Open Calling, Closed Doors: Waiting to Enter Vocational Ministry

Photo Credit: Namphuong Van

Photo Credit: Namphuong Van

In my last post, The Idolatry of Vocational MinistryI discussed the importance of a sober evaluation of one’s calling into vocational ministry.  One of the guys from the church I pastor asked if I was going to write an encouragement to guys who are indeed called, but don’t currently have an opportunity to serve in full-time ministry.  I must confess, I believe that my series on The Lost Art of Tentmaking would be encouraging, but I figured that since I’ve been blessed with several men at Christ Community Church who are called, but not yet able to serve full-time, I’d take the time to write an encouragement to the rest of you who are called, willing, and ready, but do not yet have a place to serve full-time.

I understand that not all who are called to the ministry are the same.  By God’s grace, I have an entrepreneurial spirit, so I have been able to make ends meet doing various things while being able to serve in vocational ministry without it being completely contingent on finances.  Not all who are called to the ministry have this bent, and this is okay.

There are currently three or four men in the church I pastor who have clear, identifiable, and passionate calling for vocational ministry.  However, at the stage where our church plant is, we cannot hire them all (although we would be blessed to have them all on the team).  These men work various jobs to care for their families, and still find time to serve in various capacities at the church.  We have a few teachers, three guys at Chick-Fil-A, and a Dent Gent.  One cool thing about these men is that they all have jobs that afford them the opportunity to be off of work on Sunday’s, so that they can be a part of the Sunday worship gathering and express their gifts to an extent.

If you find yourself validated in your calling by the Holy Spirit and affirmed by the community around you, don’t be discouraged!  God’s timing is perfect, and in His perfect providential timing, the right door will open at the right time.  So, instead of feeling discouraged, a more hopeful and faithful way to be is trusting and expectant.  While He doesn’t need us, He chooses to call us into His labor.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you await His perfect timing:

  1. As a follower of Jesus, you’re already in full-time ministry.  I mentioned this in my post The Idolatry of Vocational Ministry, but I feel it is important to note that you don’t need to wait until your paycheck comes from the church or non-profit organization before you start doing the work of making disciples.  That is the universal privilege of all who call Jesus their King.  We are called and compelled by Him to make disciples as we go, so do what you can with the time afforded to you right now (see Matthew 28:18-20).
  2. Nothing is wasted.  As you teach, manage, serve, fix dents, or practice law, much of what you will learn about working with people, systems, etc., will be very transferable into vocational ministry.  Instead of dreading the next day of work, you can view it as an opportunity for hands-on preparation for your daily work of ministry when that day comes.
  3. Develop a strong work ethic.  Don’t slack off at your current job because you don’t feel like you are able to be doing what you are “called” to do.  After all, aren’t we supposed to offer our work as an offering (all work, not just ministry work)? (See Colossians 3:23)  Those in ministry often get accused of being lazy, and at times, the shoe fits.  While this accusation may be unfair (i.e. What do you do on the other days of the week?), it is important that when you are largely self-managing in the ministry that you work hard and work well.
  4. Don’t just take any opportunity.  There will be a strong temptation to ‘get your foot in the door’ and take any ministry opportunity that comes your way.  If you are married, this is even more important that you don’t just jump into any position.  You need to be patient to find the position that will give you the best opportunity to utilize your gifts, serve God’s people, and love and serve your family well.  Nothing can ruin a family’s desire to serve in the ministry than a horrible first experience.  Seek counsel, be prayerful, and wait for the right fit.
  5. Serve where you are.  As I mentioned in #2, nothing is wasted.  With that in mind, it’s a great idea to try to serve in as many areas of ministry at your current local church as you can to fine tune your calling, and learn how the church organization runs as a whole.  Be the type of volunteer that you hope to have once you are serving in vocational ministry.  Let the leadership of your church know that you desire to be in full-time ministry, but don’t presume upon them that they must hire you.
  6. The one who calls you is faithful (1 Thess. 5:24).  If Jesus has called you, He will be faithful to see you to where He wants you.  Be careful to be open to His will, and don’t try to force His hand.  It is far better to be where He wants you, then to find yourself begging for rescue.  If you are called to full-time vocational ministry, then it will come to pass.

If you are called, but are currently in school, training, work, or waiting, know that you are not alone.  Utilize this time to grow in Him, to love your family (or start one), and to learn as much as you can where you are.

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