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6 Questions to Consider If You’re Called to Full-Time Ministry

After graduating from Bible college and seminary, my husband Andrew and I stayed in touch with many of our friends—people with whom we dreamed of and prepared for ministry.

Within a matter of years, however, many of our friends had left ministry indefinitely. These are not all sad stories—some have felt a call by God to be elsewhere, but most cases are filled with immense pain, loneliness, anger, and sometimes even emotional and spiritual trauma.

We have been left asking: Why are so many pastors and leaders in the church leaving their ministries—men and women who once “knew” they were called to vocational ministry? What is the difference between these brothers and sisters and a sustained long-term ministry?

Andrew and I have talked about this a lot, especially now that he has been a lead pastor for several years. Our discussions have led us to some important questions that we believe will help Christians better discern whether or not they are called to full-time ministry.

If you are thinking about entering vocational ministry, Andrew and I pray that the following six considerations can help you think through your excitement with biblical wisdom. And for those currently in ministry, we hope that they will greatly encourage you and assist you as you press on faithfully.

 

1. Am I called?

My dad has been a pastor since I was young. He always says that ministry is the hardest thing that someone can ever do but that it is completely worth it. Though we have been in ministry for only a few years, Andrew and I have already found this to be true.

Ministry—whether full-time or part-time—is often so difficult that without a clear confirmation from the Holy Spirit, there is no way we will stay in the trenches when war comes. We will  begin to question if we heard the Lord correctly, if our mentors were wrong, or if there is something else we could be doing with our skills and education.

So, how can we know whether we are called to full-time ministry?

Here are two ways that helped re-affirmed our calling, and we hope you find them similarly fruitful:

  • We prayed and fasted to seek confirmation from God. Fasting is often used in Scripture to show a sincere desire to know God’s will or receive His deliverance (Joel 2:12, Ezra 8:21-23, Psalm 35:13). This desire is greater than whatever we might give up sacrificially (it was usually food in Scripture). As we fasted, God unified Andrew and my desires to serve Him full-time, and increased our joy in moving in that direction! What an affirmation this was.
  • People we respect in leadership and ministry affirmed our gifts. We kept in mind (and still do) that just because we want to do something doesn’t mean we are good or effective at it. We all need to sincerely ask ourselves, do people we respect agree with us regarding our calling and gifts? If they do not, we should slow down and re-evaluate.

 

2. Am I prepared to be judged more strictly?

James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”.

Whether we are teaching passively—holding a leadership role as others watch our actions—or actively through preaching, teaching, or writing, James 3:1 should cause all of us to regularly pause and reflect on our hearts, asking:

  • Am I actively living a life of repentance before the Lord?
  • Am I actively seeking to live in a way that is above reproach?
  • Do I eagerly accept honest feedback from mentors even if it is uncomfortable?

If we answer “no” to any of these questions, we should think again before placing ourselves into ministry leadership. We all sin (1 John 1:8), but the call of being judged more strictly requires any leader to be soberly aware of the danger of complacency and be actively putting to death sin in their life (Romans 8:13).

 

3. Do I desire to please God and not people?

Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

In ministry, we often have to make decisions that may not please everyone. Because of this, we must make sure that our desire to please God outweighs the discomforts of displeasing men.

My husband was once asked to marry a couple where one was a Christian but the other was not. We felt that this was something we could not do in clear conscience before the Lord. The bride’s parents were extremely angry with us and uninvited us to the wedding. Several members of the elder board made their disapproval blatantly known to us as well.

When people attack us or dislike something in our ministry, they are often challenging not only our method or ability, but that which we hold most dear—our theology, our training, and our calling. No matter how lonely it becomes, we must be willing to be uncomfortable before man so that we can be blameless before God.


4. Have I been properly trained?

Andrew, as well as many other teachers I have known, have shared with me the weight they feel each week as they preach or teach—realizing that the words they speak are representing the very words of God. This weight should never go away.

Because teachers are called to accountability, those of us who lead—specifically those of us who teach—should pursue training so that we can understand and handle Scripture correctly.  The words of 2 Timothy 2:15 need to ring loudly in our ears: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker. . . who correctly handles the word of truth” (emphasis added).

In order to correctly handle Scripture, we should have at least some form of training in it, and be continually learning and growing through reading solid books, listening to sermons, attending conferences—relying not on our own understanding within a vacuum, but on the training and knowledge of those who have devoted their lives to understanding the Word.

 

5. Do I have a mentor?

When Andrew and I went through a very difficult season of ministry, a couple of veteran pastors were our lifelines.

During this time, my husband kept in close contact with these respected men—they had enough distance from our situation to think clearly and point us both to Scripture and to their decades of experience. They kindly corrected us when we needed to change something, and were fellow soldiers cheering us on to faithfulness in this difficult time. Without these men, it is very possible we would not have remained in ministry long term because of the pain we endured that season.

Mentoring is vital to a successful ministry. In order to withstand the highs and lows well, we must seek the wisdom and support of those who have gone before us. Find veteran pastors or pastor’s wives, or those who have done what you desire to do long-term (e.g., children’s ministry or eldership)—people who are able to tell you when you are wrong, and who also have the clarity to tell you when you need to hold firm.

 

6. Is my family or spouse 100% on board?

Being involved in the church—even if we have an unbelieving spouse—is the call of all believers. However, if you are married and are entering vocational ministry, this must be a call shared by your spouse. We may not necessarily both be vocationally involved in the work, but because of one spouse’s position, the other spouse will naturally be looked to as a leader, as an example, and as a source of wisdom.

Without the support of our spouse and family cheering us on, surviving the hardships above would be nearly impossible, and the loneliness suffocating. The prayers, encouragements, and championing of our families are lifelines in ministry.

This is why we must be willing to prioritize time nurturing these relationships. Because Andrew has chosen to block out time to intentionally build his relationship with our family, we are readily excited to support him when he’s able to do ministry because we’ve been invested into. Doing ministry as a family can be such a tremendous joy!

 

With this one life we have been given, may we all be found faithful in that which God has called us. If there is anything else you would like to do in life, anything else you may be gifted in, any other calling that excites you, do it well and do it for the glory of God!

However, if you truly feel called to full-time ministry, not only will the Holy Spirit walk with you each step of the way, but you are in for an exciting, worthwhile and eternally impactful life! The relationships we can build walking side by side with brothers and sisters in Christ, loving on others and battling against evil will truly be bonds that are unparalleled to any other relationship we have.

Ministry is precious and being called to it is a unique gift. My husband and I have no regrets about giving our lives to this calling and cannot imagine doing anything else with the years we have been given.

5 Things To Look For In A Mentor

Written By Deborah Fox, Australia

I wasn’t born when The Karate Kid was first released, but I’m thankful for the many opportunities I’ve had to watch it growing up. It taught me the importance of listening to the wisdom and advice of those who were older and more experienced. The seasoned sensei, Mr Miyagi, uses repetitive, everyday tasks—like painting the fence and waxing the car—to prepare his young protege, Daniel, with the skills he needed for his first karate tournament. It took time and incredible patience, but eventually the training paid off.

In a similar way, Christian mentoring is about allowing the skills and experience of those who have gone before us to help us grow more into the people God created us to be. Mentors are advisors we can look up to and trust.

I have been meeting with my mentor, Sarah, once a month, and it has not been the intimidating process I once feared it to be. You see, I used to have this idea that Christian mentoring would demand a high level of time and effort that would leave me mentally and emotionally exhausted. But that hasn’t been my experience at all.

When Sarah and I meet, we catch up in one other’s homes or at a local cafe. Over a coffee and a few laughs, we discuss how I’m doing with my health, job, family, and walk with God. We’ve also been reading through the book of Ruth together and looking at how the stories of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz shape their identities. Growing in my understanding of who I am in Christ is something I would like to work on, and I’m so grateful Sarah is helping me on that journey.

Mentoring relationships may look quite different for other people. But for the most part, a mentor is a guide who can disciple you as you draw closer to God. There’s a different level of respect and trust than those of family or friends. Mentors encourage you to grow into the person God is calling you to be. They’re not your counselor or teacher, but their wisdom and experience in life and faith can help shape your journey as a follower of Christ. They encourage you and walk alongside you as you develop spiritual disciplines such as prayer, reading the Bible, and spending time with God.

One of the best examples of mentoring in the Bible is the relationship between Paul and Timothy. They traveled together, and Paul recognized Timothy’s passion for the gospel and gift of leadership. Paul shares his own experiences with Timothy, being vulnerable with his young protege to model humility and grace (1 Timothy 1:15-16). He also encourages him to hold firm to his faith and keep doing the work he was called to despite being young (1 Timothy 4:11). Paul knew that, by training Timothy in spiritual maturity, he could help others to do the same. We all need a mentor like Paul to guide us in our walk with God and become mature disciples.

So what should you look for in a mentor? Here are a few things I’ve discovered along the way which might help you in your search:

 

1. Mutual Trust and Confidentiality

Journeying with another person requires sharing some of the deepest parts of your life—sharing your struggles, fears, and dreams. You need to have confidence in one another and mutual respect.

I had this in mind when I approached Sarah. We served together on the same Sunday School team, and I got the opportunity to know her as a more mature follower of Jesus. She shared her story with me and I was amazed by how many similar struggles we’d both experienced.

When my church encouraged everyone to seek a mentor, Sarah was an obvious choice for me. She understood me, and I knew I could trust her implicitly. Similarly, when Sarah shares personal things about her life with me, she knows that I will always keep our discussions in confidence.

 

2. Spiritual Maturity

It almost goes without saying, but you need to seek out a mentor who practices what they preach.

Hebrew 13:7 says to “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” If you are to model yourself on someone else’s actions, you need to agree with the example they are setting. Do they attend a Bible study? Are they living with integrity? Do they put God first in the decisions they make? Are they generous, loving, and passionate about the gospel? Are the spiritual fruits of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control evident in their lives (Galatians 5:22-23)?

If your potential mentors are not actively living out the faith they proclaim, cross them off your list. Sarah is someone I want to emulate. She shines the light of Christ by the way she lives, and it makes me want to improve my own faith.

 

3. Relationship Boundaries

It’s important to like and admire someone you spend one-on-one time with, but boundaries are important when it comes to choosing a mentor.

Years ago, a woman I worked with offered to mentor me. She wasn’t much older than me, and we had a number of mutual friends we would hang out with. While I enjoyed catching up with her, it was difficult to maintain an easy-going friendship while simultaneously being mentored by her. We also tended to fall into the trap of gossiping about people we both knew, and I would come away from our time together feeling like I had more issues to work through than when we first began.

Just like the relationship between Paul and Timothy, I would recommend choosing an older mentor removed from your regular friend groups, someone who is able to look objectively into your life and provide sound advice. If you feel like your relationship limits how much you can share with them, don’t chose them as your mentor.

 

4. A Good Listener

There is a well-known saying that God gave us one mouth and two ears for a reason. We should be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). While your mentor will no doubt have good advice for you along the way, it is also important that they listen to you and that you feel comfortable opening up to them. When someone understands where you’re coming from, they can offer you the best kind of support.

As someone being mentored, you also need to hone your listening skills and be willing to take on advice to improve. And know that your mentor’s advice comes from a place of love.

However, bear in mind that a mentor is not necessarily an expert. They may provide helpful advice and feedback, but they’re not infallible. A good mentor will be aware of this and be open to rebuke. You may also find that your mentor is able to learn new insights from spending time with you.

 

5. Someone Who Will Both Encourage and Challenge You

As disciples of Jesus, our faith cannot stay in a state of infancy. We need to keep growing and developing as we expand our knowledge of God’s Word and deepen our walk with Him. We are encouraged to move from spiritual milk onto solid food—an active faith of substance (1 Corinthians 3:2-3). Having a mentor has helped me to see how I was neglecting my regular quiet time with God. I’m now making a conscious effort to block out time each day to be still and talk with my heavenly Father. This has brought to light aspects of my character I would like to improve, but has also given me confidence to use the unique gifts God has given me for His glory.

 

Having someone help me navigate through life from a Christian perspective has been invaluable. Are there areas of your faith you would like to grow in? Why not consider finding a mentor? There may be people within your church or workplace you could approach. Youth leaders may know some older people in the congregation you could connect with. You might like to meet someone for a coffee and get to know them a bit better first, before you decide whether you want to pursue an ongoing mentor/mentee relationship.

Jesus’ call in the Great Commission (Matt 28:19) is not to make lukewarm fans, but disciples who actively imitate the life and teaching of Christ. The training of disciples also creates a multiplication effect as they are then able to train and invest in the lives of others. Like it says in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Finding a mentor may be one of the best decisions you make as you grow in spiritual maturity and help others to do the same.

A Call to All Women This Mother’s Day

I have a lot to be thankful for this Mother’s Day. I have two children whom I love dearly, and a husband who always plans something to make me feel special, so I truly couldn’t ask for more.

However, I have come to realize, both through personal pain and the pain of others, that while many of us joyfully celebrate being a mom each year, there are also many women who will be hurting deeply come Mother’s Day.

An example is a dear friend of mine, Sheryl, who has had a hard journey. Before we became friends as adults, she mentored me when I was a teen, and it was during those years that Sheryl shared very openly about her struggle with infertility. We shared many tears together as she modeled incredible faith and trust in God amidst great pain.

But out of that pain, Sheryl saw an opportunity from the Lord. Even though she could not have children of her own, she decided to shift her focus, and invest her time and energy in mentoring me and some other girls instead. And she did so in life-impacting, fun ways that a woman with children may not have had the time or energy for.

Years later, I struggled for a season, wondering if infertility was also going to be part of my story. It didn’t end up being the story God had for my husband Andrew and I, but in the midst of our struggles and when our grief was overwhelming, Sheryl’s example of faith and trust pointed us back to our ever faithful Savior.

A Call to Mentor

Every woman is given a call by God to invest into the lives of younger women—regardless of whether these are their own children. The biblical call to motherhood is so much more than just about having a biological child. Instead, the passages of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Titus 2:3-4 give every woman the charge to love and shepherd those in our care. These passages call us to a task beyond being a physical parent—they call us to be spiritual parents.

If God has placed any children in your path, make training them up in the ways of the Lord your personal mission. Turn everyday situations into teachable moments, impressing God’s words on them as a way of life: “…talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. . .” (Deuteronomy 6:7).

Beyond that, we also have another call, ladies. Titus 2:3-4 says, “Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good…urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

This passage in Titus calls us to be both mentors and examples. We are to be an example to all women around us—both younger and older—to teach and encourage them so that they will not malign God’s Word. We have all been given a lofty task—to draw all women to a deeper understanding of Christ so that they will honor His Word! What an exciting calling, ladies!

I’ve known a lot of people who shy away from mentoring because they feel unequipped. The reality is that if you are a believer in Christ, that fact alone qualifies you to be a spiritual mentor. Ask God to show you if there’s anyone you can encourage and walk with. God will equip you to do it well.

A Call to Comfort and Encourage

We all have different stories of joy and pain. Some of us have lost our mothers and have no one to call up this year. Some have had years of strife and a broken relationship with our moms. Many women were never able to have children, or are currently wondering if infertility is to be their lot.

Some have had abortions. God’s forgiveness truly covers that, and there is beautiful peace and restoration to be found, but the scars from abortions do linger, and for some still bring a lot of sorrow. Some single moms are without a husband and will have no one to appreciate their tireless efforts on Mother’s Day. Some have even had children die or have had miscarriages, so today is a day that might bring immense pain for these women. My sister just lost her sweet baby girl, Isabella, 16 weeks into her pregnancy. Our family will be celebrating many things on Mother’s Day, but there will also be a unique, deep wound this year for us.

These, and many more, are the stories God has given all of us. Just as Sheryl did for me, we must let our stories—whether filled with pain or with joy—motivate us to love, comfort and encourage those God has placed in our path.

This Mother’s Day, even as we celebrate the women in our lives who have mentored or loved us as mothers, let’s also draw near to those who are hurting. Let’s give them an extra hug, pray with them for comfort and be aware of what they might be going through. And let’s continue to offer our stories and lives to the Lord as a sacrifice—allowing Him to use them each and every day to bring others closer to Him.

ODJ: next gen

January 15, 2016 

READ: 2 Kings 2:1-15 

Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor (v.9).

In 1993, Bill and Susie Mosca founded an essay contest. The winner received the couple’s bed and breakfast facility. Janice Sage’s entry took first place and she acquired the Center Lovell Inn and Restaurant. After 22 years of hosting guests, maintaining buildings, and managing finances, Janice wanted to retire. Because, as she said, “There are a lot of talented people that . . . . just can’t go out and buy an inn like this,” she also decided to give it away to a worthy person through an essay contest.

When Elijah neared the end of his time on earth, God told him to anoint Elisha as his worthy replacement (1 Kings 19:16). The young apprentice had learned much from the more experienced prophet. Eventually, Elijah asked his trainee what he could do for him before leaving for heaven. Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor” (2 Kings 2:9). Soon a chariot of fire appeared and drove between the two men. A whirlwind swept Elijah up into heaven.

After a few moments of deep distress, Elisha grabbed Elijah’s cloak which Elijah had left behind and approached the Jordan River. He slung the coat onto the water’s surface and cried out to God. The river divided and he walked across. A group of prophets observed this and exclaimed, “Elijah’s spirit rests upon Elisha!” (v.15). The younger prophet was ready to move forward in his ministry!

This story shows how one passionate servant of God passed on his ministry to another. As we consider the people God has placed in our lives, there are some whom we can mentor and encourage in their faith. He can use us to grow the faith of the next generation!

—Jennifer Benson Schuldt

365-day-plan: Genesis 24:28-67

MORE
Read Psalm 145:4 and consider how one generation of believers can encourage the next. 
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How does Paul compare with Elijah as an enthusiastic servant of God and as a mentor? Is it important to learn about the lives of other believers who lived in previous generations? Why or why not? 

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