How to Tell If You’re Called to Ministry

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Pastoral ministry is weighty work, not to be entered into lightly. 10 key questions.

I’ve been asked the question many times, and I’m not sure I agree with it.

The question often assumes that pastors, unique among all the vocations of the world, will (and sometimes must) have a powerful, divine, subjective call to ministry that overwhelmingly points them in their God-ordained direction. I don’t see support for that sort of normative experience in Scripture.

But I understand what young men are looking for. They understand that pastoral ministry is weighty work, not to be entered into lightly. So naturally they want to know that their inclinations are not self-serving and their direction is not a fool’s errand.

They are looking for a few signposts along the way to show them that they’re not obviously on the wrong road. That’s a commendable impulse.

Here are several questions you should ask yourself as you ponder a call to pastoral ministry.

1. Do I meet the qualifications laid out in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1?

This is the place to start. If your character is not mature, stable and (in a nonperfectionist way) exemplary, then you are not ready to be a pastor.

This does not necessarily mean you are on the wrong path if you don’t yet have victory over certain sins (like pornography), but it means that you won’t be ready until you meet the Scriptural standards.

2. Do the Christians who know me best consistently affirm my gifts for ministry?

The most important call is the objective call of your church encouraging you to pursue pastoral ministry.

3. Do I like to teach all kinds of people in all kinds of settings?

Most people thinking of pastoral ministry are excited to preach. I want to know if they are excited to preach at the Rescue Mission and excited to teach catechism to five-year-olds.

4. Do I find myself stirred by good preaching?

If a man is called to preach the gospel, he should be thrilled to hear it preached. The content should move him, and he should find himself thinking, “Oh, that I could proclaim this good news.”

Kevin DeYoung Kevin is the Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, right across the street from Michigan State University. He has been the pastor there since 2004.

More from Kevin DeYoung or visit Kevin at http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/

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  • Gerbrand van Schalkwyk

    Very good points. being called for the ministry we must have a burning hunger to spread the Word. And we dont have to be a pastor to spread the Word. I am working at a smelter but do what i can all over.
    I would like some more of the same info for all the 5 ministries. How do I realize what I am being called for and where I must concentrate. i get asked the question a lot and dont have a concrete answer except to be patient for God’s guidence. If you dont know yet God is still preparing you.
    Thank you for this piece. i do believe that God does call you for a specific ministry, and once you start practicing it, it brings a satiafaction like nothing else!!!

  • sas

    This is touched on briefly, but deserves its own point. “Do you have a passion for your calling, so much that you’ll go wherever and do whatever God asks of you.”
    Meaning, you can’t imagine doing anything else (unless of course you need a part-time job to pay bills) and you’ll pastor, lead, teach, evagelize, disciple, and train people whether that’s in a mega-church, rural church of 50 people, house church in an urban center, or third-world country.

    Lastly, the article addresses only men as being called to ministry. I beg to differ based on my reading and study of Scripture and my calling to ministry as a woman.

    • @pastortomweaver

      You can’t support the call of women to pastoral ministry. Deaconate, yes. Singing, praying, and giving testimony in church, yes. But Pastor/Elder? No. Women and Men are EQUAL in God’s eyes but have different calls.

      • pastor bmt

        I have to disagree with you on this point Tom. Your article was very informative, and true in many respects. You seem to have much experience in your ministry and denomination. You say to sas: “You can’t support the call of women to pastoral ministry.” And you are right, the LORD is the one who supports this. If you believe both men and women are EQUAL in God’s eyes, then they are EQUAL…. period. I am witness to many women who are living out of their God-given call to full time ministry, and their ministries are FRUITFUL and you have to be blind to deny the work of the Holy Spirit actively blessing their work. If God were against women in ministry, why would he bless their work, or give them such strong calls to do his work? I appreciate your opinion, but I don’t agree with it. I hope women who might feel a strong call to full time pastoral ministry reading this article will seek out places that support them as equals in ministry, these places do exist.

  • Preacher Ben

    Just “certain sins”? What about all sin breaking our heart, because we are always going to be sinners. I thought the message was to teach us repentance. ( I have never believed the message was to teach people to “stop sinning” but to teach being “sorry that we do sin.”)
    But in fainess to you Kevin; I know and understand what you mean. Shame on me if I lead a secret life that dishonors Christ, and fool myself in believeing that I am not accountable for what is done in the cover of darkness.

    • Dale arnett

      Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, go and sin no more. Being sorry for sin is ok but knowing that I have the power to not sin, now that is living. So lord forgive me my sins as I live a life that seeks to cause no grief to come to you.

  • Mar Komus

    ~smh~

  • MAVincent

    Love the last question. Some good questions throughout. Sounds like you are speaking of a preaching ministry only. There are many other types of ministry to serve the Lord in paid positions. Of course, all should be looking to serve – paid or unpaid.

  • CJS

    Thank you for this, Kevin. This is a topic I am and have been prayerfully considering for a couple years now. We have had several close friends even ask if this was something I had ever considered, and evn one who asked why I wasn’t started into formal trainong yet.

    God has given me other great opportunities and workplaces to minister as well so I’m often torn and resolve to wait for God to lead – which He of course does. He has led us into eldership now through a real season of growth over the past 5-6 years and throughout most of my life He has had me take on or be placed into roles of leadership in various forms. I now see all of the divine preparation that God was doing to equip me for eldership.

    The relatively recent urging or nudging towards pastoring scares me sometimes when I consider the way things are in our North American culture. But it also reminds me of my need for the Spirit of God no matter what He calls us to.

    I just don’t want to miss out on His leading or simply deny it due to any sort of comfort for where He has us now, or equally as bad, due to doubt and unbelief that He could gift me and support me in a call to pastoring.

    Again thanks for sharing some of your wisdom. Blessings on you and your ministry!

    Chris

  • http://twitter.com/Olufemiolojo olufemiOlojo

    This sounds like a call to full time pastoral ministry but surprisingly nothing is said about prayer. But each of the twelve Apostles, including Paul received distinctive calls of Lord Jesus Christ prior to entering the ministry. Is this not applicable to the present day prospective ministers?

  • http://www.facebook.com/pstoghenethoja.umuteme Pst Oghenethoja Umuteme

    God raises pastors (Jeremiah 3:15) to do His work and then equips them through the Holy Spirit. I never thought I would preach or teach the word until He call me into ministry and in just four years the effect of the call is experienced by many as God continually heal them and attend to their needs. A pastor who don’t hear from God is a theologian who will surely lead God’s children astray.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.staley.3762 Michael Staley

    I love this teaching I realize I have a long way to go because my desire is to pastor… as facebook senior pastor I’m glad God gave me this kind of church social media to work on the craft and talents that God has given me you spray for me thank you for this post Facebook senior pastor Minister Michael Staley

  • CB

    This young fella is the SENIOR pastor? Wow, I wonder what a junior pastor would look like. Can we find some authors with some life experience? I have boots older than this youngster.

    And, FWIW, the requirements of Scripture preclude women from diaconal as well as presbyteral roles. In short, no clergy for our sisters in Christ. Plain Scripture: “husbands of one wife.” Guys and not polygamists.

    Not much mention of the pull of the Holy Ghost or His anointing here. That would be primary to being called. The Spirit of Truth…leads us into all Truth, including our calls.

  • Marlon

    Just what I was looking for… Thank you!