It’s Not About Crusading, or Even About Calling — It’s About Serving

This is part of the ‘Girly Girl’ Week here at Cheese-Wearing Theology.

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“Are you sure you are called into ministry?”

It’s the question I have been asked numerous times in the last decade of serving in churches.

And so, cure I tell the person my testimony; of how I have, ask through prayer, no rx mentoring and theological study, found myself gifted and passionate for preaching ministry. My explanation and testimony sounds about like any other person who feels a call into pastoral ministry.

Yet, even after my testimony, I get the question: “Are you sure you are called into ministry?”

The first few times, I thought it was because the person asking wanted me to be sure, absolutely sure. But, why then were they not asking the same question of male students? Maybe, the person saw something in my life that I didn’t. Maybe I really wasn’t called to ministry. But, why then is that where my giftings and my passions lie?

Maybe it’s because I shie away from the language of calling. I posted this reflection by Ben Witherington a few weeks ago:

“What God demands of us is far more than to realize he has plans for our individual lives, plans for good and not for harm. In fact God demands of us a less narcissistic focus of ourselves and our own needs. When we actually examine the use of the phrase ‘the will of God’ in the only two places it appears in Paul’s writings (1Thess 4:3; 5:18) it has to do with the mandates to maintain a holy life and to take up and practice regularly the three major forms of prayer (adoration, intercession, thanksgiving). It has little to do with finding some more particular purpose or calling in one’s life when it comes to our tasks in life or our occupation.”

Ben Witherington, The Problem with Evangelical Theology, pg. x.

My approach to ministry positions has been fairly passive. I won’t crusade to be in a ministry position. I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to force the issue.

Instead, I find myself saying, “You know what: This is me. These are my gifts, my talents, my educational experiences and training. If you want to make use of it, I am available.”

If a church is looking for someone to lead an adult bible study, and could use me, then I’m available. If a church is looking for pulpit supply, then I’m available. If a church is looking for someone to lead worship, then I’m available. My desire is to serve the Church with my gifts as needed.

Chuck and I moved to Saskatchewan a year and a half ago. In the time since we’ve been here, I haven’t preached a single sermon, I haven’t led a single worship song, and apart from a couple of class presentations, I haven’t had to do any public speaking.

“Ah-ha!” Someone might say, “a year and a half of no leadership proves that you aren’t called to ministry.”

And yet, in this year I have found other ways to serve. I find myself praying for people and ministries and situations in ways I never prayed before. I find myself reading a lot more devotionally, whereas before I was always reading to preach or teach. And above all, I find myself listening. Listening to other pastors preaching; listening to the needs and concerns of the Church in general; listening for that ‘still small voice’ who I could never hear when I was in ‘busy busy’ mode.

Is it God’s will or call that I be in ministry? I don’t know. What I do know is that all Christians are called to serve: to serve the Risen Saviour and to serve our neighbours. What that looks like today may not be what it looks like tomorrow. Perhaps this year I’ll end up preaching or teaching or leading worship. Perhaps it won’t happen for another five years, or ten, or ever. And that’s okay. What matters is that I kneel before my Lord with my life forfeit. Anything I do is for God’s glory and not mine.

  • God calls every Christian to some form of ministry. God always finds a way to use those who make themselves available (and even some who don’t). Ignore the gallery and listen for God. His will be done!

    • “Ignore the gallery and listen for God.”

      Amen!

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  • I have had similar experiences to yours. Even in a denomination that “allows” the ordination of women, I have been frequently questioned by a few of my brothers in Christ and, surprisingly (not) my sisters in Christ as well. Again, in the same way–it’s the second time they ask the same question. My favorite experience is after interviewing at a congregation they told me I was just right for them except for one “problem”. I’m a woman.
    I agree with you position not to fight or force the issue. I believe that God calls us but also sends us and does not always send us to places that wish to acknowledge or utilize our call. I have not been persuaded to believe that a heavy hand forcing ourselves to be accepted and allowed is the best choice. At the heart of every call is, as you say for God’s glory and not our own.

    • I’ve known several women who have had a similar experience: It’s okay that the denomination ordains you, but you can’t be our pastor.

  • Kristen

    “Ah-ha!” Someone might say, “a year and a half of no leadership proves that you aren’t called to ministry.”

    I would say it’s more likely that a year and a half of no leadership proves that your congregation is not free of anti-woman biases. However, I like your attitude. I remember Susannah Wesley and how her Bible study grew to have attendance of over 400 people, men and women alike, despite the fact that it had no official recognition by any church. If God wants to use us, God will find a way.