Gospel Ministry - is it right for me?

Mark O'Donaghue | 25 Sep 2012

Two questions I am often asked, both as Chairman of 9:38 and as a pastor of a local church:

  • How do I know God is calling me into full-time paid gospel ministry?
  • How do I know when to take the plunge?

And it wouldn’t surprise me if the reason you’re reading this post is because you’re desperately seeking an answer.

Without being flippant, I usually make two brief comments by way of introduction:

  1. You can know and it is easy because we are all called. However, although ‘calling’ is an important New Testament idea, it is not used the way we often use it today. God calls Christians (1 Thess 5:24; Jude 1:1; 1 Cor 1:24, 26) and does so by the gospel (2 Thess 2:14). In other words, God’s call in the New Testament is less an inner subjective feeling and more the objective sound of the gospel.
  2. You don’t know and you can’t know, at least with the degree of certainty for which we often long. In his kindness, God gives us wisdom and freedom to make godly decisions and if I want to be told what to do by a giant finger poking out of the sky saying: ‘It could be you!’ then it probably only means that there's a need to develop a bit more spiritual maturity.

A great starting point would be to read and reflect on a passage like Ephesians 4:7-12. In it, the Apostle Paul gives us a glorious reminder of how the risen Christ richly gives gifts to all his people and Paul urges us to use those gifts for the building up of Christ’s body, the church. Therefore, much better questions to ask are:

  • What gifts do I have?
  • How can I best use the gifts God has given me to advance his gospel and serve his people?

Our problem is that we don’t get prior notification of our gifts. Unlike receiving our PIN from the bank, there is no letter from heaven explaining that, in 7 days time, we will receive the gift of being a pastor-teacher or an evangelist. Instead, as we use our gifts and serve, so our gifts can be identified and nurtured. Jesus’ gifts are discerned by his church as they’re used by his servants.

Therefore, take every opportunity to lead a Bible study or help on a summer camp or serve in Sunday school and ask a mature Christian friend, or better, a church leader, to watch you and give you some constructive feedback. Although we live in an instant culture, we need to recognise that the way into word ministry takes time and testing (see 1 Tim 3.10; 5.22).

Wonderfully, today there are many excellent avenues to dip our toe in the water and explore ministry and there are local church ministry training schemes all over the UK (see for details). They enable men and women to take a year or two out of work (or after University) to be trained in handling God’s word while serving and being watched and mentored.

If you are student and thinking about the possibility of applying for a local church ministry training scheme, this conference may be for you...