Do You Feel Called by God? Rethinking the Call to Ministry is a book that is meant to challenge the very idea of what it means to be “called.” Although this book is primarily directed to those who are currently in or considering full-time ministry, it’s not limited to that specific audience. It’s a very helpful book for all Christians because all Christians are prone to use the phraseology of “being called.”
But don’t assume that the author, Michael Bennett, actually thinks that all Christians should enter into full-time ministry. Instead, he argues that all Christians already are in full-time ministry. I think the best way to explain his thought process is this way:
1. A Christian can only be a Christian “full-time) (there’s no such thing as a “part-time Christian.” Jesus says, “you’re either for me or against me,” not somewhere in between).
2. When we become Christians, we receive spiritual gifts (even though we don’t always immediately know what they are).
3. Christians should use their spiritual gifts, even in secular work (depending on the gift).
4. All spiritual gifts are meant to be used to build up the body of Christ and to grow His kingdom by displaying Christ in how we think, speak, and act.
5. “Ministry” could be defined as building up the body of Christ and growing His kingdom by displaying Christ in how we think, speak, and act.
6. Therefore, Christians should build up the body of Christ and grow His kingdom by displaying Christ in how we think, speak, and act, even in secular careers.
7. Therefore, Christians are in ministry, even in secular careers.
All of those points look true to me. Whether it’s sound and valid will have to be decided by philosophers (they need something to do with their degree!).
Now, exactly how we participate in the body of Christ is determined by our spiritual gifts. Nevertheless, we are all required to participate in the body of Christ. There are no useless parts of the body on you, so why should you be a useless part of the body of Christ? (If you argue that the appendix is useless, then I would say 1) God didn’t make a mistake when he made you and your appendix, and 2) we all can’t be Christ’s appendix.)
The main point that the author tries to make throughout the book is that the Bible doesn’t state that a “strong sense of feeling or being called to the position” is a requirement for someone to enter the ministry. He says,
[F]rom the moment you became a believing Christian, you have been in the ministry. The risen Jesus has generously distributed his spiritual gifts to his church, and these ministry gifts vary enormously from person to person….The gifts of the Spirit are to be used for the benefit of others and are not given for a believer’s personal indulgence. Your object as a believer is to help and encourage others to become strong, mature and productive for the kingdom of God.Do You Feel Called by God? p. 98
In other words, as soon as you become a Christian, you’ve been “called” into the ministry. God called you, the Spirit led you, and now Christ owns you.
The author also argues that the “being called” phraseology can be misused and even abused a point that a Christian is willing to use it as an excuse to not serve. Whether they’re lazy, fearful, or don’t feel equipped for the task, they say that they’re not “called to do it,” so they let it fall on the shoulders of someone else. Unfortunately, I think it ends up falling on the pastor more times than we’d like to admit.I
This particular quote gave me a good slap in the face:
“You do not discover your ministry gifting by sitting in a dark room vowing not to move until God tells you what to do. [Although he could.]…Normally, spiritual gifts are discovered as you leave your comfort zone and propel yourself into situations of ministry, which may even prove to be somewhat threatening.Do You Feel Called by God? p. 110
I hate getting out of my comfort zone. I hate it. And as a result, I’ve really struggled, especially when it comes to getting involved in a church ministry. I’ve either been afraid or acutely keen of my inadequacies. Because of that, I’ve used excuses to get out of serving God.
I admit that even before I read this book, I’ve been feeling convicted about this topic. It began as I reflected on my pastor becoming a military chaplain. Shortly after he swore-in, he had to miss a Sunday and asked me to lead Sunday school. I had written a post calling for “pew potatoes” to step up because they’re needed, and my pastor applied it to me. I had cornered myself with my own words. Reluctantly, I agreed.
I do need to get out of my comfort zone, especially when it comes to serving the Lord. I have said many times that I would do whatever He wanted me to do, but then I put conditions on my service. I’ve been asked a few times to serve in a particular manner, and until now, I’ve always come up with a reason not to. So how willing was I to serve God? Not very, apparently.
This book has definitely encouraged me to serve God however and whenever He needs me. I may fail many times, but it’s a learning process. God has given me spiritual gifts. I just need to discover and nurture them. Over time, God will show me the gifts He’s given me (and likewise He’ll show me the ones he hasn’t). All I need to do is act.
I don’t know why I picked up this book. It was on the top shelf of our church library and it just stood out. I have no desire to become a pastor, so I couldn’t say that I was feeling “called” to be in full-time ministry. I was just looking for a book that looked interesting and this one stood out. I’m glad I picked it up. I found it helpful.
I want to end with this quote from Hudson Taylor that is shared in the book. I found that it encapsulates what we should all strive for as Christians. It shows what it means to serve God wholeheartedly and what it means to be in full-time ministry.
If you want hard work and little appreciation; if you value God’s approval more than you fear man’s disapprobation; if you are prepared to take joyfully the spoiling of your goods, and seal your testimony, if need be, with your blood…you may count on a harvest of souls now and a crown of glory hereafter “that fadeth not away,” and on the Master’s “Well done.” – Hudson TaylorDo You Feel Called by God? (p. 76)
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