“That could never be me. I could never be called to ministry. That’s for someone else.”
We are so quick to congratulate the pastor who devotes his life to sharing the gospel while subconsciously putting him in an untouchable category of “elite Christian.” Somehow we’ve turned “calling” into a lofty, unattainable thing. It seems like a call to ministry is only for those who see a vision or hear God audibly, and have unwavering confidence that He’s leading them toward a specific role or position. But if every pastor waited for a voice from heaven, we would have very few pastors.
Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19 ESV). That command was not only for pastors or teachers of the Bible or missionaries. It was—and is—for every human being who claims Christ as Lord and Savior. Every believer shares the same call to make disciples, including the pastor behind the pulpit and you.
That being said, where we exercise God’s call could look different. Ephesians 4:11–12 says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and the teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
God often works and directs our steps through ordinary means. Discerning a call to vocational ministry usually starts with prayerfully considering our desires. Has God broken your heart for those not meaningfully connected to the church? Has He burdened you to care for His people? Do you ache for the Bible to be communicated, heard, and understood? The answers to these questions can help you discern a call to ministry.
But it can’t stop with our desires. We need our community to be involved too. Other people often know us better than we know ourselves. They can affirm the desires God is stirring in us and cheer us on. They can point out potential stumbling blocks present in vocational ministry or help us see where we still need to grow.
Discerning a call to ministry is more than prayer, desire, and community, but it’s not less. If these three elements are present, we can enter one of the most helpful phases of discernment—just doing it. There is no substitute for the knitty-gritty, everyday work of vocational ministry. Having space to fail, room to grow, and practical, on-the-job experiences allow you to discern if vocational ministry is where God intends you to go.
That’s our hope with The Austin Stone Residency Program. By participating in it, you can discern what the will of the Lord is, His good and pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2). He says to acknowledge Him in all our ways, and He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5–6).
What does acknowledging God in all your ways look like for you today? Could it be prayer? Recognizing your desires and sharing them with your community? Or could it be applying to be a resident with The Austin Stone? We can’t answer those questions for you, but we trust God will make your next step of faith clear so that you can take it.