By Ken Willard

“Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God.” – Paul, Ephesians 4:1

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “call” in the context of church life?

How have you heard the word “calling” used in the past?

Too often the words “call” and “calling” seem to only be used in the church world in the context of referring to people who are ordained or licensed as pastors. Those people are of course called by God into ministry.

Guess what . . . so is everyone else! As Christians, we are ALL called into ministry. A few of us will be called into full-time, ordained ministry. But the rest of us are still “called” into ministry. Our calling is just different.

In the verse listed above from Ephesians, Paul is writing to everyone in the church. Not just to a leader or two.

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, be eager to confirm your call and election. Do this and you will never be lost. In this way you will receive a rich welcome into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:10-11

Look around at everyone in your church. Imagine if everyone who called your church “home,” understood that they had been called into ministry! Not as pastors, not to preach or teach, (although there is a very good chance some in your church are being calling to do those things) but to respond to and live their life in such a way that it honors the calling God has given them.

Here some practical ways for us to both connect our personal calling to ministry (clergy and laity) to theology based on scripture, and to see how you might begin to explain this calling to others in your church:

  • We have all been created for ministry. [Ephesians 2:10] Sometimes people struggle with “Why am I here on earth?” we can say, “You were made for ministry!”
  • We have all been called into ministry. [1 Peter 2:9-10] This is a major paradigm shift for most Christians. When we became Christians, we became ministers. The Bible says it is the job of pastors to prepare/equip the laity for ministry. Too often people feel it is only the pastor or church staff, paid and unpaid, who do the ministry.
  • The Body of Christ needs my ministry. [1 Corinthians 12:27] When we don’t fulfill our ministry, the whole Body suffers. Yes, the local church has things people need . . . and each person has gifts the church needs too. If we are not living into our calling, the ministry of the church is not complete.
  • We are accountable for our ministry. [Romans 14:12] There are many parables in the New Testament—like the parable of the talents—which illustrate this concept.
  • We will be rewarded for our ministry. [Colossians 3:23-24] While we cannot earn our salvation, the Bible does say that we will be rewarded here and in heaven for our ministry.

In the book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life, Os Guinness says:

Every follower of Jesus has a calling. There are people, not everyone, who have expressed supernatural callings from God. The trouble is that some people think only special people are called, and if they haven’t had it, they haven’t been called. The special calls are rather dramatic, a Dr. is working in New York and suddenly the Lord calls him to a leper colony in Zambia—very dramatic. The experience of the minority becomes the expectation of the majority. If we haven’t had a call like that, then we haven’t been called. All over the Christian world there are people waiting for “it” –a vision, a voice—and until they hear the voice or see the vision, they are just sitting around. We have our callings. It is time to get on with it!

How might you and your church help more people to respond to their calling into ministry? One suggestion would be to provide a class on Spiritual Gifts. The United Methodist Church has a free gifts assessment you can find HERE. Another great resource is the book, S.H.A.P.E. Finding & Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life by Erik Rees.

Whatever you do, be sure to follow up on any class or training with a one-on-one conversation with each person focused on their next steps into ministry—how they plan to live into their calling.

Has any of this sparked an idea? Who are you going to partner with in your church to pursue this idea? What is your next step?

Please let me know if there is anything I or anyone else in the conference office can do to support your efforts of helping everyone in your church discover and live into their calling into ministry.

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” – Isaiah 6:8