Discerning God’s Call

Darrin Patrick » Mission Church Church Leadership Calling

Pastoral Ministry

Ministry is more than hard. Ministry is impossible. And unless we have Holy Spirit-inspired fire inside our bones compelling us, we simply will not survive. Pastoral ministry is a calling, not a career. It is not a job you pursue to advance a career or a position that is preferable because you like attention. You don’t go into ministry because you liked your youth pastor or because your mom thinks you’d be good at it or to avoid manual labor. I am continually shocked at how many people are trying to do ministry without a clear sense of calling. So what is a call? What does it look like? To begin, let’s learn from those who have gone before us.

8 Qualities of a Minister

Martin Luther, the 16th-century church reformer and theologian who helped spark the Protestant Reformation, listed eight qualities that a minister must have:

  • Able to teach systematically
  • Eloquence
  • A good voice
  • A good memory
  • Knows how to make an end
  • Sure of his doctrine
  • Willing to venture body and blood, wealth and honor in the work
  • Suffers himself to be mocked and jeered by everyone

3 Indications of a Call

John Newton, the 18th-century Anglican clergyman and writer of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace,” noted three indications of a call. First, a call to ministry is accompanied by “a warm and earnest desire to be employed in this service.” Second, a call to ministry is accompanied by “some competent sufficiency as to gifts, knowledge, and utterance.” And third, a call to ministry is accompanied by “a correspondent opening in Providence, by a gradual train of circumstances pointing out the means, the time, the place, of actually entering upon the work.”

Is Ministry Your Calling?

George Whitefield, the 18th-century evangelist, gives this advice for those considering a call: “Ask yourselves again and again whether you would preach for Christ if you were sure to lay down your life for so doing? If you fear the displeasure of a man for doing your duty now, assure yourselves you are not yet thus minded.”


Charles Hodge, the 19th-century Reformed theologian, distinguished between intellectual qualifications, spiritual qualifications, and bodily qualifications, all of which must be present in a genuine call. Robert L. Dabney, another 19th-century Presbyterian theologian, lists these qualifications:

  • A healthy and hearty piety
  • A fair reputation for holiness of life
  • A respectable force of character
  • Some Christian experience
  • An aptness to teach

Though these men’s perspectives are culturally conditioned, you get the point: Examination is imperative. Confirmation is required. Calling matters. As you discern God’s call on your life, consider the advice of those who have gone before. In the next three posts, we will look at three areas that I believe are crucial for discerning God’s call on your life: heart confirmation, head confirmation, and skill confirmation. To be continued.

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