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Ministry Calling: What, Who, and Where

Through my years in ministry, I have noticed people describe their commitment or calling to a specific place of ministry differently.

Some speak of a calling to a specific task or role, such as “I am called to preach” or “I am called to work with teenagers.” These are the “what” leaders who focus on “what” they do in ministry. Leaders who think only in these terms think much more about what they do than the people they serve or the people they serve alongside. Now, of course, there is biblical precedent for being called to a task. God called Noah to build an ark, Nehemiah to rebuild a wall, and Paul to preach to the Gentiles.

Others speak of a calling to serve alongside a leader or a group of people, such as “I am here to serve with John.” These are the “who” leaders who focus on “who” they serve alongside. They think mainly in terms of the team they are honored to serve alongside or the leader whom they believe will develop them for the future. The location seems secondary. Again, there is biblical precedent for sensing a call to serve alongside others (Paul and Barnabas, for example).

Others speak of a calling to a specific church or city/community. These are the “where” leaders who focus on “where” they are serving. They speak first of the passion for their church or their community. It is almost as if the role and task is a mere detail, one that can change without any loss of worth or identity. There is biblical precedent for a commitment to a specific location (Paul’s call to Macedonia, for example).

There is great danger in being only a “what,” “who,” or “where” leader. “What” leaders often love what they do more than the people they serve or the people they serve alongside. Ministry can easily become about them and the opportunity to utilize their gifts. “What” leaders must become more passionate for the church than for what they do for the church. While I deeply value loyalty, “who” leaders can drift into valuing the relationships more than valuing the health of the ministry. And “where” leaders can lose focus on important ministry functions while simply “loving where they serve.”

Sadly, in some moments I have been exclusively one of the three. I have loved what I do more than I loved the people I served. I have valued relationships over the health of the church. Graciously, the Lord leads me to repentance.

And, by God’s grace, I have been all three at the same time. The Lord changed my perspective as He matured me. In other words, my view of my calling changed more than God’s calling shifted. Ministry is most fulfilling when you are passionate about the what, who, and the where. Loving what you do, whom you do it with, and where you do it is such an amazing ministry sweet spot that I hope it’s where we all stay.

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Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, he served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary and has authored or co-authored several books, including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. He is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.