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Ever since June 2014, I felt called to go into full time ministry as a pastor. Over time, that call continued to be confirmed over and over again through experiences, prayer, and other people. Each day, I’m becoming more and more confident that this is what God has in store for me. And I have to say: I’m really excited about it!
But one thing I didn’t have two and a half years ago, that would have been a major help and encouragement to me, is a “checklist” to help me see if I was actually called into full time ministry. Because I didn’t have that, I had to figure it out on my own as I continued in my personal walk with the Lord.
Since that time, I’ve learned that there are actually 4 major ways to know if God is calling you to full time ministry. Each of these are signs that help show us whether or not that’s the direction God has for us.
1. A Profound Impression from God
When I first felt called to ministry, I was preaching a short sermon to about four dozen middle school students. The sermon was on the Stoning of Stephen, and how the Pharisees had hardened their hearts toward God. At the very end, I gave an invitation–and 3 kids got saved.
It was at that moment, that I felt this indescribable joy and contentment. From that point on I just knew this is what I was meant for. This is what God created me to do. It’s hard to explain exactly what that felt like, but to me, it was just a strong confirmation of what I already suspected.
My youth pastor had a similar experience in his initial call to ministry. For him, it also happened when he was preaching a sermon. And there, he felt that this is what God wanted him to do and he just couldn’t do anything else.
When considering whether or not you feel called to ministry, check to see if you’ve ever had a similar “God moment” where you were given an extreme desire to serve God in ministry. This is often a sign that this is where the Lord wants you.
2. Confirmation from others
In the two years since I first felt called to ministry, I’ve had quite a few people–peers and adults–come up to me and say things like “Yeah, I figured you wanted to be a pastor” and “I really do see ministry leadership in you”. Usually people notice when God’s preparing someone for full time ministry.
If something similar has happened to you, and others have commented on your life in a way that seems to direct you toward the ministry, that’s a very good sign that you’re probably called to go into full time ministry.
3. Reoccurring Thoughts for Ministry
Sometimes God will put something in your mind and continue feeding it back into you until you decide to do something about it. This is actually a strategy God tells us to use in Luke 18, when he uses the parable of “The Persistent Widow”.
This is something that has happened to me, consistently, for the past two/three years. I just couldn’t stop thinking about ministry. It just kept popping into my head over and over again. Even after surrendering to God’s call, it’s still always in the back of my mind.
If ministry is something you can’t stop thinking about, it’s very likely God’s calling you to ministry.If ministry is something you can’t stop thinking about, it’s very likely God’s calling you to ministry. Click To Tweet
4. A Passion for the Job
The final indicator for a call to ministry is a deep-rooted passion for the type of ministry God’s calling you. That could be missional work, pastoral work, church administrative work, worship ministry, or any other position in the light of ministry leadership.
This is something I feel every day. I have a long-lasting excitement and anticipation for the day I can preach my next sermon, or get my first official pastoral level position at a church. It’s just in my blood–and I’m truly passionate about it.
If this sounds like you, and you have a genuine love for what God is calling you to, that’s a strong indicator that you’re being called to full time ministry.
I hope this article has helped you answer this very important question! If you’re still not sure or would like to dig deeper into this topic, leave a comment below so we can all talk about it and hopefully help you answer any unanswered questions!
Originally published February 4th, 2017
This is great! I feel called to full-time ministry as well. These points are… on point! haha thank you for this great article!
So glad God could use me to encourage you!
This is great, Trent! Thank you for sharing!
Glad to, Jalen!
Amazing article Trent! One time a friend of my mom said the most encouraging words I have ever heard. She literally said this, “… I see a missionary in you…” She also said other encouraging words, but it’s been almost a year so I don’t remember what she said correctly.
It’s amazing how encouraging and impactful words can be to us as we consider our calling. And that’s awesome that you feel a burden for mission work – I’m excited for you, man!
Hey Trent, this is super encouraging and convicting! I know that certain people keep telling me that I should go to seminary–and since a young age I’ve had a heart for missions work.
We’ll see how God manages to bring all my passions together and use it for his glory. But this article was exciting–and (as I said before) a bit convicting as I feel I’ve been definitely trying to push away a bit. God knows His purpose in our lives and knows exactly what kind of ministry He wants us to do and how He wants to prepare us for it and how He wants us to do it. So I just need to trust Him with it.
In a way, I guess we’re all called to ministry (weather in the church or outside of the church.) We are called to bring God’s glory to Earth no matter what field we’re in etc. And we’re called to tell others about him.
Thanks for this, Trent! You are an encouragement to me. And it’s so cool that you want to become a pastor! Keep pressing into God and listening to His timing. God bless!
Yeah, man, that’s awesome! I really like what you said about us all being called to ministry – because it’s so true! We all have a call to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and bring God honor and glory.
What we do as our occupation is the difference. Some are called to vocational ministry (full-time ministry leadership) and some are called to work in a different line of work as they minister to others for God’s glory. Both are vital to maintaining the health and strength of the body of Christ.
I appreciate your insight Jason on the fact that all Christians are called to ministry. Far too many of us teens and young adults can get caught up in mission trips and Christian camps, yet are infrequent in their service to their local churches.
The two months I spent at a childcare centre in South Africa pinpointed this to me. I fully realized how my life serving in South Africa wasn’t always exciting or enjoyable. I taught or watched preschoolers (probably the most frustrating age group to interact with for me personally), made meals, spent hours re-teaching homework, and changing closets over – my trip would probably not be a popular choice for many.
But those two months taught me what missions really is all about – serving others for the sake of the Gospel. Missions is not about me having an adventure – it’s about me serving others and sharing with them the truth and hope of the Gospel.
Now, three years later back home in the every day grind, that is how (with God’s help) I am patterning my life. Be faithful where God plants me, because, just as Francis Chan srates as a subtitle in the prologue for David Platt’s book “Follow Me”, we should be “Making every day a mission trip” (p.xii). 🙂
Wow thanks for sharing here Trent. The question of whether we should go into full-time ministry is definitely something every Christian should think about. God gave me a heart to work with children and I’ve been using that desire to teach Sunday school at my church and work a daycare type job two days a week. I’m truly blessed to be able to work with young children! And although it’s different from what God is calling you to do, we can still encourage each other! Thanks again Trent this was a great article!
That’s awesome Ashley!
Fun fact, I am *not* called to long term children’s ministry. Haha. I get worn out waaaay to quickly. I greatly admire those who are though. 🙂
Nice article Trent! It was very fun to read, and I think those four things can go to any job or career!
Thanks for the feedback! It’s always encouraging to know my writing is fun to read!
Trent, thanks for writing on this subject! I too feel called to full-time missions:) I would love to work with teens through Christ In Youth (CIY). I had the opportunity to act as a youth minister’s apprentice at a jr high program last week; it was just another conformation that it is where I am supposed to serve! Your points were spot on!
That’s awesome, Katelyn! Would you like to share what CIY is for everyone?
CIY works in partnership with the local church, providing more than 100 annual program events for students and leaders across the United States and in more than ten foreign countries. CIY believes God has uniquely and specifically equipped every student for Kingdom work. In response to His call, students can actively serve in the harvest fields of their families, schools, churches and communities- not someday- but TODAY.
Here is a link for anyone who is interested in learning more, it also features some great teens:
Thanks for the article Trent! This is just what I needed right now.
I believe I am being called to be a missionary. But only a couple of my friends agree with me so it’s making the path to becoming a missionary difficult. Thanks for the encouragement!
I’m so glad you’re encouraged by this article, Joy. Are the other three areas very strong despite not much confirmation from others?
Yes. the other 3 areas are very strong. That’s why I haven’t given up that path even though few people agree with me.
That’s awesome, Joy! Super excited for you as you continue your personal walk with the Lord.
One thing though: when not all the signs of being called to ministry show up, we need to be very careful we’re not deceiving ourselves into believing we’re called into full time ministry. Being open and honest about our thoughts and feelings to God and other individuals who are strong in their walk with the Lord is a huge help and shielding ourselves against believing God wants us somewhere when He really doesn’t.
Rooting for you, Joy!
Hey Trent! Thanks for the article. I can fully relate to that “God moment” experienced while preaching and being led to ministry. I wrote this a couple years ago; it outlines tips I’ve also found helpful on the topic:
Discerning the Will of God
A friend of mine asked me this week about how one may discern the will of God and listen to Him on hard-to-understand matters to which I prayerfully replied:
God leads people in many ways and in all kinds of circumstances. I figure: the closer you are to God the easier you will discern His will. It’s been said that a radio tower sends out signals 24/7, but you only hear the message if your radio is tuned in. We must be tuned in to God’s Holy Spirit. It may be easier said than done, but it’s surely possible. That said, I believe that there is a “false Holy Spirit,” or many of them, a.k.a. demons, and when Christians have an unhealthy desire for supernatural experiences and begin to hear a voice which they believe is THE Holy Spirit, then it causes me to doubt the authenticity of their statement, until I first test what they say with the Word. That’s the other thing: reading the Word. How does God speak to us? Through His Word, first and foremost. Many times God has led me in small matters and larger ones through my quiet time. Don’t go looking for an answer which suits you, just pray beforehand that the Lord will speak to you through His Word by His Holy Spirit and pray that He keeps you from being misled by the enemy, and then read. You won’t always get an answer soon, quickly or easily. Here are some steps which different pastors and Bible teachers have taught me—and I found that they always worked as good guidelines to follow:
1. Is this thing you are considering in line with God’s Word? (He won’t bless it otherwise).
2. The Lord uses other born-again Christians who know us as well, but well-meaning Christians can also give wrong advice. (In your case, consult your parents because they know things about you that you may not know, they have more life experience and they have known the Lord longer, too).
3. And, are the circumstances truly the Lord’s? Circumstances can be VERY tricky, because the enemy uses them as well.
4. Is the timing right yet? It could be the right thing but the wrong time. We must guard against the impatience of the flesh, and our motives have to be pure and honest.
5. Do you have the peace of God about it (no more uncertainty)? This peace, I have found, always comes last (or not at all, and then that’s also an answer). Followed by this peace are fearful doubts sent by satan. Don’t worry about them; they are just another confirmation that you are acting in faith and obedience to
God’s call. When you realize this, they quickly subside. (It happened to me when
God showed me I could go to Mozambique and when He led me to stay in South
Africa after the Bible School training). If you don’t have God’s peace yet, then pray, and be patient. And, in the meantime, do the things you know God wants you to do. That would include—but not limited to—”pray for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18), “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), do the good things you know you ought to do (James 4:17), “obey your parents” (Ephesians 6:1, Colossians 3:20), “work with your hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11), etc.
Also, will the things which you are considering cause your faith to grow? Is it a God-sized thing which you can only accomplish if God helps you? This would build your faith and glorify God. And get you out of your comfort zone.
You shouldn’t make an emotional decision. Also: not one which is rushed or made under pressure. You want to have God’s assurance before making a big decision; most young people just use their own reasoning or interests, but if I had done that, I would have never found the Mission I’m with now, yet God has brought me here and I feel like it’s a perfect fit, a divine calling and appointment.
“He who trusts in himself is a fool …” “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” –Proverbs 28:26a & Proverbs 3:5 NIV
S. M. Lockridge once said, “Let God have His way, in your life, now.”
“The sweetest part … is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no
longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how.” –Hudson Taylor
And know and rest in the fact that God is quite capable of communicating with you in whichever way He pleases, in His good time, and that’s enough.
When someone graduated, I told them: “Make extra sure you’re in the true will of God, and then go full-speed ahead! Read the Bible until the Scriptures flood your thoughts and flow from your lips! Pray faithfully, intensely and continuously!”
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” –Colossians 4:12 KJV
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” –Romans 12:2 KJV
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” –Hebrews 13:20-21 KJV
P.S. I can’t claim to know all the answers, but I know the One who does!
Addendum: Earlier this year (when I was earnestly seeking the Lord’s will about something) a Christian lady who has been like a mother to me told me that I shouldn’t expect to get any answer from the Lord until I have totally and completely surrendered and abandoned all of my personal preferences concerning the answer which I want to hear from God, and then be obedient to whatever He says—whether I wanted to hear it or not! And, also through that experience, I found that in such situations I should seek the Lord more than I seek the answer to
Hey Louis, thanks for such a detailed response! It’s true how so often we only hear what we want to hear if we’re not careful. Praise the Lord for His mercy despite our weaknesses.
Thank you Louis for your comment!
Great Article. There is no life like the life of ministry
Thanks for the comment, Lydia!
And it’s true! While other lines of work are vital to the body of Christ, I feel like full time ministry is a special calling. Not better, but different and having its own unique rewards.
This is so encouraging considering that I also have felt called into ministry for the last year and a half!
I’m so glad, Hailey! Do you have any idea what God wants you to do next?
I have alway felt that God has called me to serve Him and this was one more thing that has encouraged me. Thank You!
This really sounds like me when it comes to music and leading people in worship. I had a “God moment” like you described at camp last year when i helped lead worship on stage for the first time. I wanted to cry joyful tears because i was so overwhelmed by His goodness. It’s still something i think about all the time and am very passionate about. I often doubt that i really have the talent and courage to do something like that though…
Hey Hannah, so glad you had such a great experience at camp last year! God often uses time away from normal life to get our attention. Haha. I certainly have many stories of my own of God doing just that in my life.
One thing though that I feel is important about listening to God’s calling is to understand a pretty profound statement:
In other words, you don’t have to be ready when God calls you. You just have to be willing so that when He calls you out of your comfort zone, you can start taking those first few steps toward his purpose for your life.
Excited for you Hannah! God’s going to use you to do great things, if you let Him. =)
I really like that quote you used Trent: “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.” We can let our pride get in the way where we try to bring ourselves to the point where we feel we are “good” or “ready enough” before we move forward, only to find ourselves never having went forward. It’s a real killer to our pride.
Thank you so much, that was really encouraging to hear!
Though I don’t feel any calling toward ministry specifically, this post was really helpful for me. For years, I’ve planned to get a teaching degree after high-school and become a high-school science teacher, but lately I’ve been mulling over the idea of being a teen therapist/counselor instead. Most of what you said in this article applies to my situation as well (confirmation from others, passion for the job, etc.) and now you have me seriously rethinking my career options 🙂
Although this does not apply to me I just wanted to let you know that this helped me a lot! Thank you so much for writing this. Can’t wait for your book! 😉
I say this with the LOVE of JESUS dear brother Trent. Your writing ( Article/Blog) is a bold, direct and simple educational, informative and blessing of a read for anyone who is not certain or considering, thinking about serving in a full time capacity.
CHRIST certainly does not call the READY, or the EQUIPPED.
Prime example just for everyone else questioning if they are able- ****YES YES YES***
I served 15 years in prisons for armed robbery-and TODAY I am blessed to serve in a multifaceted capacity beyond my visions and dreams.
PRISONER to PREACHING in a pulpit & beyond. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a7b897ae946446dc34416e92389f3bd66e2d4421ac0568e3859fe16dc43aa684.jpg
~glory all goes to JESUS CHRIST~ REDEMPTION is found only in Him.
-more than 1 million kids are in gangs ages 5-to-17
if u want to pray or share ask about youth gang outreach advocacy http://www.facebook.com/fierceyouthoutreach or if the HOLY SPIRIT leads …
————–this is ONLY to share—-JESUS calls the least of US- never THINK you are not able, HE CAN USE EACH OF US…
Hello yes this has been on my mind and I have been having these thoughts also I got two or more books from people in my church and in both books it was talking about calling as a pastor in both I have this thought before these books and now for after getting these books as well
Am blessed by this article, thanks. My question is; if you have the call of going into full-time as a wife and a bread winner of the family, how do you handle it?