A NEW AND BIBLICAL WAY TO EXTEND A CALL TO MINISTRY by Dr. Tony Campolo (originally published June 2014)
We’re not doing it right! Some of the brightest and best young men and women fail to be called into church vocations. It’s no secret that churches grow or decline, depending on the preaching and leadership skills of their pastors. Yet we’re letting many of the best possible candidates slip away from us. That is largely because we are not following the Biblically prescribed way of calling young people into the ministries of our churches.
We’re reactive rather than being proactive. Typically, a church waits for some young person to present himself or herself to the pastor or a deacon or announce that he or she “feels a call.” There is little or no confirmation of such a subjective sense of calling, and hardly ever is there a questioning of such a call. It is no wonder that so many of those who go into the pastorate, or other forms of church ministry, are likely to question their calling in the years that lie ahead. They often ask, “How do I know that the feeling I had was really a call from the Lord?”
There’s a better way. We find it in the Book of Acts. When choosing its leaders the early church watched potential candidates over a period of time, and when the people “were together and of one accord” (Acts 1.14; 2.1) they hand-selected them for special roles as preachers and ministers. After Paul became a spirit-filled Christian those in the Christian community watched and prayed for him for a couple of years before they designated him for preaching and missionary service. They prayerfully considered whether he had the gifts for preaching and teaching before they decided to ordain him. The same was true for Barnabas and Silas. It was the church that decided Matthias should take the place vacated by Judas. It was always the Church that did the calling into the vocations of leadership.
What if we followed the way that the early Church did it? Instead of leaving it up to the subjective feelings of individuals, what if the Church designated who is called to be preachers, teachers, and evangelists?
What we are proposing is that the deacons, or elders, or whomever makes up the spiritual leaders of a local congregation, commit to carefully observe the young people that are part of their community of faith. They should then meet regularly for prayer and discussion over several months and seek out the young people who have “the gifts” for preaching and leading and then plan to extend the call to such person or persons.
Imagine that perhaps on some Saturday morning a couple of the deacons or elders took a “chosen” young person to breakfast, and after the meal, explained that they, along with the other spiritual leaders of the church had been seeking God’s will and had decided that
particular young person should accept a call to the ministry. A given candidate would then have a frame of reference for his or her calling that transcended subjective feelings.
THE CHURCH’S RESPONSIBILITY (Corporate and members)
After extending the call the promise should be made that if the answer is “yes,” the church will stand behind the candidate with prayer and financial support. Many of those who go through college and seminary to prepare for the ministries of the Church do not get to live out their calling. After paying for years of training, upon graduation they are so deeply in debt that they cannot afford to serve in church vocations that usually provide very low salaries.
When a church calls someone to pastoral ministry or to do missionary work the church should do its best to provide the financial aid so that the candidate can graduate debt free.
If a church is struggling financially the Campolo Center for Ministry will join up with that church and seek to raise the needed funds to provide for that “called” young person. That’s why we need your help! Would you become a contributor to the Campolo Center for Ministry so that we can make all of this happen?
While the student is studying here at Eastern we will provide the spiritual support that will nurture zeal for spreading the Gospel and building up the Church. We will seek to get the home church regularly involved with prayer.
The statistical studies of religion in America show that many churches are dying. We believe we can provide new life for our churches with the right kind of ministerial leaders, and the Campolo Center for Ministry will help make this happen.
To support this strategic work and the future of the church, please donate online HERE or send your tax-deductible gifts to:
Campolo Center for Ministry at Eastern University
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