The call to ministry is unique. There is no placement test or assessment to definitively tell you what you are called to. It’s not about your IQ, SAT score, or your parents’ career. Rather, God plants a small seed into people’s hearts and nurtures it, directing them towards pastoral ministry. The question is, how can a person discern if they are called to preach?
As someone considering a vocation in ministry, this question has probably been on your mind. While Scripture provides lists of qualifications for ministry leaders, there is no chapter entitled, “How to discern the call to ministry.” Pastoral candidates can determine if they should pursue a pastoral role through prayer, Scripture, and wise counsel.
Seeking the Lord’s Will in Prayer
One of the hallmarks of the Christian life is seeking the Lord’s will for your life. When the question of pastoral ministry is on your mind, your first instinct should be to turn to God for guidance. One of the main ways of doing this is through prayer. In times of uncertainty, we know that we can run to God as the source of stability and guidance. Here are a few prayer prompts to get you started:
- If you have other career aspirations, surrender those to the Lord.
- Surrender any doubts or fears you have about pastoral ministry to the Lord.
- Determine if you feel any outside pressure to pursue or to not pursue the call to ministry, and take those things before the Lord.
When you use these or any other prayer prompts, it’s important to have a spirit of humility and to be ready to receive guidance from the Lord. There is no better way to learn to surrender to God than in decision making! Continue to take all your options to God as you work through your career desires and dreams.
Seeking the Lord’s Will in Scripture
The Bible provides examples of people who sought the Lord’s will. The call to ministry today is much like the callings of the people such as Abraham and Esther. God called Abraham to leave his homeland to seek out the land which God promised him. On top of that, God told him to sacrifice his son Isaac, and then provided a ram in the thicket once He saw Abraham’s obedience. Esther became the Queen of Persia at a time in which hostilities against the Jewish people were high. She sought the Lord’s will and favor to go in to see King Xerxes in order to spare the Jews from their enemies.
While the stories of these people are not similar, one strand remains the same: they each had to discern the will of God in a difficult and confusing time in their lives. Abraham had to follow God despite not knowing where He was leading. Esther had to remember the character and promises of God as she stepped out in radical bravery. As you discern the call to ministry, you will need to stay connected to the One you’ll ultimately be serving as a ministry leader. Like Abraham, hold what you have with open hands and be willing to give those things back to God. Like Esther, fervently seek the counsel of the Lord as you discern your options.
Seeking the Lord’s Will Through Wise Counsel
God created human beings to have fellowship with one another for the goal of close companionship, receiving wisdom, or giving wisdom. As someone sensing the call to ministry, you will need the counsel of wise mentors and close friends to help guide you in your decision making.
Why is receiving counsel so important? Oftentimes, people outside of the situation can see the details and different angles a lot better than someone in the midst of it. Mentors and friends know you, and can provide commentary based on what they know. Talking to a mentor will help you verbally process what you are thinking and feeling, which might provide further clarity.
Stories From Those Who Have Sensed the Call to Ministry
Along with prayer, consulting Scripture, and hearing from mentors, it can be helpful to hear from others who chose to pursue full-time ministry.
Pastor Lawrence La-Follette is the Pastor of Biblical Integration at Western Reserve Grace Church in Macedonia, Ohio. He first sensed the call to ministry as a sophomore in high school. La-Follette’s youth pastor invested a lot into him, and in their last conversation, he posed the question, “What do you want to do with your life?”
“I answered, ‘This! I want to do this for the rest of my life.’ What I was trying to convey was that I wanted to carry on the same influence that he had on my life with other people. I wanted to go into youth ministry and replicate that same impact on other youth students who needed a godly influence,” La-Follette said.
While he does remember and appreciate that moment, La-Follette has come to realize that the call to ministry is a life-long process of God moving in and developing a person to serve Him with their lives.
Dr. Rock LaGioia is Professor of Pastoral Studies at Grace Theological Seminary and is an interim pastor in the Fort Wayne area. He first sensed God’s call to the pastorate while attending a Bible conference. After discussing it with several mentors and mature believers in his church, he had confirmation that it was the right direction to go.
“While training for ministry, I was engaged in an excellent pastoral internship in which I gained mentors to help me as I began my ministry vocation. My favorite part of serving in ministry is the Spirit-empowered preaching and teaching that I sometimes experience. There is nothing like seeing life transformation happen and knowing that it is only by His grace that I get to be a part of it.”
By spending time in prayer and the Word, as well as receiving wise counsel and hearing stories from other people, you will be able to discern the call to ministry.
Once you know you are called to preach, the next step is to consider the education you should pursue in order to fit your unique calling. Here at Grace Seminary, we offer a wide variety of degree programs in multiple formats so that you can find what works best for you. Check out our degree programs and meet our faculty to get started today.