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5 things to consider about your calling
People often ask how they can really know they are called to vocational ministry. Casey Cease shares wisdom he’s gathered from others and his own experience over the years.
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
2 Corinthians 5:14–15
The call to vocational ministry is a true joy and privilege. God calls us in various ways and it often takes time to think through, process, and discern. There are often great cost and sacrifice that go along with a calling that shouldn’t be taken lightly. For some people, they mistake the apathy in their current life situation as a sign that they should do vocational ministry, but this often ends badly for the individual and for those whom they exercise their calling on.
When I was 12 years old, there were two things I swore I never would do: preach and teach. Although I seldom attended church, I knew that preachers and teachers were broke. I wanted to be a wealthy lawyer or businessman. It’s not that I was passionate about law or business, but I was passionate about not being poor.
Things drastically changed after a fatal car crash I was involved in when I was 17 years old. At the time I was not a Christian, but following all of this, Jesus saved me. When I went to court a few days after I graduated from high school and was placed on probation, I asked the judge if I could do some of my community service speaking to students. He agreed that speaking could be a small percentage of my time. The next day I was on the front page of the Houston Chronicle and right away started to get calls.
If God is calling you, he will give you all you need.
At the time, I was a baby Christian and was speaking everywhere, sharing my story and warning teens of the dangers of drinking and driving and the importance of making wise choices. But over the course of a few years, I began wrestling with a vocational call to ministry. I realized that while there were other vocations that I could excel at, my true desire was to pastor God’s people and preach God’s Word. In 2011, we launched the church I currently pastor. I still have the joy of traveling and speaking, and now I can preach about much more than my accident.
People often ask me how they can really know they are called to vocational ministry, and over the years I’ve gathered wisdom from others and my own experience.
Here are a few things to think through when considering your calling to ministry:
1. Is there anything else I would rather do?
This is an important question because as the psalmist says in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” If you are truly seeking God and you love sports, then it doesn’t make you less godly to go and be a coach or an athlete.
2. Do those around me affirm my calling?
If you talk to people in your church community about your perceived call to ministry, and they are hesitant to affirm you, this doesn’t immediately mean that you are not called to ministry, but it may mean that it may take some time for them to see what you are sensing.
It is helpful to have a time where you are tested and approved, so don’t be discouraged. On the other hand, if the people around you are saying things like, “I couldn’t imagine you doing anything else,” then it’s time to gird your loins and get into the game!
3. Vocational ministry is not a next step in spiritual maturity
Many people assume that as they are growing with God, the next level of maturity is vocational ministry. This is fallacious thinking. Just because you’re experiencing a strong season with the Lord it doesn’t automatically mean that the next “level” is surrendering to the ministry.
If you are having a spiritual high then grow in the Lord, but be slow and steady in discerning his long-term will for your life. I’m convinced we would see fewer pastors fall if they didn’t think that vocational ministry was the next logical step in their spiritual growth.
4. The gravity of the invitation
The good news is that we serve a sovereign God who is able to take the ordinary and use us for the extraordinary, by the power of his Spirit. If you are hesitant about pursuing the ministry, you can rest well knowing that God isn’t biting his fingernails waiting for you to say, “Yes.” He delights in using his children for his work, but his plan isn’t ruined if you decide not to pursue vocational ministry.
5. It’s costly, but it’s worth it
At the end of the day, if God is calling you to the ministry, he will give you all you need and he will care for you. The ministry is a sacrifice, but being a part of God’s redemptive plan is worth it.
If you are being called, and your community affirms it, then count the cost, trust the Lord, and get after it!
Read about Casey's testimony and his calling in his new book, "Tragedy to Truth: A Story of Faith and Transformation" here.