Published May 1, 2020
Scripture is clear that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Often that verse is used to motivate believers to embrace their role as being a witness to the saving power of Christ. But that verse also connects with one of the five strategic initiatives outlined by Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd in Vision 2025 — to increase the number of workers in the field through a new emphasis on "calling out the called."
The call to ministry is a concept that you don't hear much about in many churches today. In yesteryear, the invitation time would not only focus on the need for individuals to come to saving faith in Christ, but also include those whom God was calling for a ministry position — such as pastor, evangelist, missionary and other roles that directly focus on being a laborer in the harvest.
There are abundant stories of faithful men of God who initially shied away from the call of God on their lives, but ultimately submitted to that call and were used mightily in ministry. It's not uncommon to hear of someone who wonders if the call of God is upon their life.
Some indicators that you may be called include an inner sense of con- viction that this is what you need to do without you choosing it, said Alan Witham, regional consultant group leader for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
"Ministry is not another career path option, but a career calling," Witham said. "God chooses you for it." He added that a person may not be able to picture being a preacher and pastor, but cannot escape the idea that this is what God has planned for his life.
Tim Beougher, associate dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he believes the call to ministry is evidenced in three ways — a subjective call, an objective call and a community call.
He quotes C.H. Spurgeon who wrote, "The first sign of the heavenly calling is an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work. 'Do not enter the ministry if you can help it,' was the deeply sage advice of a divine to one who sought his judgment. If any student in this room could be content to be a news- paper editor, or a grocer, or a farmer, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or a senator, or a king, in the name of heaven and earth let him go his way; he is not the man in whom dwells the Spirit of God in its fulness, for a man so filled with God would utterly weary of any pursuit but that for which his inmost soul pants."
Beougher relates the example given by Peter Marshall, former chaplain of the U.S. Senate, who wrote, "If you were walking down the street, and someone came up behind you and tapped you on the shoulder — what would you do? Naturally, you would turn around. That is exactly what happens in the spiritual world. A man walks through life, with the eternal call ringing in his ears but with no response stirring in his heart; then suddenly, without any warning, the Spirit taps him on the shoulder.
"The tap on the shoulder is the call that brooks no refusal, the call we cannot ignore, the call that brings us to fall adoringly and wonderingly at the feet of Christ. The tap on the shoulder stops you, His voice calls you, His love draws you, His kingdom challenges you. Now you must make a decision … you must turn around and follow Him, or you deliberately walk away from Him. Life is never the same after He taps you on the shoulder and speaks to your soul … one is never the same after the tap on the shoulder."
Witham noted that a person called of God recognizes that "God has shaped your life for this very thing through your life experiences, spiritual gifts and passion for Him and for people. God doesn't invest these things in your life to waste them. Others around you recognize God's plan for your life and affirm that."
Beougher, commenting on this "objective call," notes "the man whom God calls, He also equips." This objective call does not demand perfection. Scripture reminds us that "God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong" (1 Cor. 1:27).
The input of the congregation to "call out the called" to ministry is vital. The congregation should recognize and celebrate the gifts of ministry given to its members, and take responsibility to encourage those whom God has called to respond to that call with joy and submission.
Beougher pointed out the necessity of the church evaluating a man to see if he meets the qualifications of 1 Tim. 3:2-7 and Titus 1:5-9. "If a man believes God has called him to the ministry, his church must be able to affirm that call. 1 Tim. 3:7 adds the qualification that 'he must have a good reputation with those outside the church.'"
Spurgeon stated, "It is needful as a proof of your vocation that your preaching should be acceptable to the people of God." Another critical point added by Spurgeon is that "whatever 'call' a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry."
John Newton, famous for writing "Amazing Grace," once said, "None but He who made the world can make a minister of the gospel." Only God can call a true minister, and only God can furnish the gifts necessary for service.
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