The story of my calling is a little backwards. I felt the call to ministry when I was barely 16, a full year and a half before I truly experienced salvation. While that seems impossible, it’s definitely possible when you THINK you’re a Christian. I thought I’d experienced salvation when I was nine, but for 7 years Jesus had only visited my head. He wasn’t the true Lord of my life. So how in the world did I feel this “call” to ministry?
I wanted to be a meteorologist my whole childhood and most of my teenage years. I was obsessed with weather, and Jim Cantore was my favorite celebrity. There came a time, though, when that dream started to lose its appeal. My discernment of why I should go into ministry became abundantly clear to me through my interests. I hated most science classes. And, while some of the job of meteorology is being on television, most of it is, well....science. That dream died with my lack of interest in most of what that job required. Simple as that.
I noticed that something I looked forward to every week was doing devotions at our basketball ministry at church during halftime. One day, someone I admired and respected told me out of the blue, “You would be really good at youth ministry.” I don’t know why she specifically chose youth ministry, maybe because I was a leading youth in the youth group or because she was a youth pastor herself. But, that comment stuck in my head. And I noticed myself getting a little more excited to be in Bible Study. I talked to my youth pastor at the time (not the same person), who I am incredibly grateful for to this day. He didn’t dismiss that feeling or belittle it because I was young. Instead, he discipled me and encouraged me to use my gifts in whatever way I could to serve God. So, from there my heart was set on youth ministry.
My salvation came at 17 after God lovingly confronted me and convicted me of the sin I was living in, and after that, my heart was even more motivated (obviously) to lead thousands of teenagers to Jesus. I went to Christian college, took youth ministry classes and bible classes, and volunteered at a local church in the youth group. I honestly thought my whole life plan was set out before me clear as crystal. However, you know I wouldn’t be writing this if that were the case.
Two years into college, I had a revelation: I had no interest in being a youth pastor. I’m not sure if the volunteer experience had anything to do with it, I mean they were great kids. But it wasn’t for me. And that realization kind of terrified me. Growing up, the message I received around me was if you’re called to ministry there are three types of jobs: Pastor, worship pastor, and youth pastor. I was a woman in the southern baptist denomination, so that meant I actually only had two options, and I had no musical talent other than kind of singing on the praise team. If I didn’t have youth ministry, what did I have? Was my calling even real?
I ended up switching to the seminary closer to home, lost in my direction. I really questioned God’s calling on my life and why I was even at seminary if there was no place for me in ministry anyway. I was lost for most of my time there, but I tried to make the best of it. I still was very involved in my church. I led Bible studies. And I fell in love with writing, starting as just a hobby. I met my husband at seminary, which I was DEAD set against because I didn’t want to marry someone in ministry (churches don’t normally hire couples). But, he was reeaaaallly cute, so it was worth the chance.
I did an internship at my church during my last semester, and the experience was eye-opening. I started to see the inner workings of ministry and really pay attention to the fact that there are so many facets of ministry besides the ones I named earlier. I was encouraged by my pastors wife all the time. She gave me opportunities to lead and cheered me on through my struggle of finding my place in ministry. I started to wrestle through why I thought those years before that God had this specific call on my life, and I realized that though God’s calling was definitely real, my limitations on his calling were incredibly wrong. God uses people in life-long, purposeful, ministry in more ways than I can even think of.
Over the last five years, my ministry roles have looked very different. But through simply seeking God first and asking him to let my desires fall into his, I’ve discovered that my calling all along was writing and teaching. I had been using my gifts for years, not even grasping the fact that God had shown me my calling while doing those halftime devotions. I was so focused on the limitations in my head, I discounted what I was already doing to not really being ministry. I’m so grateful that he was patient with me, and I’m grateful to serve him in the ways he’s gifted me.
A little over a month ago, I surveyed about 20 people who felt they had a call to ministry. I received answers that were all over the place. But, there was a theme to the answers. More than half of those people who answered the question: “Are you doing the same job RIGHT NOW that you thought you would when you experienced the call to ministry?” Came back with the answer “No.” Does that mean they weren’t called? Not necessarily. What is might mean is that we as humans have the habit of putting our finite worldly perspectives right in the middle of God’s plan where they don’t belong, blocking us from seeing all that he has for us.
My advice for people who are feeling called to ministry is simple, and it’s found in Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” First, delight yourself in the Lord. Abide in him to let him abide in you. Notice what your gifts are, what your interests are and if they align with scripture. Do you have a passion for humanitarian work? Maybe God is calling you to work with World Vision. Do you have a knack for the keyboard? I’ve witnessed people who worship through their fingers on the keys and it’s inspiring. You might not have a full-time church job. You may not always get paid for your calling at all (Remember that time Paul was a tent maker?)
But pursue your calling with your whole heart with God at the helm and I promise you will be fulfilled. It’s not glamorous, and it’s hard work. But it’s worth every second.