WATCH DRURY WRITE A BOOK. – THIS IS A TEMPORARY POST Writer’s first draft of a book to be published by The Wesleyan Publishing House. as an introduction to the ministry. This web-posted copy is an early draft of the manuscript and not intended to be used as a final document. While the editors will catch minor errors if you see something significantly wrong or missing drop Keith Drury a note at email@example.com © 2003 Keith Drury
Confirming the call
How can you know for sure you are called? Is there some test you can take or guide to follow to know for sure? What if a person thinks they are called yet the church they attend doesn’t think they are? How exactly does God “confirm” a call?
many calls to the ministry are not dramatic in themselves, most calls have a
mystical confirmation of one kind or another.
By "mystical" confirmation we mean an outward mysterious or
inner spiritual certainty that comes from God.
If you are truly called there will come a time when you are certain—absolutely convinced—that you have a
definite call of God to the ministry.
Sometimes this mystical confirmation comes as a “sign” or as a response
to a “fleece” we set out like Gideon did.
At other times it comes in a moment of supernatural inner surety and we
know for sure, “this is exactly what I will do with my life.” In a sense it is like having a “
· “I walked out of the dorm and it was like I walked through a curtain—on one side I was not sure of my future and on the other side I knew the ministry was my destiny no matter what.”
· “I was praying and it tumbled in on me as clear as is someone had spoken—though I heard no voice—I said “I‘m going to be a preacher” and as soon as I said it I knew this was true—it was settled for life.
· “In my women’s Bible study one young Christian said, ‘You ought to be a pastor” and immediately another agreed, then three more said, “Really, we’re serious it is obvious God is calling you.” I went home that night and woke up at 2 AM and it was like a sweet presence was all around me and I just knew—I knew for sure that I had to quit my job and go get the training I needed to become a pastor—so I did”
· “I was reading through Romans and had been looking for either confirmation or a blocking of a call and my eyes fell on Romans 10:13-15. The words ‘how shall they hear without someone preaching’ leapt out at me as if God was speaking them directly to me. I knew at that moment that the ministry was to be my life forever.”
Each of these stories tell how persons who may have been sensing a gradual call came to a place of mystical/spiritual certainty somewhere in his or her life. Some received that certainty early in their preparation, others later, but most ministers have received it somewhere along the line before ordination. In fact, most denominations require that you become absolutely certain of your calling before you take the ordination vows. Such a certainty usually comes in a mystical way even though it may not have any signs or miracles attached to it. This mystical confirmation is something like what we call “Assurance” of Salvation. How does a person know for sure they are saved? The same way as we know we are called for sure—through God’s spirit bearing witness with ours. While you may not be able to scientifically prove this surety is from God, you nevertheless know for sure after that point. This is mystical confirmation. There are some ministers who never have received this certain confirmation yet are ordained and in active ministry—just like some people get married though they are not totally sure about their decision. However, most denominations expect you to come to a certainty before entering into your final ordination vows. No matter, whichever is true of your denomination, it is okay for you to seek a certainty from God about your future. If you do not find it, seek advice and counsel from your own denomination's ordination board or committee.
If you have had a mystical confirmation already, thank God for this certainty. If not, it is okay to seek mystical confirmation from God until you receive it. Just like you can know for sure that you are really a Christian, you can know for sure that God is calling you to the ministry. Until you receive this certainty, accept the other confirmations that come your way (which we will cover in the rest of this chapter).
While the mystical confirmation of your call is personal, the church’s confirmation is public and corporate. In fact, the primary external confirmation of your call will come through the church—the body of Christ on earth. If you are called, one of your early steps is to associate with a local church and ask them to approve you to prepare for ministry. The ministry is a life of working with the people of God—the church. After all, that is where you will be ministering and leading. How can you be a minister to people who will not accept your ministry? Sooner or later your denomination or local church will decide whether to ordain or commission you to the ministry. The first step toward this is your association with a church where they affirm your potential for ministry and guide you in your preparation for ministry.
How will they confirm you are called? They will examine your life. They will want to hear your testimony of how you became a follower of Christ. They will ask you why you think you are called—they’ll want to hear your story. This will not be a hostile interrogation but a helpful time of getting a “third witness” to your calling. Until now your call has been between you and God; now your call becomes a church-wide matter. The church will take its first step to affirm your call—they will affirm you to prepare for the ministry. They might even financially support your preparation as further evidence of their affirmation. And they will always pray for you.
We can’t simply say “God called me, I know it, so you have to ordain me.” While God does speak to individuals, He also works through His church to confirm or correct what individuals think they’ve heard from God. There’s safety in numbers. When a whole church body decides that you are truly called, you can take it as far more powerful confirmation than your own feelings which come and go or rise and fall at times.
Besides examining your character, testimony and calling, they will examine your “gifts and graces.” They will try to determine if God has given you gifts that lead toward the ministry. Not that you have to have all the perfect gifts of the ideal minister right now, but they will look for promising signs that you have the capacity for a gifted ministry—you are gifted in evangelism, teaching the Bible, leading people and other abilities needed in the ministry. And they will look at your “graces”—your aptitudes, preferences, personality—to see if you are a suitable person for ministry. One grace they will search for is your like-ability with people. A person who is obnoxious and doesn't even like people lacks an important “grace” of the ministry. Another grace is hospitality. Ministers should be “given to hospitality.” Hospitality is receiving people in, friendliness, taking people along with you, being inclusive. It is a “grace” of the ministry. There are dozens of other gifts and graces, but for now know that your denominational board will help you discover and develop these attributes important to your future. Sometimes your board or committee will use career tests and interviews along with checking with your references to discover your gifts and graces. A career test can't tell you that you are called for sure, but it might point out special challenges you would face in the ministry or areas you need to develop. Sometimes they will administer a battery of psychological tests too, not to keep you out of the ministry so much as to help you resolve issues that could be a detriment to your ministry in the future. Meeting with your board or committee will be a helpful time for you.
When the church confirms you by saying “yes” and approving you for ministerial preparation, you should consider it the greatest confirmation to date—at least equal to any personal inner feeling or outer sign. If they say “No,” then it is a gigantic blockade to your ministry future, at least in that denomination. If they say “Wait,” it is worth pausing to examine your call, or at least let it marinate for a while. You hope they say “Yes.” A confirmation from the church will probably become the single most important confirmation of your call—Christ’s church on earth saying, ”Yes, we believe you are called to the ministry and we will support you in preparing.” All other confirmations are precursors or add-ons to this greatest of all confirmations.
The confirmation of desire
you are called into the ministry your desire to be a minister should increase
as time passes. You should want to be a minister, if not completely
at first, at least more and more as the years pass. There is a dreadful notion around some youth
groups that God delights in calling people to do what they’ll hate doing. They imagine that God is just waiting for
someone to say, “Well, I’d never want to be a minister” then BAM He knows
exactly whom to call next. What kind of
God is this? Certainly a capricious and
fickle God like this does not deserve our service! This is a bad God-concept. God doesn’t get his workers by waiting for
those who don’t want to do that work, then calling them. And He isn’t out to
make us miserable with His calling on our life. Rather He calls us to do the
work in which we will be most satisfied and fulfilled But this is not to say that God always calls
us to what we are best at. People with
that wrong notion in their head start with themselves and assume God’s goal is
more about them personally than God’s work on earth. Each person (not just future ministers)
should ask where they can further God’s kingdom best. The career question is not “How can I make
the most money?” Nor is it, “What would
make me happiest in a career?” It isn’t
even “What am I naturally best equipped to do?”
The question for all Christians is the same: “how can I best further the
God does not always use us for what we are best at. While God occasionally calls people who feel unworthy or ill prepared (Moses and many of the Prophets), He does not simply look for people who don’t want to be called, then call those. Even if you had no desire to serve as a minister when you were first called, God will give you an increasing desire. Over the seasons and years your desire should grow, not diminish. It is one of the confirmations of your call. If you think less and less about the ministry, and want less and less to spend your life in it, you should seriously question your call. However, as you prepare if you gain a greater desire for ministry it is probably a confirmation that God has called you.
It is unthinkable for a person preparing for the ministry to not get involved in ministry now—as they prepare. Most men and women start ministering as they prepare—in fact it is an important part of preparation. You will do that too: volunteering to speak at a nursing home, leading children’s church, teaching a Sunday school class of 8th graders, or going on a missions trip. Have you done some of these things? If not, and you think you may be called to the ministry, start them soon. As you minister God often confirms His call by letting you see fruit—the “first fruits” of your ministry.
In each of these cases you would be experiencing the “first fruits” of your ministry. One of the ways God confirms our call to the ministry is by giving us fruit—lives that are influenced for God and are changed. Since we can’t change lives with our own power—only the Holy Spirit can do that—seeing changed lives is a giant confirmation of our call. If you keep involved in ministry you will likely see increasing fruit and thus increasing confirmation of your call. Are these fruits signs that you are a wonderfully gifted minister? No. They are signs that the Holy Spirit is a wonderfully gifted minister and has chosen to work through you. Your job is not to produce results, your job is to be obedient—to be the channel for the Holy Spirit’s power.
However, like all confirmation signs, this one is a double edged sword. Perhaps you will get involved in ministry and never see any results—God will give you no fruit, nobody’s life will be changed, nobody will receive your ministry as from God, and nobody will be influenced for God’s sake through your repeated ministry. If so, you should start questioning your call. While there have been great missionaries who served for years (sometimes decades) without fruit, generally speaking there is some resulting fruit from the life of those called into the ministry. This is why the examining board of your denomination will ask you about fruit, not just about your call and gifts and graces.
Confirmed through testing
If you are called of God you can expect your call will be tested. Somewhere along the line something is going to happen to make you question your call and maybe even doubt it completely. A test could be a barrier that seems insurmountable—like not getting into the only college to which you applied. Or a test may come when someone important to you starts scoffing at your call. A test might come when a minister you looked up to falls morally. A test might come when the person you have fallen in love with announces they have no intention of marrying a minister. The test might come when you observe a minister going through a very difficult time or see one under attack for changing the music in their church and you wonder what you’re getting into. Perhaps the test might come as an inner doubt, uncertainty, and feelings of inadequacy and a sense of spiritual inferiority.
Your testing may come in a variety of forms, and from a variety of sources. Satan might be trying to get you to abandon your calling. After all, do you expect him to stand by and let you zip right past him without trying to tackle you on your way into the ministerial end zone? The testing can even come from God Himself—just to see if you will respond in obedience despite the barriers or cost. And, the testing can come from yourself, especially if you are a contemplative person who often over-reflects and questions yourself.
Wherever the test originates, God can always use it—He even uses the Devil’s attempts to discourage us. How? When we are tested it shows the depth of our inner conviction that we are called. An untested call is a shallow call. But a call that has been clung to over time even in the face of trial or doubt, is often the strongest of all life callings. Thus a testing can make you give up on a call—or it can serve as a great confirmation of your call. If you are called, expect a testing—probably several through your life—and know that this may be an opportunity to deny your call…or confirm it. Your tests can confirm your conviction that God has called you, or they could help you discover that you were not really called all along. If your test tells you that you’re not called, then you should move into another occupation or vocation.
So how do you get confirmation or blocking from God to discover whether or not you are called?? Do something! God seldom confirms the call while you are sitting still. Start seeking clear confirmation/assurance from God in a mystical way. Connect with a local church to see if they affirm your call. Ask yourself if your desire is increasing or shrinking. Get involved ministering to others to see if fruit is produced. Open yourself up to testing and see if it strengthens or shrinks your calling. Do something! God guides us best while we are moving. Start moving and see if God confirms or blocks your call. He isn’t trying to make this hard for you—if you are called he certainly doesn’t want to keep it a secret or make you play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey to find His will. Seek clarity from God—He will respond. But don’t just sit on your hands waiting—do something!
Follow up study and application
1. If you are sensing a call to the ministry tell about any “mystical certainty” experiences you may have experienced to date.
2. This chapter calls for a certainty about the calling but leaves room for a gradual growth of certainty until full assurance in the calling. Scribble out a chart like a stock market chart illustrating your own certainty or uncertainty of your ministerial call in your life so far; include any ups and downs over the months or years since you first considered the call.
3. This chapter places great emphasis on the church confirming a minister’s call. Do churches make mistakes? What should a person do who is certain they are called but their church won’t confirm them or let them pursue ordination? What should a church do when tey have serious doubts about a person who says they are called?
4. How can you tell the difference in a “testing” of the call that is coming from the Devil to get you to give up or from God to test your commitment? How would you know the difference between a testing from God and a blocking from Him—that is, how could you know when God is trying to keep you out of the ministry from when he is testing your commitment to it?
5. Contact your own denomination’s officials (or review the web site) to discover what the procedure is for your own church and denomination to confirm your call—what are the “hoops” you will need to jump though on your way to ordination—hoops where they will check on the things mentioned in this chapter?
6. Make a chart including the six “confirmation factors” from this chapter and journal your own reflections and experiences on each to date in your life: Church confirmation, Gifts, Graces, Desire, First fruits, Testing.