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Vocation: Discerning Your Calling

2. Ability: What Are My Abilities and Deficiencies?

It is important to look at your abilities. Many people become burdened to see a ministry begin, but they are not realistic about their own abilities and limitations. For example, they themselves want to be leaders even though they do not have the gift of organizing and galvanizing people to follow them. You must be very aware of the part you are able to play in a ministry. What should you be doing, and what do you need someone else to be doing? Also, have the maturity to recognize how young or old you are in the faith. You may realize that your godliness does not cover your gift deficiencies very well, and you therefore need a strong team around you.

It is important to understand that every kind of ministry needs “prophetic,” “priestly” and “kingly” gift-mixes. This is one of the many reasons why we don’t look to our abilities first. For example, it might be thought that if you have a priestly gift, you should be a deacon, but if everyone on the diaconate had only priestly gifts, it would be a disaster! You need vision casters and leaders and so on in every ministry. That is why we don’t say, “All prophets should go into teaching ministries, all priests to mercy and justice ministries, and all kings to administrative duties.”

3. Opportunity: Where Does the Community Tell Me I Am Needed

Finally, we must refuse to be individualistic in the way we discern our ministry. The doctrine of sin alone should be enough to prove that you should not be trying to make this decision yourself. Additionally, the Bible teaches that when we become Christians, we become “members of one another” (Eph. 4:25 NRSV). We cannot understand ourselves without paying attention to what our brothers and sisters can see. There may be opportunities for us to serve that we have never considered, but for which we are perfect. Also, we are under the authority of our leaders (Heb. 13:7, 17), and we should bow to what they may tell us are the church’s needs. God put us into a community, and we discern his will and calling together.


Your vocation is a part of God’s work in the world, and God gives you resources for serving the human community. These factors can help you identify your calling. Affinity—“Look out.” Affinity is the normal, existential/priestly way to discern call. What people needs do I vibrate to? Ability—“Look in.” Ability is the normal, rational/prophetic way to discern call. What am I good at doing? Opportunity—“Look up.” Opportunity is the normal, organizational/kingly way to discern call. What do the leaders/my friends believe is the most strategic kingdom need? Your life is not a series of random events. Your family background, education and life experiences—even the most painful ones—all equip you to do some work that no one else can do. “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do“ (Eph. 2:10).

Copyright © 2007 by Timothy Keller, © 2011 by Redeemer City to City. This article is adapted from a leadership training session at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in 2007.