Due to a couple of bouts of the flu, this post is a little later than I anticipated! You can read the first post here.
Pastoral discouragement is something that most men in the ministry experience. And with that discouragement many begin to question thier “call.” What we need is a biblical understanding of how we determine what we are “called” to do.
You may have noticed that I have been putting the term “call” in quotes. In my opinion, many have an almost mystical view of this topic…as if pastors and/or missionaries have had some special, nearly supernatural experience that tells them they are supposed to be in that paticular ministry. In fact, this is so expected that I’ve heard some pretty amazing stories. One pastor friend (from different “circles” than me), claimed he heard a voice like “the rushing of many waters” telling him to “Feed my sheep” after he had spent several days fasting. Another fellow I know had similar experience, though he heard a “still, small voice.” I have no idea what these men really experienced. They both love God and serve Him faithfully. But it shows that many have an expectation that one needs a special, God-speaking experience to be “called.” But is that what we see in the Bible?
There are certainly cases of such experiences; Paul obviously comes to mind. But no where does the Bible say that one needs to see a blinding light and hear the voice of God to know one is called. In fact, the process is fairly simple. Here’s my take.
Consider your DESIGN
There are several passages that we could focus on…but this is a blog. I have to keep it short. So let’s focus on Romans 12. This text gives, in my opinion, the best instruction on determining where one fits in a local body.
A vital part of understanding the “call” is realizing that EVERY believer is gifted by God to fit into the ministry of his or her local church body. Both in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 (two key texts on gifts), the body is mentioned. Also mentioned is the fact that each person has a part to play…EACH PERSON. Consider this verse from our focus text:
Rom. 12:3 (ESV)
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Notice the phrase “everyone who is among you.” Among who? The church in Rome! Everyone in the church was called to consider their giftedness. In another epistle, Paul tell the Ephesians:
Eph. 4:7-8 (ESV)
7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
Christ gifted “each one” in the local church. That means YOU, dear believing reader, are “called” into ministry. Each one has a part to play in the local body! So the question is, “What part do I have to play?” Paul encouraged the believers in Rome to “think with sober judgement” about the “measure of faith that God assigned.” In other words, think hard about how God has gifted you. There is a warning that we should heed. “Don’t think more highly” of yourself than you should. But that doesn’t stop you from a serious evaluation of your gifts!
So…in what areas of church ministry do you excel? Where are you naturally gifted? Consider the list that follows in Romans 12. Where do you fit in your local church? It’s important to consider your design!
For me, I discovered I have a love for and ability in teaching. Now, if that statement makes you say, “Jamie, that’s awful arrogant!” then you are missing the point. It’s not about ME. I don’t do this for MY NAME. It’s for GOD and HIS glory! And for me to be most effective in making His name know, I am commanded to seriously evaluate my abilities and aptitudes. For example, I’ve never been afraid to be in front of people. Now, I get my fair share of ribbing about this… “Jamie likes the spot light” and other similar comments. But I can’t let that stop me from seriously considering the fact that God designed me with that particular boldness.
Where are you designed to fit in your local church body?
Here’s another step…
Consider your DESIRE
In his first letter to his son in the faith, Timothy, Paul begins to talk about pastors. He starts with this interesting statement:
1 Tim. 3:1 (ESV)
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.
We have this idea that our desires are bad. So if I want to serve in a particular ministry, it’s probably not the one for me. I have to choose the one I hate…that’s both noble and how God works, some seem to think. 1 Timothy 3:1 blows that idea away. Paul said that desiring the office of overseer (pastor) is a good thing!
For me, I wanted this. I wanted a people to shepherd. I wanted to teach the things that I was learning in the word. I wanted to help people grow more than I wanted anything. That wasn’t sinful…that was a God-given desire.
So how about you? What do you enjoy doing? What do you LOVE? Sure, we all have sinful motives we have to be very careful to avoid (Jer. 17:9). I need to blog about that sometime…I think many struggle with doing ministry for all the wrong reasons. However, this is something to say about doing what we love for the honor and glory of God!
Now…I need to keep this short, so let me wrap up my last two points quickly…
Consider your DISCIPLINE
1 Tim. 3 also gives a list of qualifications. Not everyone who is gifted to teach and who loves to do so, should. They may not be called because they are not qualified. This certainly needs to be considered!
Consider your DESTINY
Ok…I’m stretching a bit for the sake of alliteration…here’s what I mean. What opportunities are in front of you right now? What doors has God opened? What doors are closed?
When we came to Elkhart to take on Cornerstone, we needed extra income to make things work. God opened the door perfectly with a local computer company. Had the other job not materialized, it would have been impossible for us to come. God opened the door. God is sovereign and He is in control of our circumstances…this cannot be denied.
So here’s what we do…we consider how we are gifted, we think about what we love to do…then we DO IT. We GET ACTIVE in our local body and USE our gifts (Rom. 12:6). If you are uncertain, just ask your pastor what opportunities are available. Try out new ministries…get involved. God will guide you as He opens doors.
Now…here’s the point and the tie in to pastoral discouragement. Once we understand God’s design for us, we need to measure success God’s way! I talked about this in a previous blog, so I won’t rehash the topic…but once you know where you fit in the local church, rest assured in God’s “call.” Then serve God defining success HIS WAY. Keeping your heart on His name and trusting Him with the fruit will go along way to avoid pastoral discouragement.
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