Lay members of The United Methodist Church are, by history and calling, active advocates of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Licensed and Ordained Ministry:
Within the church community, there are persons whose gifts, evidence of God’s grace, and promise of future usefulness are affirmed by the community, and who respond to God’s call by offering themselves in leadership as set-apart ministers, ordained and licensed. 2016 Book of Discipline ¶ 301.
If you are exploring a call to ministry, we want to walk alongside you through the process.
Many Gifts, One Spirit
There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit, and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, CEB
I am continually amazed at the ways that God calls us and brings to life those spiritual gifts and talents within us! We are walking, breathing, potential of that “demonstration of the Spirit” that is “given to each person for the common good.”
Each of us is called to use those gifts of the Spirit in ways that minister to others. We are all meant to use our gifts to demonstrate God’s tremendous love for all, every day. Some are called for the set-apart leadership of licensed or ordained ministry. Most of us are intended to grow as disciples of Christ who then work to transform the world.
The fact that Paul used the metaphor of the Body of Christ frequently and powerfully (see also Romans 12 and Ephesians 4) tells us that there is an important message for us here in how he understood the early church was meant to work and grow. Their focus was on developing followers of Christ and strengthening the community of believers for the purpose of helping others to experience the transforming love of God.
In order to do this, everyone needed to be part of the body, contributing to its healthy functioning so that one part did not overwork and all parts were able to grow into what they were meant to be. Without each one’s gifts, the community would suffer.
Calling begins at Baptism, when we are initiated into Christ’s church and given new birth through water and the Spirit. We in the worshiping community promise to surround the newly baptized with a community of love and forgiveness that they may grow in their service to others. We promise to pray for them they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.
The metaphor of the body and remembering that faith is meant to be lived in community helps us consider the nature of God’s calling on each of our lives. We all benefit from others who help identify our giftedness and help us discern our calling. If we are not careful, we can fall into categorizing putting ministry into boxes and hierarchy. But Paul only speaks of the uniqueness of spiritual gifts and talents that contribute to the common good and “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” (Ephesians 4:12)
The word translated as “ministry” comes from the greek word “diakonia,” meaning “service,” which is used to refer to serving others (including waiting tables to feeding the poor to equipping the saints). All are expected to grow as disciples. All are called by God to action.
All are needed for service. Remember, in the same way, that the eye can’t discount the ear’s importance to the body, every follower of Christ is valuable for God’s reaching those who need to experience love.
So while you may be tempted to ask whether you are “called to ministry,” what might you hear differently if you asked how am I being called to use the gifts with which God has equipped me?
How might God want to use the unique set of gifts, talents, experiences and context that contribute to who I am—the demonstration of the Spirit that I might contribute for the common good? And what is the “common good”—the church—missing by my holding back? What part of the body is underdeveloped and would benefit from my service?
by Rev. Dr. Bonnie MacDonald
Director of Leadership Formation and Ministry Support
So while you may be tempted to ask whether you are “called to ministry,” what might you hear differently if you asked how am I being called to use the gifts with which God has equipped me?Bonnie MacDonald