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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.

3 Popular Phrases We Should Rethink

Image by Georgy Roy

Social media can be a great tool for building and sustaining relationships. It’s pretty incredible that we’re able to connect with friends and family who live all over the world right from our phones!

However, when on social media, we all know that it is impossible to escape being bombarded by other people’s beliefs. Recently, I have been saddened by some of the worldviews I have seen championed, liked, and shared, especially when done so by professing Christians—phrases such as, “I am the best me”; “Live your truth”; “Don’t change for anyone”; “All paths lead to God” and “It’s just the way I am. . .”. These problematic statements fill me with both sadness and anger, for they are contrary to the life Scripture calls believers to live.

If we do not actively watch out for what we absorb, it is easy for non-biblical worldviews to permeate our mindset without us realizing it. Catchphrases like “I am the best me” or “Live your truth” sound empowering and loving, but we have to realize that if we claim to belong to Christ, we must look at everything in our lives—including how we allow culture to influence us—and weigh it according to Scripture.

Here are three specific phrases I’ve heard over and over again which I’d like to challenge us to rethink.

 

1. “Follow your heart”

When Scripture talks about our “hearts,” it usually refers to the seat of our emotional life—everything we do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23). We are told that our human nature is sinful from conception (Psalm 51:5). That is why our hearts lead us into wicked and ungodly places—by our very nature we are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3) who desperately need saving.

We naturally want to satisfy our flesh’s cravings, but none of our cravings lead to lasting joy or peace. They lead to emptiness. They lead to yearning for more, and this is not how we were created to live. True contentment is only found in surrendering to Jesus Christ, and following His heart and His ways.

The phrase “follow your heart” sounds good on the surface, but Scripture reminds us to be aware of our hearts and actively guard them (Proverbs 4:23). Ultimately, Jesus Christ and the rich truths of Scripture are our only hope, our only lasting peace, our only true comfort, and our very firm foundation.

 

2. “Be true to yourself” / “Don’t ever change”

Popular authors, motivational speakers, and Hollywood tell us not to let anyone else define us. I continually come across this mentality, especially in conversations about love and marriage. Our culture tells us that we need to be true to ourselves in marriage, that we should never change or allow our spouse to change us. But are our marriages really about us? In fact, as followers of Christ, are our lives really about us?

The Bible says that when we were saved, we crucified our old selves and live for Christ alone (Galatians 2:20). In other words, we do not live to be true to ourselves, but to be true to Christ and faithful to His Word. For this to happen, we must be changing daily. We must be dying to our ungodly desires (Colossians 3:5) and striving after Christ with all that we are; no longer as slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18).

For example, if I continually chose to stick to my guns in my marriage—instead of listening to feedback from my husband about my selfish, ungodly, or prideful tendencies—my marriage would be absolutely miserable. Imagine two selfish people looking out for themselves, refusing to grow or mature! But when, as a couple, we commit to helping each other grow in Christlikeness, our marriage becomes characterized by mutual service and accountability.

It is very important for us to change and grow daily, not just for our spouse, but ultimately for our Savior—our love for our Savior shows itself in the way we sacrificially grow, change and give of ourselves for the glory of His name.

 

 3. “Live your truth”

If we live according to this philosophy, any time we don’t like something we can reject it or change it. We become closed off to correction and only listen to the views of those whose beliefs affirm ours.

But if we claim Christ, we know truth—the one and only truth. Saying so is claiming the words of Scripture as truth (John 17:17, Psalm 119:160, John 14:6). This means we can’t pick and choose which parts we like. Scripture must either be everything to us or it must be nothing to us.

Living according to God’s truth instead of “our truth” also means we can use Scripture as an anchor to guide our lives and the decisions we make—instead of being tossed and blown by every wind of teaching or cultural trend.

Thankfully, followers of Jesus Christ don’t bow to the ever-changing cultural views of right and wrong. We bow before our Unchanging, Good, Ever Faithful Lord in Heaven.

 

Only through living out the Gospel can we become transformed into a new creation—having hearts that yearn for Christ and what truly is good—not buying so whimsically into societal norms.

If we find ourselves thinking the way our world tell us to, instead of the way the Bible teaches us to, then brother and sister, we must come before God and ask Him to clear the fog from our minds. We must go to Scripture to deepen our beliefs concerning foundational realities such as our identity, suffering, and above all, who God is.

The riches we experience when we live according to the Bible are so much greater than anything else the world has to offer, whether money, status, friendships, fame, or approval. So I encourage you to run towards God’s Word of Life. Run in such a way as to win a prize—throwing aside anything that hinders and weighing everything according to that which we have staked our entire life upon.

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.

Communion: Not just a ritual

I was 12 when my parents pulled a packet of bright yellow papers out of a drawer and placed them in front of me. My young eyes fell onto the pages filled with verses, and fill in the blanks as Mom and Dad slowly and lovingly led me through a study about what communion is all about.

For years, I had watched adults and children around me take communion and had begged my parents to let me participate in it—to this day, I still love being involved in everything around me!

But in that special moment, even though I was so young, I learned that waiting has tremendous value. As we pored over Luke 22, Matthew 26, and 1 Corinthians 11, my eyes were opened to the importance of what I had been itching to do. In taking time to understand the significance of communion, I was able to approach communion honorably and obediently.

Communion is not simply a ritual—something that adults just “do”. It is not a cracker, a glass of juice, or a sip of wine. It is tremendously significant. Any believer who takes it should understand why they do so, for we are told by Christ that when we eat and drink from the cup, we proclaim Jesus’ death on the cross (1 Corinthians 11:26). These are weighty words.

Communion is not a snack for toddlers either—it is a time set aside for believers to come before Christ in unity, together remembering and proclaiming His death, His sacrifice, and each examining their own hearts.

 

To proclaim Christ’s death. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says that when we take communion, we proclaim Christ’s death (1 Corinthians 11:26)—His horribly cruel death, which saves us from an eternity separated from God. We are told that the bread symbolizes His body, which “broke” for us so that we may have eternal life and the juice represents His blood, spilled out.

When we participate in this sobering and glorious moment of worship, we declare that Jesus did indeed die as depicted in Scripture. We proclaim that we have surrendered ourselves to Him and are prepared to participate in His death as we live the Christian life. When we take communion, we declare this to ourselves, to our brothers and sisters around us, and to unbelievers. In other words, we proclaim the Gospel.

 

To remember His sacrifice. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” When we take communion, we must pause to remember what our Savior did for us on Calvary—the brutal death He died to make amends for our sins.  Every time I take communion, I reflect on the sins in my life that brought Christ to the cross and I seek God’s forgiveness for them and I repent. As I reflect upon His death, I often remember scenes from the movie The Passion of the Christ. Even though these scenes cannot capture the brutality of what Jesus actually went through, they help my human mind comprehend a small fraction of the meaning of the bread and the cup, His broken body, and His spilt blood. This leads me to thankfulness and awe at the price of my relationship with God.

 

To examine ourselves. There is one other very important thing about communion that must be mentioned. Believers are called in Scripture to not drink the cup of communion in an unworthy manner, so as not to drink judgment upon ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:29). This may sound harsh, but what this goes to show is that we, as Christians, are to approach communion with proper repentance and humility. Personally, I often pray David’s prayer in Psalm 19:12, “But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.”

If we are unable to confess sins we know we need to, if we know others in church take issue with us and we haven’t sought to reconcile, or if we are harboring bitterness against a brother or sister—Scripture says we should let communion pass (1 Corinthians 11:28, Matthew 5:23-24). Communion represents Christ’s death for us. If we are unable to repent of our own sin, then how are we to honorably proclaim His death? It is better to wait, reconcile with our fellow Christians and with the Lord, then participate in communion another time.

 

There have been a few times when I’ve struggled with letting go of a sin, or I know that I have yet to forgive someone, and so I do not take communion. Of course, I find it somewhat embarrassing since other people might wonder about my actions. But this embarrassment is small compared to the severity of sinning against “the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).

My encouragement to all of us is to approach the communion table soberly, yet joyfully, reflecting upon the tragedy of Calvary as well as the promise of Christ’s return. Where else do we experience such sorrow and joy at the same time?

Ultimately, may we celebrate, worldwide, as we take communion, that we all serve a Savior who laid Himself down for us, so that there may be eternal life. Praise be to His glorious name.