What does a call to ministry look like?
Most of the call stories that get repeated are grand stories.
One famous example is the call of Martin Luther. It involves a literal lightening bolt knocking him to the ground and an immediate commitment to become a monk.1
Now that is a call story!
But must all call stories be so big?
Many folks in ministry have only a small call story.
There never was a thunderbolt or a burning bush. Just a shut door here and an opportunity there. A sprinkle of inclination and a drop of encouragement. A dash of desire and the occasional nudge.
Those small call stories don’t make it into books. They are too long and complicated for that. Lightning bolts are far more interesting. But unfortunately, as a result, many small-call folks question their call to ministry because every story they know does not compare to their own.
For that reason, I was so thankful to come across the small call story of Timothy Keller. Keller is a pastor in New York City. His ministry, his sermons, and his books have all made a significant contribution to the church. Surely a New York Times bestseller and a sought-out conference speaker would have a real thunderbolt call story, right? Thankfully, for all us small-call people, the answer is no.
In an interview2 with Timothy George at Beeson Divinity School, Keller was asked about his call to ministry. Here is what he said:
Well, as soon as I got converted, I just enjoyed the Christian fellowship. I enjoyed the reading. I enjoyed leading the meetings. I enjoyed leading Bible studies. I enjoyed the Christian work so much that that’s where I began to say well maybe I’d like to do this. So, in a sense, as just a Christian on campus in a Christian fellowship, that’s really where I began to get a sense of it. I don’t think I thought through the call thing very much until a little later, and I went off to Gordon-Conwell seminary, the minute I got out of Bucknell. When I was there, I sensed this is what I want to do and that happened pretty early. I had my first church in Hopewell, Virginia when I was still 24. I was the only pastor of a church, not a big church but a church, after I graduated from Gordon-Conwell. So I just moved right on through. I don’t remember struggling with a call. I just felt like this is I think what I’d like to do. That’s all.
“That’s all.” No miraculous event. Just a series of little moments.
I love it.
So, if you are a small-call person, I hope you will be encouraged. God speaks with flashes of lightning, but he also speaks in quiet breezes. And sometimes we only see his leading when we look back.
So what about you? Did you have a small call or a grand moment? We’d love to hear your story. Comment below.