I became confident. Once I knew God was calling me, sadly, it took another seven months for me to find the guts to go public. In October of 1995, I preached my first, rather pitiful, 18-minute sermon. But that experience lit a fire under me that burns to this day, and I still can’t hold it in.
While I believe God can and does often speak his calling into our lives in precise and unique ways, I believe that there should be some practical confirmation of that calling. After spending 20 years talking to younger leaders just getting started, I’ve developed a sense for those who are serious and those who aren’t—those who will go far because they lean into God’s grace and launch out in faith, and those who squander their time and energy on the sidelines.
When someone expresses an interest in ministry or talks of a calling, there are several questions that are quite appropriate to be asked, and through which a prospective leader can and should be screened, and I would divide them into five areas.
1. YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE
Are you presently walking in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit? Are you soaking in God’s Word, praying regularly, and growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus? And does it show in your closest relationships? Would those nearest you (especially a spouse) describe you as Spirit-filled?
2. YOUR HEART
Do you WANT to lead the church? Do you crave it? Hunger for it? Is your appetite insatiable enough that you cannot be stopped? Do you desire to do the work of a pastor?
3. YOUR ABILITY
Obviously, we should never attempt to serve merely in the power of our own flesh, but to be effective, we must be sharpening our skills and abilities. This is why teachability is one of the most vital characteristics of ministry leaders. When you stop learning, you will stop leading.
4. YOUR PERSONALITY
Your unique personality doesn’t really determine whether or not you’re ready to lead in ministry. Rather, it relates to HOW you should lead. One of the most beneficial exercises I’ve ever gone through is the DISC profile (or one of dozens of similar personality and temperament assessments). I’m laid back (a high “I”), so I have to work at communicating clear expectations. I hate conflict, so I have to be intentional about confrontation. And I’m an introvert, so owning this and being at peace with it is important.
5. YOUR EXPERIENCES
A decade and a half ago, Angie and I started to go plant a church, and had we done so, it would have been disastrous. I only know that because of all that we’ve encountered in the last five years that I would have been totally unprepared for back then. All of your past experiences—the good, the bad and the ugly—prepare you for what is next in your life.
If you’ve come to a place in your Christian walk where your hunger to serve and your conviction that God wants you to serve line up, and you have the maturity, the desire, the ability, the personality and the experience necessary to prepare you, then GO FOR IT!
Every believer is “called.” We’re all called to serve others, to share the gospel and to glorify God. And we’re all called to do these things “full-time.” But thank God for granting the special opportunity for some to be fully immersed in the life of leading the body of Christ forward for the gospel’s sake!