By Clarence Bradbury
God’s call is waiting for every person who chooses to hear and respond. Even a water-ski on the surface of scripture reveals that God makes a lot of calls. The book of Hebrews opens with: In the past God spoke to our people through the prophets. He spoke to them many times and in many different ways. And now in these last days, God has spoken to us again through his Son. God’s call list is extensive. Let’s abbreviate a few: “pay attention” and “be saved” (Isaiah 45:22); “be holy because I am holy” (Leviticus 20:26); “be careful to obey my commands” (Leviticus 26:3); “God calls everyone everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30); then there are numerous personal calls to Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Jeremiah, the disciples, Paul, etc…
It is true that God calls all believers to be Christ-followers, whatever their career may be. But the priesthood of all believers does not obscure God’s specific calling of individuals to lead the leaders of His people. My current devotional reading takes me to the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. Here we see three individuals singled out as catalysts for a movement from political captivity to nation-building. Much later, we see Jesus calling twelve men upon whom He could imprint His character and mission so that His Kingdom and Church might be established on earth.
In church circles, we use the term “Full-Time Vocational Ministry”. In the remainder of this article, I want to contrast a few misguided notions with some essential elements surrounding the call of God to lead.
Misguided Notions on the Biblical Call to Lead
- The call is extraordinary. We all get inspired when we hear someone describe a sequence of events or dreams that made their call almost miraculous and mystical. Yes, it happens, but not as a rule.
- The call comes as one divine moment. Someone says, “I was attending a meeting and I had a strong feeling that God was calling me to be a full-time minister”. Or, “my supervisor said I would make a fine Salvation Army officer”. They then proceed to make application for training.
- The call is only for gifted people. That is false. The call to leadership does not require that a person is much more talented than others. However, God does bestow upon those He calls, the essential gifts for the ministry to which He calls them.
- The call is personal. This is only partly true. Yes, God calls us personally to leadership, but He uses other people to recognize, affirm and activate our calling.
Essential Elements in the Biblical Call to Lead
Henry Blackaby articulates a biblical approach in his book, Experiencing God. Number four of his “seven realities” states, God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes and His ways. Here we see four elements that comprise a genuine call to be a leader of leaders.
- 1. The Bible – Any authentic divine call to leadership in the Church will be tied to the revealed will of God in scripture. God has exalted above everything in creation His Name and His Word (Psalm 138: 2). If we are passionate to know and do the will of God, we will exchange water skis for deep sea diving gear, plunging ever deeper into God’s person, purposes and actions. No call to ministry will be out of sync with the bible. God’s Spirit makes certain truths, principles and passages settle in our hearts and shine on our path. Biblical depth is essential to God-honoring leadership.
- 2. Prayer – Linked with scripture is the discipline of regular communion with God. Genuine prayer is not a matter of speaking TO God. It is communion WITH God. When we go to the Word, it speaks to us, it reads us more than we read it! Prayer is putting our ears down to the Word of God who speaks through its inspired pages to our hearts at the altar of prayer. Prayer ushers us into the heavenly counsel where direction for life takes shape over time.
- 3. Circumstances – The revelation of God’s call is more than a perceived alignment of coincidences. However, we often find that where a sincere seeking after God is evident in our spiritual exercises, God seems to make things coincide and align with His Word and our prayers. Witnessing the hand of God at work in the details of life helps sustain us when the tough and tumble of leadership confronts us.
- 4. The Church – God uses people. Concerning the call to the ministry, God uses a wider circle of Christians to affirm His callings in our lives. The New Testament clearly shows an established pattern of ministry candidates being affirmed and appointed by “the Church”. The laying on of hands was a practice of a local assembly of believers. Those who live closest to us know us best. Your supposed call may not be a call if it is not confirmed by at least a representative portion of your church community. It is reasonable and right that candidates for leadership in the Body of Christ be examined and affirmed in this relational context.
What about You?
Try these self-assessment questions to examine God’s call in your life. Also, get someone else who knows you well to give you honest feedback on each of these items.
- What are your top three spiritual gifts that demonstrate God’s provision for your call to leadership?
- What ministry are you engaged in right now? How is your effectiveness being affirmed by others?
- What reading have you done and what assessments have you taken that indicate a good match between your capacities and your call to leadership?
- What disciplines and goals are you pursuing to prepare you for the next step in ministry?
- On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest, how would rate your readiness to be a leader of leaders in your church, in the following five areas?
- Education? ___
- Emotional maturity? ___
- Spiritual maturity? ___
- Relationships? ___
- Physical health? ___
- What price are you willing to pay to be ready?