Are You Really “Called” to Ministry?

The term “called to ministry” has taken on a glorification persona in the modern age. This seems to contradict those in the Bible who were “called” by God; i.e. Moses, Abraham, Noah, the Prophets, etc. It is a difficult and humbling thing to criticize ministry leadership and often terrible blowback is heaped upon those who do. I think this is unfortunate, afterall if the person(s) in question are rightious, criticism should only shine the light upon the truth inherent in his/her ministry. 

I have come to the conclusion that a large portion of those people who claim to be “called” to the ministry do so out of personal choice, not an actual call by God. This brings the term vocational holiness into purview.Vocational holiness can be defined as “following a spiritual quest in contrast to running a religious business.”[1] In this term, we are all called to some form of vocational holiness because we are all called to God, therefore living a life unto the father would be fulfilling some form of vocational holiness.

I do not mean to be skeptical, but I think the field of ministry as a career is oversaturated and festooned with charlatans. This is evident in the answer to the very question that is given; when asked what your ministry is, the typical person will start the answer with “I” or implant some form of “I” in there. If God is the one calling us, He is the one calling the shots and our stake is irrelevant to His divine sovereign will. The nature of ministry as a career or vocation is interlinked and interchangeable; there is no difference anymore: “The antithesis of career idolatry—which is an inappropriate exercise of power and a self-centered attempt to attract constituents—vocational holiness is a Jesus-centered, Jesus-filled calling for ones who will lead like Jesus.”[2] But Jesus-centered ministry is dying out and man-centered calling has transplanted itself in mainstay theology and ministry.

This is where I have strangely seen my pull into ministry, not as shephard but as the overseer. I consider myself an ombudsman in the religious field of puppetry, tomfoolery, and charlatanism. The watchdog on religion has been regaled to atheists and agnostics who have a subjective viewpoint. They want to see leadership in the Christian community fail. They want to see Church leadership fall outside of the boundaries set up by the Bible. Where are the watchdogs of the Christian faith who want to see the Church rise, reclaim its integrity, and lead humanity to a better place? They are non-existent, with the exception of a small few (hattip to Justin Peter’s Ministry). 

The role of the ministry leader is that of example, sacrifice, and service. Those seeking leadership tend to give little credence to this. “Building a ministry based on integrity requires that a minister’s sense of calling and the concept of service be biblical, ethical, and Christlike.[3]” Christ told us to take up our cross daily and follow him. Now, when does this include house parsonages, fancy cars, and huge brick and mortar facilities? This goes to my original argument that more people seem to be called to the ministry than should be. With the tax incentives and perks, a vocation in the ministry can be rather benefitial, if not lavish.

I think that most roles in the ministry should not be a profession but a service to God. After all, the “conviction about the will of God is more than a choice of career based on personality inventories; it is an acknowledgment of a divine appointment.”[4] Like Moses, Abraham, Jonah, etc. these appointments are done out of necessity and were all taken up with extreme reluctance. I have spent years studying alongside potential leaders in the faith community and so far, I have yet to hear of any reluctance in their role as leaders. Just the opposite, I see a great deal of eagerness to lead, regardless of the theological foundations. It seems as if all are vying for the limelight in a leadership capacity. My view is that a faithful person to God will go as he is directed, but the Bible shows a history of God calling those who do not wish to go but do so in obedience and faith.

If the role of leadership is in response to God’s call, the choice of lifestyle will be that of tribulation, faith-testing, and discomfort. This is what you see throughout the New Testament. The leaders suffered for their calling, as Jesus suffered for His sacrifice, and he was the only one who should not have. Leadership should suffer, this should be the calling card of true leadership in the Church. Instead, we see leadership as glorified, revered, and adulated. Where are the limits set in leadership? Many times, we find the leaders setting the limits; “many sincere, dedicated believers struggle with tremendous confusion about when it is biblically appropriate to set limits.[5]” God sets the limits for leadership, not man. I ask, what faith tradition is espousing true biblical leadership in the Church?

Although my views are a bit cynical in nature and hazardous to most Christian leadership, my position is in opposition to mainstay Christian regulars. What society or Christianity finds regular; I tend to look at the irregular. Christ told us:

 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.  Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)

This is a potent proclamation and call to arms of all who wish to follow Christ. How much more should it be for our leadership?

Bibliography

Cloud, Henry, and John Sims Townsend. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.

Peterson. “Vocational Holiness Versus Career Idolatry.” Week 1. Reading, n.d. Accessed July 15, 2018. https://myclasses.southuniversity.edu/d2l/le/content/31677/viewContent/991105/View.

Trull, J E, and J E Carter. Ministerial Ethics: Moral Formation for Church Leaders. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004.

Footnotes:

[1] Weekly lecture notes on week one by Peterson. “Vocational Holiness Versus Career Idolatry.” Week 1. Reading, n.d. Accessed July 15, 2018. https://myclasses.southuniversity.edu/d2l/le/content/31677/viewContent/991105/View.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Trull, J E, and J E Carter. Ministerial Ethics: Moral Formation for Church Leaders. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 24.

[4] Ibid, 24.

[5] Cloud, Henry, and John Sims Townsend. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), page not available.

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