Saturday, January 31, 2015

Am I called to Ministry? How can I know?

 Isaiah 6:8 (ISV) Then I heard the voice of the LORD as he was asking, "Whom will I send? Who will go for us?" "Here I am!" I replied. "Send me."

Ah, the grand call to adventure.  Every hero has accepted the call and began the journey of love and service.  In a sense, every Christian is called to ministry of some sort.  It doesn't have to be flying to the Congo and teaching natives about Jesus.  It can be helping your landlady take out her garbage.  It's as simple as helping set up chairs for a youth event.  Or writing a Christian blog.  Or sharing some scripture on Facebook or Twitter.  

But what about full time ministry?  How can we know if we're called to full time service to the blessed Lord Jesus Christ?  

I've asked myself that same question.  But not too many times.  Deep down I just knew.  No one could tell me.  No church leader could say "yes" or "no."  It was something God placed on my heart.  Don't ever assume that because a certain leader or friend or colleague doesn't think you're right for the call, that you should give it up.  That's between you and God.  Of course the confirmation of friends and family is certainly helpful.  

For me, in the Baptist church it seemed like doors kept closing in my face.  I was concerned about that.  But then I ended up with the Salvation Army, working for them.  And when I worked there it was like every door would open as I walked up to it.  Bosses and colleagues were telling me "yes, definitely, get involved, you're perfect for it."  So it began to confirm that there was a road ahead in ministry.  Imagine if I had given up in the Baptist church and assumed that I did not have a call.  That wouldn't have been good!  But I'm not trying to say here that what happened with the Baptist/E-free churches was a bad thing.  God moves hearts.  He didn't want me there, but that doesn't mean they were bad.  God was just maneuvering me where he wanted me.  I'll always be grateful for the people who helped mold me into a follower of Jesus.  Jesus just led me to a place he knew I would flourish.  Of course it hurt my feelings at times.  That happens in life.  

Even further, for all I know God might lead me elsewhere from here.  It's hard to know exactly what he's up to.  He's a complicated God, the one we have.  He moves in the shadows at times, and at other times he comes out in the bright lights.  I've seen wonderful things happening in the past few weeks.

I met with Salvation Army officers from Divisional Headquarters in Milwaukee.  The next step for me will be moving to a ministry internship somewhere out of state.  I don't know where yet.  It's all part of the SA Ministry Development Program.  I'm excited.  I'm very excited.  

Originally I had envisioned myself in a very different place.  But God knows what is best for us.  He knows where we can do the most good.  Since working at the TLC shelter, I've had the chance to minister to God's favorite people: the poor, the lost, and the needy.  Who did Jesus spend his time with?  The poor.  The Lord has a special place in his heart for the poor, lost, and broken.  I know, I'm one of them. 

Here's what I can tell you about ministry.  A lot of the wrong people are in ministry for the wrong reasons.  It's tough.  We desperately need one thing for ministry in the world:  People who really believe God's word is true.  Not kind of, not a little, not mostly.. but truly truly understand that the Bible is real.  That every word in there is true.  We desperately need people who understand that heaven, hell, Jesus Christ, are not just nice stories, or cool things, or traditions, but that these are realities.  Not just words on the page, or conceptual, but when we turn our heads up and look at the sky, or across the city, or around the neighborhood... we know it's real.  That we know and truly know, that in this physical world these people around us are facing eternal disconnection from God.  And live accordingly.  

Maybe you're called to ministry.  Maybe you need to pave a trail for those who feel like they have no way to God.  Think of all the people groups that aren't necessarily apposed to God, but they don't want to leave their culture?  Punk rockers comes to mind.  Indie rockers.  Metal heads?  Artsy people?  Writers?  Libertarians?  Democrats?  Republicans?  Occupiers?  Anime fans?  Movie buffs?  Gamers?  Nerds?  Motorheads?  Jocks?  Hippies?  New agers?  

And what about international missions?  So many countries remain largely unreached.  Japan is 98% unreached.  India is largely unreached (over 750 million people in fact remain unreached).  Countries like Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria remain largely unreached.  And those are countries where you could be killed for even speaking the name of Christ.  No one said it would be easy.  But it will be a challenge.  People sometimes think Christianity is for wussies and girly men.  It's not.  It's for the brave, the courageous, and the strong.

You get the idea.  If you're a little "different" like me, maybe God is calling you in an unexpected way.  Maybe he wants you to make a niche for people like you.  I'm sure a lot of people feel funny about going into churches where everyone dresses a certain way.  Like I've said in the past, many don't want to join evangelical culture.  And they don't have to.  Jesus didn't tell new believers to wear the Jewish colors, attend Jewish events, and go to Jewish festivals and holy days.  Nope, his followers went to the Gentiles (non-Jews) and did not require them to follow the laws of the Jews.  In the same way, maybe God is calling you to start a church or write a blog or reach out to people like you who don't see a clear way to come to Jesus.  

But how can I know? 

Here's the thing, you're never going to know 100%.  That's the whole point.  You step out in faith, in the incredible act of trusting God on his word and believing what he says in spite of all the horrors of this broken world.  Something deep down will push you in that direction.  Cultivate that.  Build on it.  Think outside the box.  Of course pray about it.  Talk to friends and family about it.  Write about it, read about ministry.  Just turn it around in your head and think about it.  Start to generate some ideas.  If it's of God, he'll make a way in the desert.  He'll help you pave a trail in the wilderness for those like you to come to the one we all must come to: Jesus Christ.