As you ponder the meaning of what it is to be “called” to serve in Christian ministries, you’re not alone. Ask any two theologians to define calling, and they’re sure to find at least a few finer points to disagree about.
The reason for this is that Scripture offers us a variety of interpretations. Historical stories of the Old Testament, the example of Christ, Paul’s testimony – these all provide different perspectives.
So where does that leave you, as you prayerfully consider how you can be of service to the Lord?
At the very least, most Christians agree that a calling is something more than an occupation. To be called is to accept and fulfill your God-given purpose, and there are many different ways to do so in Christian ministries.
What Does a Call to Christian Ministries Feel Like?
This is a common question, but it might not be the right one.
As many experienced ministers will tell you, there may be moments in which the Lord speaks to you through the Word, the people in your life, the way He seems to orchestrate your life in a way that guides you to your purpose and with a sense of urgency in your soul.
They will also tell you that to be called is not always a matter of feeling. You will make many decisions about your participation in Christian ministries based on your knowledge of the Word, your spiritual gifts, and your God-given ability to reason through your questions.
The call to ministry can feel like a powerful tugging, but it’s also essential to see it as more than a feeling. As self-knowledge. Perhaps duty.
Or, to think of it more broadly, it is Christian life itself.
Not always felt, but always there.
Calling in Scripture
Let’s look at different kinds of calling we see in the Bible.
In the Old Testament, calling tends to come across as a dramatic experience.
- Noah was called to believe God and build an ark to save humanity.
- Abram (Abraham) was called to leave his home and establish the people of Israel.
- Jonah was called to go to Nineveh and urge all the city to repent.
- Isaiah – like so many prophets – was called to turn Israel back to God.
These are examples of the high calling, in which the Lord spoke clearly and forcefully, setting in motion events that would shape history.
While He indeed calls individuals to take bold action today, influencing churches, cities, and nations, this should not be your only idea of what calling means.
In the New Testament, Jesus’ humanity gives us a picture of calling that feels far more personal and intimate, yet no less important.
- He calls Levi (Matthew), the tax collector, to leave that life behind, follow Him and eventually write Matthew’s Gospel.
- He calls Simon (Peter) and Andrew to reframe their occupation as fishermen to become “fishers of men.”
- He calls Saul, the persecutor of Christ-followers, to join and support them like the Apostle Paul.
These are examples of Jesus calling disciples to Him in a way that feels personally transformative. The Twelve, Paul, and hundreds of other disciples were living their lives one way. Then Jesus came, and everything changed.
These profoundly emotional experiences happen today, and their potential for impact on the world is just as potent. But there are still other kinds of calling explored in Scripture.
By the time we reach Paul’s epistles to the churches, we are treated much less often with drama and stories of transformation. Instead, the Word was given through Paul most often gives us practical, straightforward advice that should broaden our understanding of what it means to be called.
- In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul presents calling as simply identifying which part of the body of Christ each of us has in the church.
- Two chapters later, in 1 Corinthians 14, he describes various roles in worship times, everyday ministry roles to which people are called.
- In 1 Timothy 3, he stresses the work of character development in an overseer (or “bishop,” or administrator) is part of answering the call to lead.
These examples illustrate that to be called to participate in Christian ministries isn’t something special – in the sense that it’s only for a select few. Instead, all Christ-followers are called to join in the work, whether by a moment of epiphany or simply acknowledging our duty.
This general calling shouldn’t make the concept of being called any less exciting. It means that every one of us can play a part. That the Lord invites each of us to contribute.
How we contribute relates to the type of role in Christian ministries we take.
Levels of Christian Ministries Roles
There are essentially three types of ministry roles, each of which may involve dramatic times of high calling or emotional moments of personal calling. Still, in every case, these ministries are characterized by an everyday, general calling to serve the Lord.
The most prominent roles associated with Christian ministries are church leaders. Pastors – and in many churches, elders and deacons – are ordained by the church and trusted to preach, teach and oversee ministries both within and outside the church.
Clergy work as senior pastors, directors of para-church ministries, etc.
You may be called to serve in a non-clerical leadership role. In many church traditions, this is called a lay minister. This typically requires biblical knowledge and some ministry training, but not ordination.
Lay ministers work as Sunday school teachers, youth and music ministry leaders, etc.
Christian ministries are almost always dependent on a handful of part-time staff and many volunteers to operate. These supporters usually don’t need high qualifications, but a foundational understanding of biblical truth is necessary to share the gospel effectively.
Supporters might work for the Salvation Army, participate in a visiting ministry to hospitals or prisons, help set up or tear down ministry events, or help with any other tasks.
Connect Education to Your Call to Christian Ministries
At Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary, we are equipping students to answer their call to ministry in a wide range of ways.
- For those called to preach and teach, graduate-level programs in biblical studies, urban Christian ministries, and pastoral studies will give you the qualifications you need.
- If you’re called to some form of lay ministry, an undergraduate degree in biblical, pastoral, or urban studies may be more than sufficient to prepare you to lead.
- Or, if you have only a sense of your general call to serve but aren’t sure about leadership, you may find an associate’s degree of great value as you start down the path of exploring your purpose.
While every degree program at CCCTS will prepare you to build a career, we are most passionate about helping you discover and fulfill your calling. Whatever that may be.
Explore your call to Christian ministries with us. Reach out to CCCTS to learn more today!
Featured image by beerphotographer via Adobe Stock