5 Ways Someone Is Called To Ministry | Indiana Wesleyan University

By: Jake Thurston

Everyone is called to ministry. But only some are called to the ministry.

Every Christian, no matter who they are or what they do, are called to minister to others and make disciples. You could be a nurse, a business owner, a dog groomer, an athlete, or some crazy combination of the four, and you would still have the call by God to serve those around you and tell others about Jesus. That's the purest definition of ministry.

But if that’s the call to ministry, then what is a call to the ministry?

Someone who is called to “the ministry” senses that God wishes for him or her to devote their life to serving in the local church or ministry fulltime. They often become pastors, missionaries, nonprofit organization directors, and parachurch leaders. While these people can still work other part-time jobs, they sense a calling to devote their daily life to being on the frontlines of ministry and equipping others to do Kingdom work.

This is who the Called Collective is for: High schoolers who might be sensing God calling them to vocational ministry. That being said, one of the biggest questions high schoolers ask on this topic is, “How is someone called to the ministry?”

Everyone’s call is different, but in his book, The Call of a Lifetime, Keith Drury identifies 5 common ways God might call someone to devote their career to serving his Church.

1. The Damascus Road Call

In Acts chapter 9, the religious leader Saul (whom you may also know as “Paul”) was on his way to Damascus when he received a vision. A flash of light from heaven blinded him, tossing him to the ground out of pure shock. In that instant, he heard the voice of Jesus speak directly to him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Saul was shook in that moment! So much so, he literally went from persecuting Christians to committing his life to spreading the Gospel—all because of a divine encounter with God himself.

Sometimes God calls people the same way. Drury says, “The Damascus Road call usually is accompanied by a sign, a miracle, or an unmistakable manifestation of God’s voice.” A Damascus Road call leaves you knowing for sure that this is what God wants you to do with your life. But hear me: Not everyone receives this call. Although a dramatic event is what many people think of when they hear about God calling people into ministry, the Damascus Road call is one of the rarer types of calls.

2. The Progressive Call

The Progressive Call is the most common type of call today. This calling involves a gradual sequence of events across your life until it finally dawns on you that fulltime ministry is what God wants you to do. It could begin with growing up in the church, and naturally having a deep passion for loving people and telling them about God. Once you get into youth group, your Youth Pastor asks you to join the Youth Leadership Team. You start assisting with games, leading a small group, and even giving announcements on some nights. The more you get involved, the more you begin to realize how much you love doing this, so much so that you decide to devote your life to ministering to teenagers as a youth pastor. But it took you 6 years of being involved in your youth group to get there.

That’s the progressive call.

Since the progressive call takes a long time to unfold, it can be easy to slip into doubting your calling and question if this is truly what you’re suppose to do with your life. If you find your mind ever going there, focus on God’s persistent presence and growing inner voice. Ask him to continue to reveal his will and way. He’ll make it clear to you.

3. The Call From Birth

There are some people who literally cannot recall a time when they didn’t sense a call to the ministry. These ministers accepted a call very early in their life, and hadn’t wavered in it since. The prophet Jeremiah was called to ministry before he was even formed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5), and the prophet Samuel was devoted to serving the Lord before he was born by his mother (1 Samuel 1:11).

This call is also rare, but it does still happen today. Although God determined who he would call to ministry before time even began, there are some who never had a wrestling period, a Damascus road experience, or a gradual process to discovering their call. It’s just always been there.

4. The Set-Apart-By-The-Church Call

God speaks through other people all the time, and this is particularly true of his Church. The Church is God’s chosen people to minister to the world, proclaim his name, and advance his Kingdom. The Church not only bears God’s witness to the whole inhabited earth, but also speaks on behalf of God to other people. Sometimes, God will call people into the ministry strictly through other Christians saying they would be a great in fulltime ministry—before they ever considered it themselves!

Drury says that some people can hear God’s voice better than others. Someone who has been walking closely with the Lord for the last 50 years may be more keen to how the Spirit is working in someone else’s life. God will press onto these people with a conviction about what he wants to do in someone else’s life, even if that individual has not grown to the point of hearing God’s voice themselves.

If this is you, chances are you’ve heard other people say you’d make a great pastor or ministry leader before you even gave it a forethought. However, you shouldn’t solely bank on what other people have said. Start opening up to the thought and testing it out in your local church. If the work of ministry resonates with you, pay attention: God may be calling you to the ministry.

5. The Open Door Call

Open Door Calls come out of nowhere. They begin as cool opportunities that “open the door” to committing the rest of one's life to ministry. For example: this could happen on a missions trip, where seeing fruitful ministry take place in a culture hungry for the Word of God completely transforms a person’s life. She is so moved by this ministry experience that she decides to become a fulltime missionary. The door was opened, and she chose to walk through it.

Another example could be those who have a close association with a pastor. Their close involvement with a pastor or church ministry gives them fuller exposure to what a life in ministry could be. God may then plant the thought in someone’s mind, “Why not do this with your life, as well?” Thus opening the door to ministry.

Again, this is not an exhaustive list. Although these are 5 common ways Jesus calls people to the ministry, he might be calling you in a way that’s unique from these 5, or in a way that involves a combination of the 5. Regardless, no type of call is better than the others. Don’t feel like having a subtle desire to go into ministry is lesser than God sending you a dramatic event telling you to go into ministry. At the end of the day, the most important factor in receiving a call from God is obedience. It’s never about how you receive your call, but what you do about it that matters. 

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