The ways of God are unknowable, and sometimes, as ministers, we find ourselves in places we never expected. We may be comfortable and thriving in our current ministry only to find God calling us elsewhere. This does not always merely mean a change in location. It can also mean a change in the type of ministry in which we are serving altogether.
Serving God in ministry is never about what we can do. It is rather about what God will do through us. This means that a variety of gifts can be used for the glory of the Lord. Humans are complex with a multitude of gifts and abilities. Just because God uses one of those gifts at one point in your life does not mean He will not later call you to use another.
A pastor I am close friends with recently made the change from Music Minister and Youth Pastor to Senior Pastor at my parent’s church. He can point to the very moment that God made known to him that he was supposed to change directions in ministry.
Some of us may have those defining moments. But others of us will sense the still, small voice of God quietly leading us in a new direction. It may even completely come about through no conscious choice of our own. Perhaps we are hired for a different job than the one we applied to and discover that God has placed a love in our heart for something we never saw ourselves doing. I know that this is the case for me. I was in the middle of searching for Children’s Ministry jobs in churches when I was offered a teaching position at a Christian Elementary School and I am happier with my work than I have ever been.
So how can we discern whether God is calling us to something new? The answer will be different for everyone, but below are three ways we can get started.
- Listen for God’s Voice
Ministry is a journey, and we must be open to whatever direction God carries us. We must never tell God our plans, because we can be sure that His are different. We must approach a life in ministry with more questions than answers and an attitude of response rather than authority. We must be constant in prayer and study, and listen to wise individuals around us to hear God’s nudging in a new direction.
- Pay Attention to Your Suffering
Sometimes, the change in direction may be clear. Perhaps we have grown burned out or unhappy with our current ministry and need new breath of life breathed into us. I believe that God uses our struggles and emotions to communicate with us. We must pay attention to our suffering just as much as our joys in order to hear God’s voice. Maybe He is telling us through our trouble that He has something more for us somewhere else or in a different kind of ministry work.
- Ask What Brings You Joy
If you feel God may be calling you to something new, ask what brings you alive. What makes you want to jump with the joy of the Lord? Theologian Frederick Buechner is famous for saying, “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.” God does not promise things will be easy for us in ministry, but I also do not believe that He calls us to be miserable. God gives us enjoyment and passion for a reason – to use it for His glory! It is better to serve where we are able to have joyful hearts than to give grudgingly because we feel obligated.
I hope that these three tips can help you begin to search your heart and mind as you seek the Lord’s direction. Remember, ultimately,
“…whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17, ESV: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
That is all that really matters.