By Weston Williams
Too often we think of call solely in terms of a personal leading. It definitely includes that, but a true call from God is so much more. In Acts 13, the Holy Spirit issued a call to Paul and Barnabas for a mission, which was affirmed (and heard) by the entire church. It wasn’t just Paul’s personal desire to go into ministry; the entire church heard and supported that call.
My call, while not as dramatic, was amazingly affirmed by my ordaining church. I’ve talked with many other ministers in our tradition and have learned that not all ordinations are as meaningful. The church that ordained me took the time to get to know me, interview me, have a meal with my fiancée (now my wife) and me, and then pray for me.
Pictures from my ordination are in my office. I can see the whole church laying hands on me, praying for me, and affirming my call to ministry. I didn’t know then how badly I would need this.
My first ministry was at a dying inner-city church. Whenever I was tempted to question my call to ministry, I would see that photo or talk with my wife and remember I wasn’t the only one who heard my call. It helped keep me in the game.
It would have been easy to dismiss my call if I had been the only one who heard it. I would have questioned my own perception of God’s call and likely talked “sense” into myself.
I suspect that Paul and Barnabas, after being thrown out of their third or fourth city, might have had similar feelings. How many times did they fail according to worldly standards? Yet, they remained faithful to their call and returned to their sending church to celebrate.
Too Important to Get Wrong
I’ve known too many people who felt called to do something, only to fail. I think that’s why Paul cautions Timothy not to be hasty in the laying on of hands. He doesn’t want Timothy to affirm a call in someone, when the call isn’t there. This and my own experience teach me that the local church must have a meaningful role in listening to and affirming the call of new ministers.
Call is too important to get wrong. Not only does my own call encourage me to keep going, it helps me focus my daily work. I know I’m called to serve the church, which means I’ll do whatever is needed for the good of the church. Writing sermons, discipling church members, reaching out to non-Christians, stacking chairs, and making coffee—all are part of my call.
My call to serve in the church is the same as every other believer. I’m called to serve the church with my gifts. Paul writes about this: “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11, 12, New Revised Standard Version).
My call is to use my gifts to strengthen the church. My spiritual gifts are leadership, preaching, and teaching. I serve the church best when using my gifts. That’s when my call is fulfilled and when the church benefits most. So, while I can make coffee, if I were to skip preaching to make coffee for after service, I would not be fulfilling my call. Additionally, I would be robbing others of the opportunity to use the gifts God has given them.
My call encourages and shapes my ministry. When I wonder what’s next, I think of my call and my ordination, and am reminded that the next step for me is in the church. I then look at my gifts and know God gave them to me to use for him. Then I look at the people God has placed in my path, and I work to serve them. My call is pretty simple, but it means so much.
Weston Williams serves as senior minister with Bowling Green (Kentucky) Christian Church.