the shape of leadership

Calling All Calls

Five ways God calls people into ministry

George O Wood on May 19, 2017

Over the years, I have come to realize that people receive and answer the call into ministry in various ways.

Most folks think first of supernatural revelation, where God speaks in an overpowering way. I’ve never had that kind of call.

Then there’s a call that can materialize during corporate worship, individual worship, prayer or Bible study. What is the Spirit quietly saying to you in those moments?

Third, there is the call that comes by confirmation of other believers. None of us gets to where we are in ministry unless others affirm our gifts and talents.

And there are circumstances. The list of situations through which God can speak is endless.

Whatever combination of calls the Lord offers, you must have that sense that the Lord is in it.

Finally, there’s a fifth form of call that many people discount entirely — and yet it can be one of God’s most powerful ways of speaking His mind to you. For some reason, people tend to think that personal choice leaves God out of the equation. But let me illustrate.

I once asked Morris Williams — a great missionary to Africa — about his call. After he spoke at our annual missions convention when I was a pastor, I asked how he knew God wanted him on the mission field.

Brother Williams’ answer stunned me: “I never had a call.” (I thought he was pulling my leg.) “No,” he said, “I read in the Gospels where Jesus was taking volunteers, so I up and volunteered.”

I suspect that, as he offered to go, there was a resonance in his heart, and the Spirit was there. To be sure, our own ambitions alone don’t constitute a call from God, but personal choice can be a strong factor when we have consistently subjected our preferences to the Spirit’s leading.

Scripture affirms that God’s ways are beyond us, but I picture the call of God on a continuum from supernatural revelation all the way to “What do you want to do?” If you’re going to take a ministerial assignment, it must be more than, “The church voted me in” or “This looks like a good opportunity” or “This is going to be a nice career path for me.”

Whatever combination of calls the Lord offers, you must have that sense in your heart that the Lord is in it.

Adapted from the book Road Trip Leadership: Mileposts Along My Way in Ministry (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2011).


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