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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.

Would Jesus Like Your Post On Social Media?

Written By Michelle Lai, Singapore

If God were on social media, would He like your post?

I used to take to Instagram daily. I would post a picture with a caption telling my followers what I felt at the moment. I would post sad reflections, happy anecdotes, and even angry rants. It was my way of expressing myself and dealing with boredom and loneliness. I could “talk” to my followers without actually engaging in a conversation or meeting up with anyone.

However, I learned the hard way that even though we have the right to express ourselves freely, we should also be responsible for the thoughts that we express and upload on a public platform.

I’ve since learned how to navigate social media in a healthy way, and here are three questions I often ask myself:

 

1. Will my post benefit my friends?

I like to listen to sad ballads, and would often post sad lyrics that may or may not mean anything personal. Because of the emotional nature of my posts, my friends often asked me if I was okay. But I didn’t want to explain things; I just wanted the responses. Ideally, friends asked if I was okay, but often I received uninvited comments on my life and activities instead. Also, close friends were sometimes the last to find out when something happened in my life, since distant acquaintances saw it first on Instagram.

All this led to me feeling very vulnerable and exposed to the world. It is a funny dilemma, feeling relieved yet empty if people do not respond to my posts, but feeling overwhelmed if they do.

I was not glorifying God with the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart (Psalm 19:14). Not only did my social media habits cause problems between me and my friends, they also caused me to become consumed by things such as seeking approval, explaining myself, and chasing after the instant gratification of expressing my highs and lows without much thought.

Whereas I once treated social media like a scrapbook or diary, I now treat it as a tool to connect with my closest friends. For example, I would post Christian poems to encourage my friends, or share recent milestones to celebrate with friends and offer encouragement. I also try to minimize posting about my daily life, and only post pictures with my loved ones. I remind myself not to linger on social media after I post, so that I would not feed on “likes” by my friends. When I see something interesting my friends shared on social media, such as photos from their recent travels, I try to meet up with them in person and ask them more about what they posted.

 

2. Have I taken time to process what I want to post?

Nowadays, I do not write a post whenever I feel like it. Instead, I give myself some time to think over whether the post is necessary, whether it is kind, and whether it draws attention to myself in a self-indulgent way.

I am learning that talking to someone about my feelings—instead of ranting on social media—gives me the privacy to keep the issue personal and professional in certain situations. When I share my struggles with friends or mentors, I can often gain other perspectives. This allows me time to process my thoughts. I realize that, often, when I give myself time to sit on a feeling or nagging thought, it passes and no longer becomes a nagging issue. Like “emotional eating,” many times I need to be careful of “emotional posting.”

 

3. Am I glorifying God or causing others to stumble?

I once worked with a group of classmates on a school project together. When I had a disagreement with one of them, I posted a picture of a steam engine with an angry caption in our group chat. It affected the morale of the entire group.

While social media is for sharing more than just happy things, as a follower of Christ I should not post anything that might cause others to stumble. I should definitely not take to social media and rant without considering how my words will affect others.

The psalmists in the Bible were not afraid to write sad and angry psalms, but ultimately, they always brought the focus back to God. While I do not think we should refrain from posting about issues like depression, or even sharing that we are tired or sad on a particular day, I am learning from the psalmists that my posts should always point others back to God. For example, when I write poems about depression, I bring God into the picture. I also include a link to an emotional support hotline for anyone who might want to seek professional help. I make sure I end my poems in hope.

 

While it hasn’t been easy to readjust my social media habits, I’m learning that we are called to love people around us, and guarding what comes out of our mouths (or fingers) is a good place to start.

Why Social Media Scares Me Sometimes

I’m an old soul. I’d rather read an actual book than a device. I prefer hymns to contemporary worship. I was mercilessly made fun of once for saying that a glass of iced tea “hit the spot.” So it probably comes as no surprise for me to tell you that social media. . . scares me sometimes.

I’m not anti-social media or anti-Internet, I promise. There are undeniable benefits to social media, such as our ability to be instantly connected to those who are miles away. But I also see some subtle habits and mindsets that creep in as we become more and more familiar with and accustomed to our devices.

 

Social Media Feeds the Need for Instant Gratification

First off, social media feeds our need (or want, really) for instant gratification. Remember when the Internet took a minute to dial up? Or wait, remember when we didn’t have the Internet at all? When we would mail things off, and wait days for a response? Remember when we had to wait a week between each episode of our favorite TV show?

But today, we can find what we want to watch or know just as fast as our fingers can type. The world is literally at our fingertips! The idea of waiting feels preposterous now. And I think that we are losing our appreciation for waiting. The idea that there is any value in waiting feels ridiculous.

Luke records for us in the book of Acts that, right before Jesus ascended, He told His disciples to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the promise He had spoken to them about. I don’t know about you, but if Jesus had told me to go back and wait, I would have had a million questions. What am I waiting for? How long will I wait? How will I know when it’s here? And I probably would have been a passive “wait-er.” I would have let the time whittle away, doing nothing.

But not the disciples. If they had questions about Jesus’ instruction that day, Luke doesn’t record them. Instead, we are told that they go back to Jerusalem and pray and make use of the time by choosing a replacement  for Judas. They didn’t rush. They didn’t panic. They saw that waiting can be good, that sometimes when we wait instead of rushing ahead full steam, we are better experienced or better equipped for what comes next. Waiting comes from a posture of realizing that I don’t know everything and that time doesn’t own me.

When I think of periods of waiting in my own life, I think of when I was pregnant with my daughter. Those months of waiting and anticipation prepared me for what was ahead. There was no way I would have been mentally ready (or that she could be physically ready) any earlier than those nine months. There was value in the waiting. It prepared us; it slowed us. It showed us that we don’t know everything. In short, I think waiting humbles us.

 

Social Media Devalues Work and Effort

“Can’t I just google it?” Oh man, these words. As a teacher, I hear these words every day. And yes, a lot of the time, it may be faster to find the answers we’re looking for by just googling something or asking  someone on social media, but faster isn’t always better. I am concerned  that social media, and the Internet in general, has made us lazy: we just take the easy way out by looking up something someone else has already worked on. Less work for ourselves; a good thing, yes? I think not.

Work is a biblical value. God worked for six days to create the earth, and then on the seventh day He rested and enjoyed it. When we work, create, and produce, we are living into our purpose as His image-bearers. It can be dangerous for us as Christ-followers to lose an understanding of the significance of work. We are doing what we were made to do when we live in the pattern of “work, then enjoy.”

We work to make a delicious meal, and then we enjoy eating it together. We work to research and put together a paper for the novel in our English class, and then we enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done. We work and work to save for that vacation with our family, and then we revel in a week off with the people we love most.

So in my classroom, googling isn’t an option. When I ask my students to find a question, I don’t want them just reporting back to me what someone else has already said. I’m doing my best to encourage the generation  to think deeper, to wrestle with questions, to analyze and wonder, to ponder and create.

In my own world, I’m recently working on this: I am writing out the sayings of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew. I heard this suggested a long time ago as a way to focus in on Jesus’ teachings and instructions. Sure, I could just google this and get a list of things He has said, but by reading through Matthew and writing Christ’s words out in my own hand, I get a much deeper sense of communion with Him. By having to slow down to write out His instruction, I’m slowing down to think more deeply about what Jesus has said and the context in which He said it.

 

Social Media Makes The Truth Just That Much Harder to Find

Several years ago, I decided to take some time off from social media. I took an entire year away from Facebook. After my year-long hiatus, I noticed that a remarkable shift had occurred while I was away. Facebook used to be about friends keeping in touch with friends and wishing each other happy birthday, bragging about your vacation, things like that.

When I got back on, I saw so few people actually talking to one another. Instead what I saw was people “sharing” articles or posts. Facebook had become less a site for people to be “friends” digitally, and more a space for people to push their agendas. And with everyone pushing their agendas, from every angle, it has becoming difficult to know what’s what anymore. People can literally say whatever they want and publish it.

In our day and age there is already a fight for the idea of absolute truth—that there is only one Truth, and that His name is Jesus. Instead, what we see today is relativity: “You do you.” This is already a difficult fight, and so all this other stuff on social media is just muddying the water.

Social media gives each of us a podium and a platform. But just because someone has a podium, it doesn’t mean what they are saying is true or right or valuable. That might be a hard truth, and a very unpopular one in our day and age, but I stand by it. Just because the majority is behind someone or something, doesn’t make it truth.

 

So,  What Should We Do With Social Media?

How do we use social media in a way that is responsible, and that doesn’t set us up to fall prey to these subtle shifts in thinking?

Some things I have done are to delete the Facebook app on my phone. If I want to log on to Facebook, I go to an Internet browser, type in the web address, and log in. Having to do this every time I want to get on helps me to not be a casual browser; instead I have to get on very intentionally.

Very recently, I also limited my time on my phone in a couple ways: I heard someone say they fast from their phones from 8:00 p.m.–8:00 a.m. I think that’s a great idea. I also try very hard, and don’t always succeed, to resist the temptation to browse social media when I’m with my daughter. I don’t want her having to compete with my phone for my attention. I want to set a good example for her: I don’t want her to be addicted to her phone when she grows up, and that begins with me modeling that for her.

A concluding thought—C. S. Lewis writes on the origin of evil in his book Mere Christianity. He says that when God created humans, He gave them certain faculties and intelligences. And as much as humans had capacity to use that intelligence for good, they had the same capacity to use it for evil. Social media is the same. It has a great capacity for good, but also for evil. I think we would do well to be sober-minded about its power and influence in our lives and our world. We need to be a force for good with it. We need to represent Him well with it.

3 Things To Do When Life Feels Meaningless

Written by Julian Panga, India

Julian grew up in India and then lived in Australia for 12 years. While working in the banking and finance Industry in Melbourne, he also served as a church elder, missions trainer, and Bible teacher. In 2014, he returned to India in response to God’s calling and is currently involved in pastoral ministry and theological training. He is passionate about teaching and training as well as engaging the youth and those in the marketplace with the Gospel.

I felt like I was on top of the world. It was, after all, any young man’s dream come true. I was in my mid-20s with a high paying job, good career prospects, and all the comforts and luxuries that life could offer. What more could anyone wish for?

However, something deep inside me felt amiss. There was a growing dissatisfaction in my heart. It all boiled down to one pertinent question: What is it that would truly make my life meaningful?

I couldn’t answer that question straight up. As a believer who grew up grounded in biblical principles, I had been taught that I needed to please God with my life. So, in spite of all the temporary highs that life brought my way, the thought that came to my mind instinctively was whether I was doing what God wanted me to do.

One part of me persisted in that thought. Another part of me justified my actions—after all, I was successful in life and had achieved so much so quickly. Surely, God would not be against that? What’s more, I was also active in church and missions, and gave generously to Christian work, so that should keep God happy, shouldn’t it?

I had defined success the way I understood it and the way the world applauded it. However, I never paused to consider how God looked at success. My seemingly full and abundant life was empty and meaningless when seen from God’s perspective.

I began to realize that I had never sought the reason for true meaning and significance in my life. Rather, I set my mind on and pursued those things that would never satisfy. As a result, I had become a purposeless, directionless individual just cruising along life, not knowing what I was doing or where I was going.

That relentless still small voice of God became a persistent prompting in my mind, and there was nothing I could do to distract myself from it. I continued to be restless until I came to a point of confession and answered that question truthfully.

The truth was that I was busy building my own kingdom with my own goals, plans, and thoughts—and neglecting God’s Kingdom. Little did I know that these vain pursuits in life would never give me meaning, significance, and purpose in life.

When we give undue importance to secondary aspects of life, such as career, money, comforts, relationships, fame, etc., we end up dethroning God and placing ourselves and other things on the throne of our life. We buy into a lie that says that our ultimate purpose in life is to pursue the things of this world.

The Bible, however, tells us that our true purpose is to seek God and His Kingdom first, and all other things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33). Seeking after God and His glory is what will truly give life meaning and significance. We need to come to the realization that we don’t exist for ourselves. Rather, we exist to bring God glory, and when we do that in all we say and do, we become truly fulfilled.

The author of the book of Ecclesiastes had a similar sentiment thousands of years ago. He had also untiringly explored the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, pleasure and satisfaction, toil and self-indulgence. He tried to find meaning and significance in his work, his pursuits, his goals and desires. However, he came to the stark realization that all these were vain pursuits, a mere chasing after the wind. There was nothing under the Sun by which man would be able to find true meaning and significance.

But he didn’t leave it there. Rather, he punctuated the book with precious nuggets of wisdom. There are three keys lessons that we can learn from the Teacher in Ecclesiastes, which help us live a life of meaning, significance and purpose. It is the kind of a life which would put a smile on God’s face when lived out authentically.

 

Fear God Alone

In Proverbs 9:10, we are told that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Those who practice the “fear of the Lord” will have good understanding, but the one who despises it remains a fool. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes picks up the same idea. He says that the fear of God comes by recognizing God’s authority and presence over our lives (Ecclesiastes 3:14). God is not appeased by our gifts or sacrifices. Rather, He is pleased when we are attentive and obedient to His Word (Ecclesiastes 5:1b). He urges us not to set our eyes on our own dreams and words, but to fear God because those who do so will flourish in life (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13).

How have I practiced the fear of God in my life? By recognizing who He truly is. Regular reading of the Bible helps me understand who God is, what He has done for me, and what He continues to do in and through me. God’s divine attributes—such as His immanence, holiness, sovereignty and mercy—remind me that although I am unworthy, He continues to be gracious. A fitting response to the Living God is that of reverent fear. And I choose to do that not out of compulsion, rather out of love.

 

Remember God Alone

The Teacher urges us to focus our mind and heart on remembering God, especially from our youth and before the dark seasons of life come our way (Ecclesiastes 12:1-2). Remembering God and doing so from a young age will set us on the right trajectory for the rest of our lives. When we remember His love, care, and grace, we come to a true realization of who we truly are and our complete dependence on Him. We understand that life is a precious gift of God, and not something we have achieved ourselves. This in turn fills our hearts with humility and gratitude. Remembering God always fills us with great joy, which can never be obtained from wealth, possessions or power (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20).

Remembering that I am God’s child, and that He knew my unformed substance and chose me before the foundations of the earth were laid (Psalm 139:13-17, Ephesians 1:4), humbles me to surrender my will to Him and be grateful for His saving grace. This realization moves my entire being to worship my Heavenly Father. I no longer am concerned about gaining people’s approval or drawing my identity from the world, but I choose to remember God’s goodness in my life and worship Him without any pretense.

 

Pursue God Alone

Rather than chasing the vain pursuits of life, we will find true meaning and significance in the relentless pursuit of God. The pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, wealth and happiness, purpose and meaning can be seen from the right perspective when we set our hearts on pursuing God (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10). All these things under the Sun, if brought under the Son, will bring purpose and significance to life. Our faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ and His completed work on the Cross, transforms our otherwise mundane and meaningless lives to be deeply satisfying and full of purpose. The free gift of salvation reminds us that we don’t need to strive for it through our works, but can rely on His Finished Work. We can rest in the fact that it is in Him and what He has done for us that we find our true identity as God’s children—forgiven, redeemed, reconciled and set free.

On a practical level, each time I make a decision—regarding my lifestyle, investments, relationships, or anything else—I evaluate whether this choice would align me with God’s purposes for my life. Only if I feel that this would help me further God’s Kingdom and become a better follower of Christ, then I would embrace it wholeheartedly. God has become my sole focus and priority, and all other things in my life are consciously allowed in only if they deepen and strengthen that relationship I have with Him.

 

Applying these principles in my life has turned it around. I learned that success is not in what I achieve for myself, but in how I grow closer to God in my walk of faith. True meaning and significance in life is not found in the pursuit of things or accumulation of stuff, but in understanding who God is and who I am in relation to Him. This revolutionized my thinking altogether. I was no longer chasing vain dreams, but chasing after God. My greatest satisfaction was found in seeking after God, knowing Him intimately, and pursuing Him passionately. When I turned over my life to Him, began to seek His face and walk in His ways, life became worth living. Life had an ultimate purpose, and there was joy in loving and serving God.

By being obedient to God’s voice and surrendering myself to His will, I am now truly on top of the world. God’s plans and purposes have come to fruition in my life, and I realize now that there is no greater calling than loving Him, serving Him and making Him known to others.

It’s so easy to believe a lie of the devil and finish life having achieved nothing. But if we fear God, remember and pursue Him, life can be full of joy and significance. It is through the intentional pursuit of God that one could unearth the real meaning and purpose of life.