“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.'” Isaiah 6:8
I know I’m not a good person. I don’t always do the right thing. Some things I have chosen to do even though I knew they were wrong. Other things I have chosen not to do even though I knew they were right. Some things I have done thinking they were right only to realize later that my motives were all wrong. And then there have been times when I simply don’t know what to do. But I can think of a few times in my life when I know I did the right thing because, given the circumstances, there was only one thing I could do.
A few weeks ago, I had a moment like that. I realized that the only thing I could justifiably do, given the circumstances, was to go into full-time ministry.
This is the point where I expect my readers to make up their mind whether or not they want to finish this post. Some of you may be intrigued. But for those of you who think this post won’t be relevant to you, I encourage you to stick it out. If you must, skip to the last paragraph. Once you’ve read my final thoughts, you may judge for yourself what I have to say.
For the rest of you, I’d like to let you in on how exactly I got to that moment. You could say I’ve “felt called” to some sort of Christian ministry since I was about 12 years old. But for almost as long, I have been painfully aware of the fact that I’m not the, er . . . pastoral type. It’s not that public speaking is a problem for me. I actually enjoy speaking to a crowd. It’s just that most of the pastors, teachers, and youth workers I’ve seen are so . . . out there. They’re friendly, energetic, and for lack of a better word, cool. Those were not the words people used to describe me growing up. Thoughtful, maybe. Intelligent. Hard-working. But far from the “life of the party.”
What’s more, I heard so many of peers express dreams of going to Bible College and becoming a youth pastor, that I sort of got turned off to the idea. I guess I’m not a very good follower. Instead of trotting off happily to Bible College with everyone else, I decided to take aim at a “real job” and study mechanical engineering.
Needles to say, I hated engineering and barely lasted a year in that major. I went in the direct opposite direction by choosing Communication instead. But that first year of college was pivotal for me. I learned two valuable lessons. One, there is no”type” for ministers. I met a youth pastor who was about as far from the stereotype as you could get. He was soft-spoken and a little nerdy but had a big heart. The youth group he led was small, but the teens loved him, and I could see the impact he had on their lives. Since then, I have met several other ministers who simply don’t fit the mold. I’ve learned to appreciate the diversity of people God calls to his service, equipping them for the work they must do through his divine power. For even the Apostle Paul said “I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.”
The second lesson I learned was that I felt most alive when studying, discussing, and teaching the Word. This has continued to be my passion, but for a while I was still afraid to follow it. My argument was “Every Christian has a responsibility to make disciples. But we also have the responsibility to work for a living!” Adding to this attitude were the voices of many trusted friends and family members who kept telling me how smart I was and how I shouldn’t let all of that intelligence go to waste. This made sense to me, so I figured I was better suited for academia than the church.
But God has a way of getting his point across. Sometimes he has to take away the things you love most to make you realize that you don’t need them. A few months after graduation, all of my carefully laid plans for grad school went down the toilet. I had a mountain of undergrad debt, no financial aid and no job. Desperate, confused, and almost in despair, I ended up withdrawing from the school I had planned to attend and taking a job in a warehouse in my home town. What followed, to my surprise, was the most life-changing year I could possibly have imagined.
I continued to attend the church where I had grown up, but that congregation had changed since I was young. At first I wondered if I should look for a church that would better fit my needs, but then it hit me that God wanted me to meet the church’s needs. I began looking for ways I could serve the church. I organized a prayer walk and started a young adult Bible study. People began to see me as a leader, and I rediscovered the joy of Christian ministry.
Despite all of these signs, I continued to resist the idea of ministry as a career. I had so many questions. “What if I can’t find a job?” “How will I pay off my student loans?” “What if I can’t relate to the people I’m trying to minister to?”
But one question rang out far louder. “If I don’t do it, who will?” During that year it became clear to me that the church was hungry for leaders. I saw the harvest as plentiful but the workers few. If this was the situation, there was only one thing I could do. It wasn’t a question of when how or why I would go into the ministry. It was simply a question of whether or not I would obey the call. In that moment, I answered, “Here am I, Lord. Send me.”
So for those of you who skipped to the end, first of all, you should go back and read the rest of the post. I mean, really. Stop being so lazy and do it. Done it yet? Ok, good. Now here’s what I want you to know. You may not be called to full-time ministry yourself. But I want you to carefully consider what God is calling you to do. Are you resisting his plan because it doesn’t make sense to you or it requires you to give up something you love? Let him have his way. Because after all, he always gets his way in the end.