I Don’t Really Know if I am Called to Ministry

The Holy Spirit does not give me an overwhelming sense of my calling. This moment is better than some, but it usually depends on the day hour that you ask me. “Michael, how do you know you have been called by God to do what you are doing?” “Michael, how do you know you are doing what you are supposed to be doing?”

Many times it depends on the place or my surroundings. When I am at my father’s house (i.e. “home”), I feel the least like a “man of God” who is called to preach the word. The designation “pastor” causes me to cringe and blush at these times. I suppose that it is because I am around people who know me best. They know the real me. They have seen me at my worst. They have seen what I can do. When I lived in Frisco, Texas, pastoring at Stonebriar Community Church, I used to say that my ordination was removed the moment  I crossed the Red River. When in Oklahoma, I became as timid and insecure as ever. When I am like this, don’t call on me to pray before a meal. Don’t call on me to preach a sermon. Don’t even ask me spiritual questions. Yes, I will oblige, but I will be completely out of character. I have gotten better since I have moved back to Oklahoma, but the consistent sense of my “calling” is still very relative.

Other times it is my life circumstances.  Mood swings take me from one extreme to the other. When I am in a bad mood, tired, or irritable (did I say irritable), my confidence level goes way down. The “call” becomes valid only as I look to the past; the present militates against it. “Who do you think you are? If you are the teacher, what are you teaching them to do? Be like you? I have seen unbelievers who are more of a joy to be around then you! Where is that peace that passes understanding?”  Sheesh, leave me alone.

I can’t compartmentalize the way I would like. Kristie and I have a lot of ups and downs. Let’s put it this way: we are not ready to do any marriage conferences…don’t ask! When our marriage is not going so well, it is a tremendous burden on me in every way. Specifically though, with regard to my calling, I feel the least called when the closest relationship that I have is falling flat on its face. Oh that I would just be able to separate the two—my calling and my marriage. But if I did, I feel as if I would call the game due to forfeit. I am glad I can’t compartmentalize. I hate that I can’t compartmentalize.

When ministry itself seems to smell of artificial additives. I have seen ministries that seem to be run completely in the flesh and somehow “make it.” This terrifies me. Every once in a while, some smoke clears for me. Whether it be a bad night of teaching, a realization that I was wrong about something I before believed and taught with such conviction, feelings of inferiority toward those with whom I am in disagreement, or a realization of methodological manipulation. Once this smoke clears all that is left is a sudden realization that I am a charlatan. Additives of arrogance and pride of calling taste of the bitterness of self-elevation. The pulpit that God gave me becomes the pulpit I built. All I can hope for at this point is that the clearing was no clearing at all. All I can hope is that there is actually smoke being let in, not smoke being let out. But it is hard to tell the difference. 

You don’t know how many times I have put my resume out in my mind. I have contemplated for years giving it all up. This is nothing new. Today’s confession of inadequacy is nothing more than a public surfacing of my perpetual inner contemplations and struggles. I am no closer or further from confidence than the day I stepped out of seminary.

You ask me: “Michael, how do you know that you are called to this type of ministry? How are you so certain that you are called to teach and preach to God’s people in such a way?”

I am not certain. I don’t know. The only thing that I can say to myself is what I would say to others in my circumstance: God is sovereign and he is gracious. He is not wringing his hands or pulling out his hair wondering how I got ordained into ministry. As well, he is not waiting for me to be perfect before he can use me. I have to remember that. God has never used one perfect person outside of Christ. All others were miserable failures in more ways than one. Therefore, I carry on in timid, prayerful trepidation hoping that God will use me to teach his truth.

29 Responses to “I Don’t Really Know if I am Called to Ministry”

  1. Hi Michael,

    thank for this post. i was asking myself the same question today and in recent months too. and the answer is not always clear. sometimes, a word of comfort/affirmation from the Spirit of God, sometimes, affirmation from others, or circumstance, sometimes, even more doubts ans questions.

    God bless,


  2. I read that as:

    “God is sovereign and he is gracious. He is not wringing his hands or pulling out his hair wondering how I got [called to a certain vocation]. As well, he is not waiting for me to be perfect before he can use me.”

    That’s so true, and thank you for the much-needed reminder!

  3. Michael,

    I would actually take one step back and ask if the concept of “the call” as a feeling is even biblical. The call in Scripture seems to be verbal. Hence, it is only given to the people of God in general in the invitation of the gospel (a verbal invitation), and to prophets (including apostles who are a species of prophet) in the invitation or command to become a spokesperson for him. Other than that, there is no such thing as a call. What tells a person he is qualified is his maturity in knowledge and character as it is confirmed by the other elders/mature men who have ordained/accepted his “fittedness” for ministry. If a man does not have this, he is not to be in a teaching or preaching position, and should worry that he may not be qualified as according to the winds and waves of his feelings; but if a man has this confirmation, and he knows himself that his true knowledge and conduct are not hidden from those elders, he should not be concerned any longer by his swing of mood or doubt. I hope this would relieve you of the concern, and perhaps, make others think. Obviously, everyone in ministry should be concerned about whether he fits the description of 1 Tim 2 and Titus 1, but if his elders know him, and he knows they know him, and they, being godly men, affirm him, there is no need for wasting our worries on these unbiblical concepts of “the call.”

  4. My father-in-law (most Christlike man I have ever known) would say to me in answer to the question about vocational ministry, “Can you do anything else?”. If you can do anything else then you should do that.

    Paul said it this way, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.”.

    BTW, ministry is what ever Christian should do. Bifurcation of secular working and ministry leads many astray. It is not Biblical.

  5. This is a very difficult place to be, Michael, and believe me I know. I was head of a big prayer ministry for years. In the meantime, I was divorced. I asked myself, (and certainly others were quick to point it out), whether I should continue it or not because I *gasp* remarried.

    The thing I would say to you is as much as possible get alone with the Lord. While it is true there is wisdom in many counselors, it is also true that too many voices can be confusing, as in the case of Job.

    If this is an ongoing concern, and not just the result of the temporary circumstances going on in your life, and your changing emotions, I would say take a sabbactical.

    I am not saying run away, but sometimes getting away from our everyday problems can make things more clear, and we can come back with either a renewed sense of purpose, or a decision that we should pursue something else entirely.

  6. Hey Michael, thanks for that post. I can honestly tell you and affirm that you are “called” to be a pastor. I just heard you speak from the sermon audio you posted when you taught recently at Stonebriar. I was amazed at how well you were able to communicate the word of God. It was such a refreshing message.

    Anyways, not trying to blow smoke, but encourage you my brother. Preach on with the grace of God that works so powerfully within you!

  7. Oh, and I can totally relate to how you were saying that you don’t feel called when things aren’t going so well in your marriage. I feel the exact same way when things are tough in my marriage. When that happens, the devil tries to convince me of all kinds of lies… like, “Why in the world did you marry a girl like that? She gets frustrated when you try to pray with her. You could have so much better…” and on, and on, and on…

    The devil hates marriage. It’s so encouraging to hear how we overcome by faith in Jesus, and how that faith in Jesus enables us to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for it. This is the one truth that gives me strength to keep praying, depending, fighting to love my wife as Christ does, and to respond to her in accordance with the Spirit, and not according to the flesh, which is how I often respond when I’m frustrated with her.

    Anyways, praying for you in that area…

  8. Michael,

    I find your transparency on this topic so helpful. I too wrestle with calling and whether or not I’m called to ministry. I think that whether or not I ever get real clear on that, I can still keep developing and using my gifts to serve God in whatever arenas He opens to me.

    I also know that He’s most interested in my personal godliness, so that as I represent Him in whatever capacity, I am bringing honor to His name by a life that is being transformed by Him, one step at a time.

    We are weak, inconsistent creatures, but praise God that we worship and serve a powerful, faithful Savior whose grace is always sufficient.



  9. Michael, You’re human. I’m human. We’re all suffering, some physically, some psychologically. That’s why I doubt this life is some sort of a “test to see how many people will become Christians before their short mixed up suffering lives end.”

  10. Michael, you are so honest and transparent and thus helpful. So many pastors act as if they are not mere mortals like the rest of us. I struggle with calling, too, and I guess what your post and the responses are bringing out, is that if you see that others are being built up in their faith by what you do, then you are “called.” Your conclusion about God not waiting until we are perfect to use us reminds me of the scripture that says God’s strength is made manifest by our weaknesses. Moses was a stammerer and Peter probably didn’t even know how to write, being an uneducated fisherman. You have realized the need of being part of a team in your ministry which is so important. too. So many pastors try to do a one man show. Moses had Aaron and Peter had someone write for him.

  11. Michael, you have a way of just “nailing-it!” If anyone doesn’t struggle with their sense of ‘calling’ I rather doubt that they have truly received “the call.” “…But our competency comes from God.”

  12. When I think about callings, I also think about desires that God gives each person and the talents thereof as well. But it is also about Love.
    One thing is clear Prophets of old loved their people, and even died for them. Consider Jeremiah who could have fled upon hearing that God warned all that went down into Egypt would die. And there he is dragged down to Egypt with them, when he could have fled the scene. Also, Prophets of old preached repentance. They were like one stringed guitars, repent, repent, repent.
    Today, I believe that those who God sends are preaching that one stringed guitar, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Every message leads to Jesus.
    And they love the people.
    Paul does gives guidelines for those in the ministry, and I believe they are very valid.
    And finally, I believe at times people see the wonders of God, at times all goes so well, and the Holy Spirit is doing great things, and there are other times when people must walk strictly by faith, not seeing much at all. So, they continue in faith without seeing.
    Sometimes churches have Job experiences, calamity upon calamity.
    While other churches prosper beyond measure.
    So, I don’t think it is about the physical evidences, but it is about being a Servant of God.
    Jeremiah by all human points of consideration was a major flop, but to God, Jeremiah was a True Servant of God. So it does not really matter if we are a success or a failure in this life, but what matters if we are a servant of God. That is what matters.

  13. I’m amazed at the power of traditions and cultural religion. These responses are why we have such a mess in the church today. Too many people who think they are “called” ignore what the Bible says about it and continue on in ministry. Too many who are qualified, worry too much about their “calling” because they are doing the same thing. It has nothing to do with whether you would do something else (I know many heretics who would do nothing else), see people changed (even the most unqualified men can be used by the Holy Spirit; this has nothing to do with whether they are in obedience to Him), whether you want to serve or not, whether you struggle with it, etc. If you have been confirmed in your knowledge and conduct, and are affirmed, by elders who are themselves godly men who have been confirmed, then you are qualified. Everyone has these feelings of doubt. Sometimes they’re the HS telling you that you need to check your qualifications (of course, that is often ignored in an effort to look for an emotional confirmation by those who see the call as a mystical draw to something—something the Bible does not teach). This false doctrine has created a vehicle for the unqualified to pursue all sorts of ministries that in fact do not belong to them; and it has wasted the valuable time of those who are qualified and need to direct their thoughts toward what they are doing.

  14. Michael,

    Not having been called to the ordained ministry, but having been directed (in a particular memorable moment) to minister in a different profession, I understand that there are times when “the calling” has to be reflected upon as a series of guiding events that occur over time. This does require quiet time for reflection and prayer, and an open heart to feel that guiding hand or to hear that calling word.

    And don’t forget that the second string Apostles were chosen by the first string team (in a most unusual way) and were not aquestioned about their “sense of calling.” (Acts 1:23-26)

    And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
    And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,
    That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.
    And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

    So, if you can preach the Word and bring in the lost sheep, heed the call.

  15. Thank you for your transparency, especially about your marriage. This is a comfort to me that not everyone is hiding behind the “perfect” marriage. Knowing that you’re human makes your messages relate-able to humans.

    Thank you!

  16. I have been in the ministry for over twenty years and the break up of my first marriage due in large part to the pressures put on it by the ministry. Believe me there have been times when I doubted my calling as well. The Lord told the prophet Isaiah “Behold, I have refined thee but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Isaiah 48.10 though I certainly do not compare myself to Isaiah I do know a thing or two about humiliation and affliction. I can say that today I there is absolutley no doubt about the calling that God has placed upon my life. I am grateful for the path of suffering that God has ordained for me. I am more secure in my calling, and far less afraid of the opinions of others than I used to be. check out to read more.

  17. I’m going to have to go with Hodge on this one.

  18. John from Down Under September 21, 2010 at 2:39 am

    Somehow I don’t think most comments and exhortations reflect exactly what Michael means for himself but I could be wrong.

    HODGE your clarification is very liberating in demystifying the common perception of how a calling is affirmed! If only that many could take heed and be free from the tyranny of the ‘feeling/not feeling called’ (almost analogous to ‘she loves me/ she loves me not’).

    If I understand you correctly, you still hold to the position that God does the calling (Eph 4:11?) but not through the commonly perceived elaborate means (especially the ‘feeling’ channel), but rather through the affirmation of Godly elders and the person’s own assurance of their gifting, knowledge and maturity/Christian character. The affirmation of elders would be his ‘appointed means of grace’ perhaps?

    I note as well that Paul did not refute the ‘saying’ that if one has an appetite for ministry ‘he desires a noble task’ (as per 1 Tim 3:1) which does not even take into account the ‘God called me’ factor, unless it either presupposes it (in the sense where God may plant the inward desire in a person) or means something like ‘if you want to, God won’t stop you, providing you meet the following criteria etc (I hope I’m making sense!)

    Finally, in my charismatic heritage there used to be a lot of emphasis on 1 Tim 4:14 as means of gift validation, but this doesn’t seem normative to me, it appears to be the exception.

    I’m no scholar, so your thoughts are welcome!

  19. John, your right. There is quite a debate out there about “calling” into “ministry.” So much so that when I write about such, I have to put things in “”.

    Anyway, it seems as if many of these are assuming what I mean by “calling.”

    When I talk about it, it is synonomous with “doing what I am supposed to be doing.” It could certianly apply to every area of life, but when you teach the Bible for a living and that is what I am “supposed to be doing” everyday, what a gift it is. But also, what a burden it places on the self-evaluation process. For example, not too long ago I was preparing to preach a sermon on having an attitude of thankfulness. About three weeks before, I was prepared for the sermon, but I was about as unthankful as anyone I knew. I did not want to preach the sermon. Right or wrong, I changed it to something else! That kind of stuff makes you stop, kick yourself, and say “Lord, maybe someone else?”

    I am not saying that these things are unique to ministry, but they do have a unique face in ministry.

  20. After all these years of listening to various pastors at the churches I have been to, I have come to see that many times they are preaching to themselves more than anyone. And it is very much all right.

  21. John,

    That’s right. I think you understood it well. The only clarification I would make is that “gifting” in the sense of supernatural gifts are not a part of qualification. I make a distinction between having the gift of teaching, that we see in 1 Cor for instance, and being able to teach, which is the qualification needed for “ministry” in the preaching and teaching of the Scripture and disciplinary authority over the congregation. I believe the desire for a man who either is or will be qualified in the future is given by God, but that the devil also gives a desire for what is a good thing (i.e., the office of overseer to shepherd the sheep) in itself, but will be tarnished by his entrance into it when not making himself transparent to other confirmed men and approved by them. I would not confuse the desire with the concept of a “call,” which seems very specific in Scripture as a verbal invitation or command; but as long as people misuse the word for an appropriate concept (“a desire that may or may not be given by God”), I wouldn’t mind it as much. It’s only when people seek to justify or verify their desire for ministry through alternate means that I would take issue with it for the reasons stated above. Thank you for helping me clarify the issue.

  22. Karen,

    That is so true. I often think of some of the pastors who have fallen and were viewed as hypocrites for speaking out so passionately about the sins in which they themselves partook. It seems very clear to me that their passion was anger and sadness directed, not so much at others, but at themselves.
    A pastor who sees the greatness of his sin is definitely a good thing, as you have said, as it shows that he has true knowledge of God and His holiness. Whether he has fear and love that directs him into that holiness himself, however, is something that would be helped by his qualification for ministry (I think we would all agree on that).

  23. What if the whole concept of “calling” is an organizational myth? What if callling is truly known only in the “doing”, and not so much in the “hearing”?

  24. By the way, Michael P, that was beautifully written!

  25. John from Down Under September 21, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Thanks Hodge.

  26. Satan uses our trust in our own righteousness to pull us down. We can never be righteous by our own works of the flesh. We are saved and called to minister to others only because of the grace of God, not because of how holy we can live in the flesh. As long as pride is there and we trust in our own righteousness, Satan can buffet us. However, when we trust in Jesus alone, his righteousness will always stand in trials. He will hold us up by his own right hand. I am also a firm believer that is the Lord call someone to ministry, they will know it so that Satan can not overpower God’s plan. Of course, we are free to agree or disagree, but this is what I believe and will stand on. No matter how irritable I may be, Jesus’ righteousness stands for me, regardless of what man or Satan may think or say. God bless all who share your word in spirit and in truth.

  27. Called to ministry?!? This should be the criteria…

    Can you use the Bible as a weapon? Frame things in an “us” vs. “them” mentality? Can you withhold grace (what is that BTW…?) Can you believe that only your church has things figured out with absolute certainity? Can learn to be sujective about what is sinful while ignoring huge chunks of the Bible? And can be you be pre-millinial rapture based (becuase that’s all that matters.)

    If you can GO ahead join Campus Crusade, go to Seminary at Liberty University in VA, join Prison Fellowship. You are desperatly needed!!!

  28. Dear Eagle,
    thats how to be a bad minister you nutter :)
    being a good minister is definitely NOT like that. Jesus will help us all to be better people and those He calls to be better ministers too.

  29. For me, your post was timely and real. Thank you for peeling back the onion of your heart.

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