In my final thesis for seminary, I wrote achingly of my experience with people who did not believe I was called to ministry. I was devastated when the paper was returned and my professor had written, at the top of the page, in red ink, “Maybe they are right.”
To be fair, my seminary experience was not one I am proud of. I struggled with poor mental health that caused me to behave in ways I ordinarily would not. I didn’t do anything amoral, but I did live under a constant cloud of sadness and self-doubt.
However, one thing I knew, without a doubt, was that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. God’s call on my life was loud and clear. He made a way for me to go to seminary when there seemed to be no way. I changed my entire life direction so that I could serve God vocationally. I had a passion in my heart for vulnerable children and families that I could only describe as God-given. That is why I didn’t quit seminary, even when I wanted to. Somehow, in the darkest moments, I knew that God could use all of it – even the hard parts – to mold me into the minister he wanted me to be, one who knew suffering but by His grace lived to tell of how He brought me through it.
I am not the only one who has had an experience like this. Human beings are judgmental, loud, and rude. People often think they know best, and if they do not think a person should be in ministry, they may tell that person so. Couple this with the fact that God has a habit of calling the weak, the broken, the downtrodden, and we get instance after instance of people being called to ministry that the world (and sometimes even other Christians) do not believe are “qualified.”
Certainly it is possible to mistake a call to ministry. It is also possible to go to seminary or enter ministry without being called. But for the purposes of this article, I am not talking about those exceptions. I am writing of the experience of the imperfect who go to live in a glass house – the people who everyone wants to be perfect but because they are human, will never be.
Mentoring a person who has been called to ministry but is living in a way that is not Christ-like or still has some training or growing up to do is a very different thing than outright claiming that a person is not called. Some people are called, but have some “growing up to do” before they take their first job. This is not something to be ashamed of, it is just part of the process of sanctification. A person who is called to ministry should accept the wisdom of a trusted, Godly leader who suggests they may need to develop more spiritually before they enter ministry.
However, the claim someone is “not called” is to play the role of God in a person’s life. Ultimately, the only person who knows if God has called them is God and that person. We cannot always understand God’s ways or why God calls the people He calls. I do not understand why God called me. But I know that He did. God also called Moses, David, Peter, Paul, and a host of other imperfect people who were used powerfully for the Kingdom.
If you have ever been told you are not called to ministry, pray and ask for discernment. Listen to the person, if you respect their opinion, but do not allow the other person to stop you from doing what God is telling you to do. Maybe they are right. Maybe you are not called to ministry as a vocation. If that is the case, there is no shame in it. Remember that people are not just called to ministry, but that ministry is wherever God calls us.
But if you have prayed and studied and received Godly wisdom and you are convinced God has called you, then do not quit. Hold fast to the promise of God that he who began a good work in you will see it through to the day of completion. Remember that people questioned Jesus’ identity too. Then he gave himself for the sake of the salvation of the world.
Go, and do likewise.