While some experience a clearly distinct call of God to the task of missions or ministry, many do not have such an experience. Since we cannot legitimately command every person to be a career missionary, and we cannot wait for a Damascus Road encounter, how do we define a call to missions? Dr. David Sills’ clarifies this calling in his book, The Missionary Call and I agree with his definition. Dr. Sills states that the missionary call is based on five factors: an awareness of the need for mission work, the explicit commands of Christ in Scripture, a passionate, God-given desire for the work, a commitment to do whatever God wills, and agreement and affirmation from one’s church family.
I experienced a distinct, personal call to ministry at the age of fifteen. I knew in a moment that God was calling me into the ministry and a had a burning desire to preach and teach the Word of God. I have never questioned this calling as God has given me a deep sense of certainty concerning the call to ministry. I have been blessed to serve as pastor of two different churches, and I currently serve as a denominational worker. My desire to preach the Word has only been refined and increased as the years have passed. I do not know where I will ultimately fulfill my calling, and I really don’t care. I simply want to make disciples by preaching and teaching the Word, where ever God might place me.
In counseling those who are considering whether God is calling them to ministry or missions, I would suggest the following.
First, don’t be impatient. It is normal to get very anxious and antsy when wrestling with a call to serve in ministry. There is an unsettled sense of urgency to get where you need to be. Allow the Holy Spirit to quiet this anxiety and trust God’s timing and direction.
Second, serve where you are now. If one cannot or will not serve in their present context, why would they serve anywhere else? Serving in one’s church and being willing to assist in various types of ministries allows a person to test their giftings and see which areas of ministry they enjoy and for which they are gifted. Often, this type of service may lead to a greater area of missions and ministry.
Third, find a mentor to help give you direction. I had a few different men who poured into me and helped direct me to areas of service where they felt I would be effective. A relationship like this will help define one’s calling.
Finally, read the Bible and read biographies of those who served in the capacity you feel called towards. The Bible will constantly correct your misunderstandings and assumptions and help shape your calling. Biographies and stories of those who have served as missionaries or in other capacities will help demystify those roles and show you the reality of those ministries, both the highs and lows.