A pastor friend recently told me about an interview question he was asked:
“Do you feel called to this church?”
As we talked about this (very) common interview/friend-counseling question, we concluded that this is a flawed question.
It is flawed because it confuses calling with leading.
Hear me out: this is more than semantics. The distinction between calling and leading changes the questions we ask about which job (ministry or secular) we take and ultimately influences where and how we will impact the world.
When we ask, “Am I called to this place?” we are implicitly asking, “Is this the one right place God has for me?” That’s a lot of pressure, with a lot of shady implications for the future.
But when we ask, “Is this where God is leading me?” knowing that our calling can be fulfilled in any number of ministry contexts, a world of possibilities is opened up to us.
This paradigm shift has caused me to ask five questions before I take any ministry job. They’ve been extremely helpful for me, and I know they will help you as you decide on taking a ministry job . . .
#1. Does it fit your passion?
Does what the ministry — and position — you’re applying for line up with what makes you tick? In other words, if money weren’t an issue, would you do the job for free? Finding a ministry position that lines up with your passions is essential.
Here’s why. People are great at detecting when someone is genuine or authentic. People can intuitively tell if you are there to climb the ministry ladder of success, if this is just a means to an end, or if you are genuine. In and of itself, leading people is hard. But it is even harder when you are leading people in a ministry you aren’t passionate about.
So, for the sake of people, the ministry, and yourself, make sure you are passionate about the job you take.
But, you can’t stop there . . .
#2. Does it fit your skill set?
Take inventory of your skills, talents, and gifting. Are you equipped (not necessarily experienced) with what you need to execute this role? That is, do you have the personality, aptitude, background, or education that would allow you to grow forward with this role?
For example, you might really have a passion for worship, but if you can’t carry a tune, you wouldn’t be a very good worship leader. If you can’t handle Red Bulls, all-nighters, and the smell of middle school boys (all of which are unique skills), youth ministry probably isn’t where you are being lead (even if want to be there . . . for some strange reason).
It doesn’t matter how passionate you are about a certain ministry or position, if you don’t have the skill set (or can’t get the skill set), it’s not the position for you.
#3. Do others affirm it?
Do trusted and wise Christians in your life, who have made this kind of decision before and demonstrated good discernment, affirm your choice?
There will always be people in your life who say “yes” to whatever you ask because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. There are also the people who will always say “no” because they don’t believe in you. But the voice you really want to look for is the one in the middle.
Those people who make you convince them before they say “yes” or “no” to something. They tend to ask you questions that give you a bigger perspective. It’s easy when applying for a ministry job to only see the good things. You need people who will give you a broader perspective on the position — someone to ask you about the negative aspects of the job.
That better perspective helps guide you and will help you answer the next question . . .
#4. Can you do it in a healthy way?
Just because you’re working for Jesus, doesn’t mean it’s a good workplace — or healthy for you. You need to ask yourself, If I do this, will the long-term side effects disqualify me from my calling?
The reality is you have to sacrifice in every ministry, or job, you do, but not all sacrifices are as healthy as others. You must count the cost of the sacrifice and decide if you are willing to offer what the job will require. Similar to the demand of Jesus in Luke 14:25-33, we must recognize that a ministry job, at some point, will cost us more than our emotions, hopes, or paychecks can afford. We will have to sacrifice. Are you willing?
To be clear, I am not suggesting that you should place something in front of your call to ministry. Rather, I am suggesting that you make sure the job you are taking is one that will require you to make healthy sacrifices and enable you to execute your calling for a lifetime, not just a season.
If you can’t do the job in a healthy way, it’s not the job for you.
#5. Do you feel peace?
Once you’ve prayed about the position and gone through the other four questions above, you need to ask yourself, Do I feel a peace about this?
This is the hardest question to answer. Philippians 4:7 describes the peace of God as “surpassing all understanding.” It’s the sense that you just know — deep down, in the pit of your being — this is where God is leading you.
The trick is . . . you might not get that sense of peace before you say “yes.”
I love the prayer of Mother Teresa that goes something like this: God, answer my prayer in such a way that it requires me to have more faith to receive your answer.
That’s the idea of peace. That, as Rich Mullins wrote, “If I stand, let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through. And if I fall, let me fall into the grace that first brought me to you.” Either way, you are moving forward in God’s grace.
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As you find yourself in the place of choosing a ministry position to take, ask these five questions, wrestle with them, pray along with Mother Teresa’s prayer that God would speak to you in a way that you need to have more faith to receive God’s answer, and you will be led to the position that is right for you.
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