Importance of the Call for Christian Ministry
Pr. Reji Mooledam
Once a young man, who was standing by the sidewalk, was asked, “Why are you standing here?” His sudden answer was, ”I am thinking about it too”.
People without a call or commissioning for ministry are just like those who wander without a purpose. An employer usually puts out an advertisement for hiring anyone for a specific job. The job interviews are held only for those who respond to the advertisement.
In a sense, the call for Christian ministry is universal to all Christians. Therefore, it is said, “All the saved are missionaries and all the unsaved are the mission field”. But God wants to set apart a select few for the purpose for which they are called, and He appoints them in His Church.
The Need for a Call
The Call is inevitable for being appointed for the ministry. If there is no clarity or conviction about the call, such a person will be left wandering without a goal. In the Old Testament, Abraham is a good example for one who set out his journey following God’s clear call. But Lot, who went along with Abraham, had to experience failure and tragedy. The New Testament says that he “…vexed his righteous soul….” (2 Peter 2:8).
In the Gospels, the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ received a clear call and commission. ”He went up on the mountain and called… He appointed twelve,” (Mark 3:13,14). “And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out… Giving them authority” (Mark 6:7). Christian ministry was initiated by those whom Jesus called directly, though they were gainfully employed in other trades.
The necessity of a clear call for those who desire to make a commitment for ministry is relevant even today. It is a broadly evident from the life experiences of so many that a ministry without a call turns out to be an utter failure. There was a man who wanted to do what Paul did, having been attracted by the fame and divine power exercised by Paul. He was Simon, who had a possibility of leading the church in Samaria. (Act.8:18) His futile attempts ended in failure and embarrassment.
The Mode of the Call
Everyone are not called for the ministry in the same way. The means or methods of calling may be different.
1. Direct Call
God calls through the Holy Spirit by a prophetic voice (Acts 13:2). Sometimes the same call may be received through the assurance given in the Word of God. God also calls people through a vision.
2. Through Events
Turning points in life, like crises, diseases, accidents etc. can become an opportunity for God’s call. These turning points also help to bring about awareness and focus about one’s own call. Jonah is a good example here. Many ministers have experienced miraculous divine healings, which came about when they decided to obey the call of God for the ministry.
3. Inner Call
One can be sure of the call to ministry accompanied by a strong inner urge. The commission is certain when one realizes the call.
The Bible records the call of many men and women commissioned and appointed for ministry. The account of the prophet Elijah is significant. Similarly, the description of the call and commissioning of Jeremiah is unique and particular.
Jeremiah was called even before he was formed in his mother’s womb. “The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jer.1:4).
Even today, many people receive the call for ministry even before they were born. But they realize it much later, while in their teens or youth. The experiences of Samson, who was a mighty man of God in the Old Testament and John the Baptist who was a powerful preacher and forerunner of Jesus, were not very different.
The call comes in different ways and means in the lives of Moses, Gideon, Elisha, and Amos, all of whom were used in the hands of God as His spokespersons.
As a matter of fact, the call of Apostle Paul, who was a very shining star in the pages of the New Testament, was not at the gates of Damascus. Paul clarifies this in his letter to the Galatians. “But when God, who set me apart from my mother's womb and called me by his grace, was pleased” (Gal.1:15). Though Paul had the call from the time of his birth, he got the vision of Jesus nearly 30 years later at the gate of Damascus. This explains what happened in the church at Antioch during the fasting and prayer, ”While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2).
The Call is inevitable for Christian ministry. The called must fulfill the purpose of the call by doing the work of the Lord. When the purpose of the call is accomplished, God’s name is glorified and the kingdom of God is expanded.