It happened again just the other day. A preacher I know began talking about being called to ministry. He spoke of feeling God’s call upon his life. In some ways his speech was inspiring and challenging. Personally, it led me to quiet reflection about my own life.
I think I understand his idea of being “called” to ministry. The prophets were the spokespeople for God in the Old Testament and they often had an angel show up and call them out of their normal work into proclamation for God. In the New Testament Jesus personally invites his disciples to follow him or he calls them into discipleship. There are several references in the New Testament to someone being “called” by God but they are really about people accepting Jesus as their Savior and not a call to a particular ministry. The closest we may have in the Bible is a story in Acts 16 of a dream Paul has of a man from Macedonia calling him to come over and preach the gospel. Honestly, after years of searching I have not found a story or passage that speaks of someone being called to ministry. I suppose the idea continues to circulate because it somehow makes preachers feel special or closer to God.
I tell you this because I have never personally felt called to ministry. I have not heard any voices speaking to me from the heavens. I have never had a prophetic dream or seen an angel. At no point in my life have I ever felt special or specially gifted to be a preacher.
Instead, when I became a Christian at the age of 8 I committed myself to following God wherever he wanted me to go. Once again I did not hear a voice saying go this way or that. Usually God spoke to me through open doors of opportunity. Many times my life has been the simple result of choosing the path of least resistance. For starters, I thought Bible College would be easy. I had no intention of becoming a preacher. Yet while in Bible College a friend asked me to preach on Sunday. I couldn’t come up with a good reason to say no to him. After the sermon a woman encouraged me with some very kind words so I decided to try again. Once again I had some positive feedback so I decided to preach again. This went on for about a year. By my third year in college I found I could make money on weekends preaching and it paid better than working at a fast food chain. Since people seemed to enjoy my sermons I made it my job. Pitiful story for a preacher, I know.
Since I decided to become a preacher I have tried to quit a few times. I was going to take an office job somewhere. I could get involved in manual labor and leave people in the church behind. Every time I tried there were no job offers. No one wanted to hire me. There were never any doors to go anywhere else. In time I decided this is what God wants me to do until someone offers me somewhere else to go or something else to do.
I see my story not as some sad failure to be a special man of God. I see my story as an opportunity for anyone and everyone to follow God. You do not need to hear voices to become a preacher. You do not need a special invitation to teach a class. You do not need an angel to show up in your life to serve the Lord. All you need to do is simply follow his leading through open doors of opportunity. I never set out to be a preacher, but God has taken me on an incredible journey of faith. Honestly, I think he wants to do the same with all of us.