I’m told occasionally by lay people that they would never get into the ministry because they’re convinced that they’re not qualified. And yet I notice they’re very involved in personal ministry, doing things for the Kingdom; they just don’t have credentials nor are they employed fulltime in the ministry. You do not have to be recognized by everyone in the ministry as belonging to a “fraternity” of ministers – you just need to be recognized as one by the people you care about. Maybe you didn’t hear an audible voice from God calling you (that’s very rare anyway), but you do need some very important characteristics that set you apart for the work of the ministry.
The Lord can call on anyone at any given moment to minister to another person. It may happen because you’re the only one available at that moment for the person in front of you, and they need help from God right now. And then there are those whom God will set apart for the work of the ministry because of some capabilities He has placed inside them. It doesn’t mean necessarily that they should immediately quit their job if they are called. I worked at a secular job for almost my entire 40+ years I’ve been in the ministry, but I’m also called to the business world anyway.
There are some common qualities that I think God is looking for in someone who is called to work in the ministry.
That person has 3 things: a creative vision to inspire people, a delegated power by someone in authority to enable that person, and a spiritual gift for ministry. Inspiring people has to do with your desire and ability to persuade others. In 2 Cor. Paul said, “…knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men….” A delegated power is simply an approval by your pastor or someone in authority who recognizes an ability in you and grants you the freedom to minister in his/her sphere of influence. It’s always a good idea to start out under a guiding hand of an authority.
Also, an ability to see just a little ahead is very important because you need to know where you’re leading the person or group for which you are responsible. They need a vision and so do you. Without it, all of you will perish or at least languish in a place of confusion. When events within ministry begin to force what the leader does, he/she is a leader in name only; you’re only reacting to things around you and you will not be a leader for long. A spiritual leader does not manipulate the people to advance his own campaign – he prepares the people for the coming and presence of the Lord.
A leader must absolutely care about the people. Without that, you’re just a suit or a dress. You must care about your own growth first, then the growth of others. If the people are growing at a faster rate than you are, they will seek out other leadership. Leadership is not an opportunity for a stage to show our own strengths, but it’s a platform to help us care about others…to serve others.
A leader must be trustworthy. You may say or do something others won’t quite understand, but they certainly need to understand your intentions. They can trust you if they feel comfortable with your intentions. Trust is earned; it isn’t quickly given by your followers until they get to know you. People are generally not fooled by insincere intentions. If we are simply trying to impress them, most will sense that insincerity soon enough. The most important intention is to keep the unity of the Spirit.
A leader must have a hunger for more revelation, more insight into God’s Word, and more than what you now have. Just repeating what you learned in some class or seminary will not give people hope for their future. Your hunger will sharpen your senses to get more from God, and people will follow you because they sense that you are sincerely wanting something more. Being satisfied with status quo is not leadership – that’s babysitting.
A leader must have a prayer life. Without it, how can you receive more revelation? How can you know the heart of God? Prayer is more than just asking God to bless you or give you more people who will follow you. A line of open communication is necessary for sharpening your hearing the Spirit speak to you. It’s giving Him permission to introduce something entirely new and different than what someone taught you.
A leader must consider this as a calling. Becoming a minister, whether it’s fulltime or vocational, takes more than just a decision. This is a sense of knowing within that this is what God is calling you to do. You will need that when you go through the difficult times, which will surely come. And it’s more than someone telling you they think you’d make a good minister. Being a good speaker is not the first requirement; you might not even have a gift for public speaking. Having a call is the most important part of going into some kind of ministry.
When someone discovers they are called to be a leader, God has already spent years preparing that person. Perhaps that leader just didn’t know it was for that purpose, but looking back will confirm that truth.
Anyone who feels they are totally prepared already is probably narcissistic. Preparation never ends. Preparing yourself is more important than preparing for a message. Preparing for a message should not be the only reason why you read and listen to others. That’s shallow. God considers your being more important than your doing.
A leader never stops preparing him/herself to lead. There is always a need to look for ways to improve.
A leader cannot measure how well he/she has prepared by watching how people respond to the message. God is the one who gives the increase, not because of our “gift.” You can have serious doubts about your calling if you’re putting so much weight upon how people respond. That kind of measuring stick for your effectiveness can be detrimental. Conversely, pressing people to respond is also shallow. That instruction is only meant to support your own vanity if that’s what you are doing.
Knowledge and education can only prepare you so far for ministry, but you still need something more than those. You need the baptism of the Holy Spirit! Growing up as a Baptist boy, I didn’t know what that was until I attended a revival service as a 19-year-old. Receiving the Holy Spirit is written about in Acts 1 and 2. You will be given the same power those disciples received, which will give you a heavy dose of courage and boldness for the ministry.
If the Church focuses on its mission and agenda, it loses apostolic purpose. No, that is not a typo. The Church will become self-absorbed unless she equips the saints to be sent out to the world. The Church doesn’t have a mission…the Church is the result of the mission to the world. Often ministers quote the Great Commission in Matt. 28:19-20, and then train the people to bring others into the church services. Or at least that’s how the hearers interpret it. That kind of response simply neutralizes the power of the gospel. As people are trained and then sent out, all the five-fold ministry will become utilized and the gospel will be effective in the marketplace as it was in the book of Acts. Christians can become active in their living out the message before others, and then those who are newly born again will come into the Church to be trained and sent out!