to see the purpose for your life. Paul described himself in several ways which revealed the meaning behind his life and ministry. He saw himself as a “servant of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:1), an “ambassador for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20), an “apostle of Christ” (1 Timothy 1:1), and “a minister (diakonos)” (Colossians 1:25). All of these designations found their source of meaning from Christ’s call on his life. These were not self-designations to set him apart from others. Christ’s call and redemption of his life was the source of meaning for Paul.
The Risen Lord knocked Saul off his horse to get his attention and to call him on mission. I doubt that will be your experience, but my prayer is that you will know of God’s certain call to ministry and also discover all that call brings to your life and ministry.
Serving Him With You,