T. J. de Ruiter,
Pentecostal Pastor and Bibleteacher in The Netherlands
How do Christians, young or old, receive a call to a ministry in the work of the Gospel and the Church? Does a call to ministry always come through a kind of mystic, supernatural experience or are there more ways used by God to make people know that He has a special work for somebody, to become a leader, teacher, pastor, evangelist, pastor or prophet? The view, that a such a call must only and always rest upon some kind of supernatural experience, especially when it involves a ministry of leadership is not in harmony with the New Testament. Let us briefly look at callings in the New Testament.
In the New Testament
Christ called the disciples after a night prayer. He asked them to follow Him, because He was going to train them and become apostles, because He was going to send them to continue with the mission He had begun; Lucas 6:12,13.
The apostle Paul had indeed a supernatural calling in a vision as Christ encountered him on the road to Damascus. Such a powerful intervention was necessary as he was a fierce and fanatic enemy of Christ and the church.
Timothy and possibly also Titus were called by Paul to be his helpers and students and received the laying on of hands of elders and prophetic words to help them start in and conform their own ministries in the churches. We read in the book of Acts that the churches should look for qualified men from amongst the members to become leaders. And in the Pastoral Epistles to Timothy and Titus, we read that they as responsible leaders should seek for those, who qualified as elders - leaders - in the churches.
Becoming conscious of a divine call
We learn from the reports in the New Testament that God has many ways and means to call men and women to the work of Christ, fulfilling His mission to reach all nations with the Gospel and built His Church.
Mature and godly leaders may sense that God has a ministry call for a younger person and convey their impression to him. God can also speak in a sermon or a prophetic word, confirming the impression that exists in the heart to serve the Lord. The Lord can speak with that 'still small voice' when a person is alone, in a time of prayer and meditation. The Lord can speak through a specific Scripture-reading, when a 'word' is pressed upon the spirit and one knows without a doubt that God has spoken. And, of course, the Lord can visit in a supernatural way, as already mentioned earlier in this article. A calling can also come through specific circumstances in combination with one or more of the above mentioned possibilities.
Evaluating and verifying the experience...
In whatever way we arrive at a sense of calling, receiving a knowledge of 'being called by God' to ministry, it remains of vital importance to always evaluate the experience and the process with Scriptural teachings, however strongly convinced we ourselves may be about their authority and genuineness. Even if we are personally absolutely sure that God has spoken to us, let it be evaluated be others. The church is compared to a body and therefore shall the function of the individual believer be recognised and verified by other believers. They will pray for the one, who is called from their midst to ministry and supply in his needs. This is of special importance for those who are called to fulltime ministry.
Once again: Experiences, however glorious, vivid and influential have to be judged by the standards, holy principles and truths of the Holy Scriptures. A supernatural sensation, seeing a great light, hearing a voice or even being taken up in heaven, is not in itself a guarantee that the experience is 'of God.' A strong desire for the supernatural can create vivid feelings and impressions and if we act on them without them being endorsed by God, could or even will mislead us. And, of course, even satan can mislead us for whatever dark reason he has in his wicked mind, appearing as an angel of light, says Paul.
Training for the ministry
Then there is the issue of education and training for the ministry. We see in Scripture that Christ trained His disciples. Often He must have taken them apart for teaching and giving instructions for ministry. He even sent them on missions, to have their first experience. The apostle Paul took young men as Timothy, Titus and others to train them. Some pastors and evangelists have private schools to train younger people, who sense the call of the Lord. And some denominations have their learning institutes to educate for ministry. We should never despise good education and training, that honours the Lord and His holy Word. We know that true wisdom and knowledge come from the Spirit of God, but that does not imply that training is unnecessary. A period of training and education is usually a time of spiritual growth and enrichment; it can also be a time of heart searching and purification.
I have worked for more than 25 years with young people, who came to the Bible College with a sense of calling. Some had right from the start a very clear one, others grew in understanding and some decided after some time that they had been mistaken. All callings to one or more of the nine ministries can come in various ways. And, if the call is truly from God, it is - or will grow into - a solemn and deeply imprinted conviction in the spirit: The person concerned knows "I am called by God."
Empowered to do the work
Please realise this too: When the Lord calls, He also empowers; read Luke 24:48,49; Acts 1:8, "You shall receive power..." He empowered the apostles by His mighty Spirit and many after them down through the centuries of Church History. The Lord called a Reinhard Bonnke as a young man to preach the Gospel to Africa. This happened many years ago in the Bible School in Swansea, South Wales, where he and I studied as young men for some years. The Lord has empowered and still empowers him for this great mission in a warm climate and oftentimes in dangerous situations, and we are now in our sixties!
Believe it, the Spirit of the Lord will give you all necessary gifts to fulfil the specific ministry He calls you to. Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; do you see some gifts already a little in operation as you set your first steps to serve the Lord? Be diligent and dedicated. Serve the Lord with joy and full dedication - there is no greater privilege!
With my regards and blessings on all who love and want to serve the Lord from a pure heart.
The Netherlands, 1999, revised 2003.
For your personal reaction: E-mail pastor T. J. de Ruiter
Here follows a reaction to this message
Dear Pastor Teun J. de Ruiter,
I greatly appreciate what you said about being called into ministry. I have been struggling with God's call in my life. I know He's called me into ministry, and I thought that ministry was to be with youth, but now I believe that God is calling me to work with the blind. I never had a miraculous experience or heard His voice saying, "Yes, Jordana, this is it. This is what I've called you to do." I know that some people really do have experiences like that, but when you just somehow know, then sometimes it's easy to doubt that your call is truly from God. Thank you for reminding me that God's call to me is no less important or valid than any other. May Christ bless you.
Lord, walking in the way of Your Truth,
we wait eagerly for You, for Your name and
Your renown are the desire of our souls. Isaiah 26:8.
Jordana, a student in the U.S.A.
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