Discerning My Call to the Ministry: a task list

Announcement: I am in the process of discerning whether or not I am called to ordained ministry. Meaning, whether or not I should be a (professional) pastor, a member of the clergy, a priest as some call it.

Coming to this point has been a long journey for me and since I am still in the discernment process, the journey ahead will be long as well.

Here's the backstory: I have been highly involved in church ministry for almost twenty years now but have never really felt worthy enough to be an "official" card-carrying member of the Clergy Class (I mean really, who actual is worthy of breaking the body of Christ and giving it to the people of God? None of us are, that's who). I love ministering to people in various ways, but I guess being The Guy in charge has always been intimidating to me. In addition to that, administration has never been my strong suit, so the thought of being in charge of a congregation was entirely overwhelming to me. In fact I always thought no congregation would even want me to be in charge of them. However, three years of running a small Christian school has caused me to think differently. I am still not a great administrator, but I am naturally good at other things, even while I've grown some administrator muscle in the past few years (they're still very tiny). On top of all this, I have never understood the concept of Calling, or of receiving The Call, as some say. I went to a seminary (Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary) that really focused on this concept and a lot of my fellow seminarians always talked about when they had "received the call". I never had any idea what they were talking about. Instead, I was discipled in a school of thought which said we are all called and what we are called to is obedience and discipleship (I have John McHaffie to thank for that).

Here's what is strange about me: for years I kind of expected someone to ask me or tell me, "Hey, you should get ordained. You should be in full time ministry. You have natural giftings and a calling in your life. Why don't you start that process?" This inquiry never came though, at least not in the form of forceful exhortation, which is what I was subconsciously and naively wanting.

But now I am starting to think, well, maybe I am called to "The Ministry" in an official capacity, and I have begun taking the initiative to make it happen (I am beginning to go through the proper channels of being ordained into the Anglican Church of North America through the Diocese of Quincy). After being involved in children's and youth ministry, being a youth intern at my church, leading music, going to seminary, teaching in various church capacities, and finally planting a church with another pastor (he's the ordained guy), I think it is finally time I start taking this whole ministry thing seriously.

My school year has finished up, which means I finally have some head space to devote to seeking God, doing some reading on the subject of ordination, and contacting the people in my life who know me the best and are already in the ministry (ECHO ECHO ECHO ECHO). I thought I would share my action item list here because others might benefit from it.

Task #1: Contact people I know who are "in the ministry", get them to ask me the tough questions, and get any advice they might have.

Currently this list includes:

  • two Anglican pastors (my current pastor and my pastor from our former church in Chicago)
  • an Evangelical Free pastor
  • an independent Baptist pastor (oh my!)
  • two Assemblies of God pastors
  • and my church leadership board (they're called the Bishop's Committee)

Task #2: Have an in depth talk with my wife about my call to ministry and how that fits with her call to ministry. I need to ask her the tough questions and she needs to do the same with me.

Task #3: Read, pray, discern. Take some time and contemplate and seek God's face.

Here is the reading list I have gotten from the various pastors Task #1 above, among others:
1. Read the Pastoral Epistles, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus
2. Read the second chapter of Charles Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students: "The Call to Ministry"
3. Read my friend Jeremiah Gibbs' posts on calling to the ministry.
4. Read relevant selections from Becoming a Minister (Classical Pastoral Care) (recommended from an Anglican minister in our diocese I respect very much).

Task #4: Figure out what my call as a minister specifically is and what it will look like practically:

For instance:
1. Am I called to the diaconate (to be a deacon) or to the priesthood (to be a pastor)? At this point I feel like being a pastor is my call but I need to take the order, call, and duties of each seriously.
2. What role does music play in my calling, since I am a song leader?
3. Are my giftings more on the academic side (that is, is that how I am going to bless the church?) or am I gifted as a congregational teacher, in pastoral care, or in administration (ha!)?

Task #5: Go on a retreat to get some concentrated time to seek God about my call

As I have young kids, this is not exactly easy to accomplish, but I have arranged to spend the better part of a day next week at the Benedictine abbey that is close to my house. I have a good relationship with the leadership there and hope to spend some good contemplative time there.

In conclusion, if you're the praying type, pray for my discernment in this area in my life, and for those of you who are discerning your own call I hope I could be a resource for you.


maryflorence said...

This is a very interesting read and I am anxious to read the follow ups. I personally would have never mentioned the "you should be in ministry because it's your natural gifting" because I guess I thought you already knew it. Anyway, interested to hear what you discover.....

JamaLee said...

Prayers from Tim and me! I will also pass this post on to two college students from our church (we're Methodist these days!) that are wondering the same thing. Good luck!

Ilya said...

I think it's great that you take your calling so seriously. I think it's great that you're willing to be used by God in the capacity He desires. I pray that in the years to come, as you lead others in ministry, this experience will be helpful to them.

PostConsumer Reports said...

Thanks for your thoughts Ilya. And thanks for praying. Blessings.