Twenty years ago this month.
I went into full-time ministry.
I’m convinced I was called to the ministry, specifically to preach, when I was 9-years old.
As a 9-year-old, I remember a specific Sunday morning waiting for my mom to take me and my sister to Church.
As they were getting ready, I stood before the living room window with my Bible on a bar stool preaching to the squirrels, birds, and dogs with all my might!
I remember how good it felt. And how right it felt.
I did that every Sunday (as long as no-one else was in the room). In fact, I’d get dressed more quickly at times so I could preach!
I revisit that scene often when I’m drained and discouraged and daydream of doing something else for a living.
What it means to be called
What if I was called to something else—a teacher, a Secret Service officer (I really wanted this one!), a coach?
How would I know for sure?
God can call you and me to any kind of role or life’s work, not just vocational ministry.
How did I know I was called to be a minister?
It wasn’t anything supernatural.
There was no voice of God.
I heard no angels singing the hallelujah chorus.
It was simply a decision.
How I discovered my calling
I asked my pastor at the time how I’d really know if I was called to vocational ministry.
First, he said if I could do anything else in life but vocational ministry, do that!
Then he asked if I could be fulfilled in any other career than ministry. If not, that was big evidence of calling.
Finally, he told me to simply make a decision!
Then he said to drive the proverbial flag in the ground and get on with God’s calling on my life.
He told me if I ever wanted to quit the ministry for any reason, then I must look back at that so-called flag in the ground waving in the wind to remind me of the moment I was called. And press on.
The Flag in the Ground
On August 23, 1997, I drove the flag in the ground. Here’s an excerpt from my journal on that very day:
“Is God calling me into full-time ministry? The answer to this question will determine the rest of my life. Today, on 8/23/97, in Clanton, Alabama, at my parent’s home sitting on a bench under a tree, I surrender my life to follow Christ into full-time vocational ministry! The flag has gone into the ground!
I am afraid, apprehensive, intimidated, and unsure of myself. However, that means God must do the work. And He will through me.
God, You alone I praise! For Your precious glory alone do I live this life. God, thank you for blessing me with all things good and bad in my life and in my past.
Father, I devote my life to You. I am after Your own heart, God. Dwell in me Lord Christ so that all that I think, say, and do will glorify You!
‘For I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20’ “.
All of the above, I still feel and pray, today. At times, I have to go back to 9-years old. On rough days, I have to look back and stare at that flag.
How might you know you’re calling? Here are 5 questions for you to consider:
1) What was your childhood love?
When I was a child, I loved sports. As much as the sport, I loved inspiring and encouraging the team. I especially loved the relationship with my teammates.
I loved playing Superman and GI-Joe in the woods.
I loved taking a video camera and doing little films making fun of my sister.
But more so, I loved people. Especially, people who were underdogs, the bullied, people with special needs, people who struggled and hurt.
And I loved preaching from a bar stool to the critters outside!
All the above—leadership, creativity, love for people, preaching—is what I do for a living today as a minister.
2) What are you passionate about?
What books and blogs do you pour over?
What podcasts do you love listening to?
What do you geek out about? What do you imagine and dream?
What is a need that burdens or breaks your heart?
Pay attention. There may be a calling on your life.
3) What would you do full-time even if you weren’t paid?
Huge question! If you can answer it, you might uncover your calling.
4) What have others seen in you?
My kindergarten teacher told my mom that I would be a leader one day.
When I was fifteen years old, and nowhere near following Jesus, my student pastor still told me I’d be a pastor one day.
When I preached for the first time, which was purely awful, there was an overwhelming response by the people, the leadership, and the pastor, that God had given me a gift. And they scheduled me to preach a lot more.
Perhaps not many folks have expressed what they see in you.
Ask those who know and love you. Reflect on your life for pearls that people have pointed out in you.
5) What is your wiring?
Have you taken a personality test (Myers-Briggs, Birkman)?
Have you taken a spiritual gifts test?
Google those tests and you’ll find them free online. They will help you understand how God has wired and gifted you.
This is not an exhaustive list of questions but they are a good start.
If you’re still not sure…
After considering the questions, if you still don’t know where to begin regarding God’s call on your life, here’s what you do:
Serve at your local church. It is through the serving God will begin revealing his call.
Do you feel you’ve missed God’s call on your life?
God is in control. His purposes are sure. God’s got you. Pray. Go back to the questions above and see if He might reroute you.
Do you feel you’re outside of God’s calling on your life?
See if God might have you begin an exit plan to step into what you are concluding is His call on your life.
A final thought
You can have another role in life, or a career that you enjoy and pays the bills, but may conclude there’s more to God’s calling on your life.
If so, you can fully experience His calling by exercising the gifts He’s given you in other capacities. Again, by serving in your local church, ministering to others in your workplace, volunteering in your community, and so forth.
Today, twenty years later, I’m still convinced I am in God’s calling.
I look back at the 9-year old preaching his heart out by the living room window.
And I still see that flag blowing in the wind.
Does God have a flag for you?
Enjoyed the post….thanks for sharing!!
My wife and I feel truly blessed to have you as our long distant pastor. You have a true gift my friend. I feel like you are speaking directly to me, to my soul, when you preach I feel alive. Thank you so much for following your calling. You have a true gift.
Thank you for your kind, inspiring, and encouraging words. Much love to you guys.
Pastor, I am beyond blessed that with God’s direction, you placed your flag in the ground right here in county, NY!
Your article is precious. An inspiration to many, many future leaders of our faith. God bless you. Phyllis
Yay! Thank you, Phyllis!
We moved from NY and Grace Church OC a little over a year ago, and I miss your teaching/preaching and still follow it when there is time. We love our Grace Church in the Upstate of SC which has a very similar one church, many locations concept! I’m glad to still follow your blog posts—–this was a really good one for me—-still working on how God would have me fulfill my calling as an ezer (and being confident in knowing I’m in His will, not mine) as I move through different seasons of life (working full time to now mom of little ones) and grow and change.
Thank you for your kind words. Seek Him through His Word, prayer, repentance, community, and trust like child. Thanks for commenting, Erin!