A Call to Ministry

A Call to Ministry

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Many fine Christians believe in a call to ministry.  I have often been asked whether I am called to ministry myself.  What does the Bible say about such a call?

I wonder if the idea of a call comes from the call of prophets in the Old Testament.  Isaiah and Jeremiah were called to be prophets; Saul and David were called to be kings.  However if this is where the idea comes from it would be on very shaky ground!  We must read the Old Testament as fulfilled in Christ (Luke 24:44-46).  The kings and prophets are types of Christ, not us.  We are not kings and prophets; we are like the normal Israelites.  We need to move from the Old Testament to us in application by a two stage process, not a one stage process.  A one stage process jumps from the Old Testament straight to us in application, bypassing Jesus and the gospel.  Many errors result from such a reading of the Bible.  A two stage process moves from the Old Testament to its fulfilment in Jesus, and only then to us.  I do not believe that the call of kings and prophets in the Old Testament applies to us.  These calls apply to Jesus (and perhaps the apostles).

Broughton Knox says: “It is better to speak of “being sent” than of “being called” when speaking of the Christian ministry. “Calling” is a status concept, and in the New Testament refers to being called to be a Christian, called into God’s presence. Then God send us out, he sends us as labourers into his harvest…”[1]

In the New Testament we are called to be holy (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 2 Timothy 1:9); we are called into fellowship with Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:9).  In short, all Christians are called: called out of darkness into light, called to salvation (1 Peter 2:9).  There is no verse that I am aware of that speaks of being called to be a minister.

Why is this important?  It is a good idea to use Biblical words in a Biblical way.  We should not use Biblical words in an un-Biblical way, however much it may be accepted in our own Christian circles.

My hope is that all of us who are Christian will serve Christ in holiness all the time.  Some of us may leave secular work and serve in church or on the mission field full time.  But we are all called to serve Christ in holiness all the time.  If you are a Christian, then you are called to ministry!  You might keep your day job, or you might leave it.  But either way, you are called to be a Jesus-person all day every day.

[1] [D. Broughton Knox Selected Works (ed. T. Payne; volume 1; Kingsford, NSW: Matthiasmedia, 2000), 351.]


  1. Stu (Author)

    Thanks for that distinction Martin. I know I will try to be more careful of the terminology I use.

    However can you please explain in the context of your post how we are to identify what specific ministry we are to serve in. Sure there is the general ministry to one another as we serve each other out of reverence, obedience and love for Christ, however how would you describe God placing on one’s heart a desire for someone to serve in a particular way, in a manner that is consistent with scripture?

    In Acts 1:24 it speaks of God “choosing” people to serve/lead. In this case it was Matthias. I know it he was to replace the apostleship of Judas as you refer in your post about the “calling” of the apostles. But surely God chooses/equips people to serve in particular ways. Are we ‘called’ to such roles, or should we say ‘chosen’? I would feel uncomfortable using ‘chosen’ as our ideas and desires can so easily be tarnished by impure and unrighteous motives.

    Anyway I am thinking out load now. What are you thoughts??? What terminology should we use when describing what specific areas of ministry we feel God has lead us to and equipped us for?

    • Martin Pakula

      Hi Stu
      What I think this does (using Biblical terminology the way the Bible does) is that it frees us up. If I think I am specifically “called” or “chosen” to do something in ministry, then I will never give it up, even if I’m not suited! However if I understand that I am called to serve Jesus however I can wherever and whenever, then I will be free to be much more flexible. Of course we should use common sense to identify our gifts and skills given to us by God and then use them. Hopefully other people around us will point these things out to us. If I am particularly good with children, they might tell me so, etc. The bottom line is that we should all go for it in ministry wherever we can, and others will let us know what we are particularly suited to.

      • Stu (Author)

        Thanks for that Martin. I see where you are coming from. Clearly God equips us to be able to serve in certain ways and we will have stronger desires to serve in some ministries as opposed to others. I think our passions and gifts help us identify where we can best serve. Otherwise we will find ourselves getting burned out a lot quicker and our passion to serve diminished.

        In saying that I think it’s important that we also serve in areas where we may not really ‘like’ serving as much. Serving others and seeing them mature in Christ is what’s primarily important. I don’t think Christ would’ve enjoyed being crucified too much!!! Yet He did it to serve His Father out of obedience to Him.

        • Martin Pakula

          I certainly agree! We always have to do things we are not good at. However I would suggest that pre-Bible College people should try everything in order to ascertain what their gifts are. After College it’s better to play to your strengths when you can (and you should hopefully have enough ministry experience by then to know what your strengths are).

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