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The Anatomy of a Call

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My ministry journey began ten years ago while I was a sophomore in high school. On February 1, 2003, I walked forward in our student ministry’s “Freedom Weekend” with several others, making public what I had known in my heart for several months – that God was calling me into church leadership.
Early on, I didn’t know what my call to ministry would entail. I knew it would involve preaching, despite being a relatively quiet and introverted kid. I also knew I didn’t feel called to be a pastor. I had a desire to do something different. To be honest, I was so sure of this call that I never really stopped to question it. I had never felt so certain of anything in my life.

But for many, feeling a call towards a certain lifestyle or vocation is a frightening prospect. Our generation is often commitophobic, whether it relates to a relationship or a career choice. We are scared of getting it wrong or failing at the thing that drives us.

So how can you be sure you’re called to something? How can you know, without a doubt, that God is leading you into a specific vocation, lifestyle, or sacrifice? Short of God visually appearing in your room and writing it on your forehead, you may always have questions or doubts. However, there are some indicators that can steer you in the right direction.

I had the privilege of attending Passion 2006 in Nashville, TN when I was a freshman in college. When I was there, Gregg Matte, founder of Breakaway Ministries at Texas A&M and pastor at Houston’s First Baptist Church, hosted a session where he explored the idea of calling. In it, he offered three questions to ask yourself.

1. Do you sense a desire from God to do it?

In other words, has God burdened you with the desire to reach a certain people group? Has he given you a passion to write worship songs for a new generation? Is there a certain cause or message that keeps you up at night?

Since I was a kid, I’ve always been concerned with how the Church in America represents Christ and the Gospel. My passion and skills in marketing have played a component in every ministry position I’ve held. I get angry when I see pastors flippantly spewing out insensitive comments from the pulpit that will only create barriers for those who need to hear the Gospel.

Not only have I felt that there is a better way to communicate the Gospel to our generation, I feel a God-given passion to be a part of that change. I can honestly say that if I sat on the sidelines and didn’t speak up, I’d consider myself a failure. While there are so many issues out there that I don’t feel equipped to address as a vocation, this one is personal and evokes a different kind of passion in me.

Is there an issue that fires you up or awakens something inside of you? Do you feel a God-given desire to do something about it?

2. Do you sense a desire in your heart to do it?

When you engage with this cause or message, do you feel yourself come alive? When you’re called to something, you will enjoy it. You may not love every minute of it. It will inevitably feel tough and you’ll have your doubts. But if the issue you’re passionate about constitutes a call, you’ll generally enjoy engaging with it.

I once had a pastor who would always tell me, “If you can imagine being happy doing anything else, do it instead of ministry. You’re not called.”

I reflect on that comment often and I really can’t picture doing anything else and feeling truly happy. When you consider the sacrifices and heartaches you encounter as a minister, you really have to love it to keep going. The job is tough and it comes with unique challenges but they only make it more rewarding. When I look forward to my job the morning after a very painful day, it only bolsters my confidence that I’m doing what God designed me to do.

Whether it’s teaching high-schoolers or becoming a missionary, God may be calling you into a particular vocation or lifestyle based on your passions and skills.

3. Do you sense that others are blessed by it?

This is important. It was the Christians around me who confirmed the call to church leadership in my own life. I knew I felt a desire to preach and came alive at the thought of it. However, the question still loomed in my mind, “Am I any good at it?” It was years before I got the chance to have that question answered.

One of the greatest evidences of a call is when others around you are brought closer to Christ as you exercise it. Does your singing provoke others to worship? Does your work with orphans bring joy and hope into their lives? While you may go your entire life without seeing any external impact, that doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t called. However, when you do see it, it can be very affirming.

When I was first beginning to preach, I kept a little file of encouraging notes and letters I got from people who enjoyed my sermons. There were plenty of times that my messages seemed to fall of deaf ears. I’d compare myself to other pastors and Christian speakers and feel inadequate. In the midst of those doubts and thoughts of failure, those notes served as a powerful encouragement to me.

What is your calling?

Do you feel a burden to help families with their finances?
Do you have a passion for art?

Do you enjoy running an ethical and compassionate small business?
Do you come alive when you preach?

Are kindergarteners blessed when you teach them the alphabet?
Can you envision lives being transformed by your scientific discoveries?

It sounds like there is a need out there and you may just be the one to address it.

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