Famed British preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, is reputed to have said, “If God calls you to preach, do not stoop to be king.”
The concept of God’s call to ministry has recently fallen onto hard times. It seems that in our noble efforts to maximize all work and the importance of all believers to view their vocations as unto the Lord, we have downplayed the idea that God calls some into specific ministries. Personally, I have as vivid a memory of my call to gospel ministry as I do of my salvation. Both events are markers in my life and shape the way I think. Now, over the years the details of this call have shifted, from ministry in the local church, to the mission field, and now into the academy to train young men and women for ministry, however there has never been a shift from serving in the ministry of the Gospel for the church. The last two sentences are not intended as self–promotion or validation by experience. Rather, they provide some flesh onto my understanding of a call to ministry.
All believers experience are called to follow Christ–a call to salvation and a call to sanctification. Christians can rest in the sovereign work of God and know that our current place in life can be for his glory and we are to live a life on mission. However, the scriptures also indicate that some people experience a more specific call into a full–time service of the gospel and the church. This is the call Spurgeon speaks of and it is also the one that we hope all of our pastors, professors, and missionaries have experienced. Before we jettison this call, I want to point out several reasons for not neglecting this important part of Christian living.
The call of God orders the life of the called — When God calls, obedience to this call requires us to adjust our lives. Obeying God’s call means that we cannot live as others do.
The call of God gives courage in the face of difficulty — Ministry is difficult and is filled with different stressors as we confront issues created by sin and sinners. When a person is called by God, they will not be easily swayed. The power of the gospel and the glory of God becomes a consuming passion.
The call of God refuses to let us quit — It is true that many who accept God’s call do not finish well. Some because of disqualification. Some because of distraction. However, quitting is not an acceptable option. When God has called a person to serve the church or the mission field, the call is to finish not quit. When you have answered God’s call, let him strengthen you to stick with it.
The call of God is the strength of the church — The church of Jesus Christ, both established and being planted, relies on God called and gifted leaders. A church can only be as healthy as her leaders and these leaders are strengthened by God’s call.
How do you understand God’s call?
What other benefits might God’s call provide?
Scott Hildreth is the director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies. He frequently speaks on issues of missions, spiritual formation, missiology, and theology. Scott also contributes to SEBTS faculty blog www.betweenthetimes.com