Have you ever wondered why we put so much emphasis on a person’s call to ministry? Why don’t we ever talk about a call to be a teacher or a lawyer? After all, it is the same God who calls chefs that calls ministers. As someone who has been called to ministry, I have a few theories about this.
One reason is that the Bible is full of instances where God has specifically called out a person to the lead the people or to serve Him. We see this in the examples of Abraham, Moses, Aaron, David, Samuel, Isaiah, Noah, Nehemiah, the disciples, Paul, etc. These people are specifically called by God to do His work. The understanding is that by His grace, God gives these people special abilities or performs miracles while they lead. In some ways we continue this tradition by hoping to identify the person who has been called of the Lord with the expectation that He will give them the ability to lead and to shepherd His people.
Another reason for emphasizing a call to ministry is that a minister/pastor/preacher has a special relationship to the holy and the eternal. From the beginning of the priesthood in Exodus, God calls the priests to be set apart from the people. They avoid unclean things in a special way so as to have the ability to continue their work for the Lord. Even the New Testament makes special mention of the fact that ministers will be held to higher standards. On a very common sense level, ministers need to hold higher standards as examples of righteousness and Godly wisdom. Who would listen to an abusive pastor speak about God’s unfailing love for humanity?
A third reason, and one I offer only partially in jest, is that to be a minister requires one to endure some fairly painful experiences. Ministering to people is a great privilege, but it is a privilege that welcomes criticism and interpersonal hardship. The responsibility of shepherding people who often go astray can be burdensome and draining. Ministry is not a job field, it truly is a lifestyle, one that has no real work hours or job description. A minister is a speaker, a counselor, an executive, a planner, a bookkeeper, a student, a supervisor, a janitor, a development officer, and much more. He or she must have a clear calling if they are to participate in this lifestyle. While I am honored and so thankful for my ministerial calling, all I need to do is to look to my pastor father who works 60 to 80 hours a week to see that my path will not be an easy one. Without a calling from God who enables us to understand and appreciate our calling, it would be easy to turn aside and follow a different path.
I think that part of the reason that it is so hard to be hired by a church is that ministry is serious business. After all, we are talking about people’s souls and their faith. Interviewing and pursuing church jobs has been a difficult experience for me, basically because I never anticipated how complicated it can be. One of the pitfalls has been the experience factor or the we would hire you, but you have not logged enough paid ministry hours factor. There is also the factor of the perfect match. When interviewing for a church job, many of the people have an ideal candidate in mind; sometimes one committee can have three different people who each have a diametrically opposed ideal candidate. Then there is the fact that ministry skills are hard to define. You need to be a great speaker, a good counselor, understand budgets, be the right age, have the right theology and training, have the right passion, and be willing to work for what the church is offering. At times it would seem that if God did not ordain people to have these jobs, most would go unfilled.
I look forward to the time when my ministerial lifestyle will begin its next stage. It is reassuring that God has a place prepared for me, and that He has called me to His service.