If you are you a young man or woman and you feel called to full-time ministry, I want to let you know that ministry is unlike any other occupation that you might choose. In fact, I am hesitant to even categorize ministry as an “occupation.” Technically, it is, but more truthfully, ministry is a calling. In other words:
There is a difference between people who work in ministry and people who are called to ministry.
Anyone can functionally work in a ministry context, but leading people spiritually must be a calling first. If the "work" side of ministry overtakes the "calling" aspect of ministry it can be damaging to you and those you minister to.
As you wrestle with this call there are some practical things that can help you discern if you are called to ministry. We will talk about these in future posts. But the most important way that you need to prepare yourself is in the area of godliness.
Sure, ministry requires training in the practical aspects of Scripture study, counseling, discipleship, and church governance, but more importantly, it requires training of the heart and soul.
Every aspect of your life impacts your ministry.
I once heard a pastor say:
“If you are winning in your ministry but losing in your personal life – you have lost in both.”
His point is that our ministry calling is about so much more than the practical ministry tasks we may participate in during the week. Our personal integrity, relationships, home-life, and personal growth are key.
With this in mind, consider every moment going forward your Training Day.
The Apostle Paul told Timothy,
“Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
So, how are you doing at godliness?
Certainly, perfection cannot happen this side of heaven, but are your growing to be more like Christ?
As you think about this, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What am I spending my time on?
Everything that you do is either pushing you towards godliness or keeping you from it. What do your weekly activities reveal about where you are heading? Are you participating in life-giving things that cause you to interact with people in a healthy way? Are you spending time with people who are building you up? Are you spending hours playing video games and watching Netflix?
Once you have taken the inventory make the tough but necessary decision to eliminate or limit those things that are not advancing you in godliness and enhance or start doing those things that will. Being intentional with your time is critical.
2. How often am I spending time with God?
Godliness apart from time with God is impossible. You must carve out time at least 5-7 days a week where you are spending time with God in prayer and Scripture. This is how you develop closeness and intimacy with the Father. I tend to do better at this in the morning, so I do my best to get up early at least 5 days a week and go to my basement office and spend time with God. My time varies from 30 minutes to an hour, but while I am there I fight to keep my mind focused on Him.
3. Am I becoming more like Christ?
All of us have character issues, insecurities, and pride that need to be rooted out, destroyed, and confessed. For many, healing needs to take place because of issues and hurts from the past. The man or woman who feels called to ministry should ask God to search their heart and expose any areas that need working on and allow God’s healing and sanctifying process to happen. This can be very difficult, but it is part of the training day.
Are you becoming more like Christ? Ask yourself the following questions:
Is my character pure when no one else is looking?
Am I disciplined in all areas of my life?
Am I treating people with dignity?
Am I submitting to God in obedience?
Do I flirt the line with compromise?
The answers to these questions will reveal much. Submit your shortcomings to God and ask Him to begin working on these areas.
As God begins to work in these areas and as you partner with Him and submit in obedience you will begin to grow in godliness.
If you feel called to ministry there can be no other starting place than the pursuit of godliness. Do not worry about finding a job at a church or non-profit. Start by working on your personal holiness and becoming more like Christ.
In a later post we will talk about a practical litmus test to assess your call to ministry.