This post originally appeared on the The Resurgence website. Pastor Sutton Turner is the Executive Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. He spent years in the business world, working in Texas and in the Middle East, before God called him to serve at Mars Hill. Pastor Sutton oversees the church’s central operations and business functions, including finance, property, communications, technology, and media.
Your Ministry Calling is Impossible
If Jesus calls you into full-time ministry, it will be difficult.
Being called into vocational ministry is not more godly or sacred than being called into a job in the secular world, but there are some differences.
We don’t need to be “called” to go on vacation, cash a fat check, or sleep in. Not a lot of convincing is required so long as we retain our comfort. The call to go into full-time ministry requires sacrifice. It involves opposition. It’s an invitation to do something that we probably wouldn’t do if we didn’t sense God calling us to it. Many people have a call on their lives but can’t hear it.
At a church conference in 2006, I walked a mile in the pouring rain to attend a breakout session where I didn’t know the speaker or the topic. For some reason, however, I felt compelled to go. It was at that session where I first heard somebody talk about being a second-in-charge (“2IC”).
All my life I had been a president, a CEO, or a managing partner, but on that day in 2006 I knew Jesus was calling me to give up top-dog status and serve him, serve his church, and serve a lead pastor. That was the beginning of my journey as a 2IC, and I’ve learned a lot about calling along the way. Here are six lessons I’ve gleaned over the years in following God’s call on my life to ministry.
1. IT REQUIRES SACRIFICE
Noah. Abraham. Joseph, the son of Jacob. Moses. Gideon. Isaiah. Jeremiah. Hosea. Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive father. The disciples. Paul. Anytime God calls somebody to do something related to ministry in Scripture, it’s something hard that requires a sacrifice of time, health, reputation, money, comfort, security—or all of the above. It’s also impossible to fulfill apart from the Holy Spirit and God’s grace.
2. IT’S NECESSARY TO SURVIVE
If ministry is your calling, you’ll buckle down, lean into Jesus, and weather the storms. Opposition, spiritual warfare, criticism, and rejection won’t surprise you, because you know it comes with the territory, and you know that God is with you and for you.
3. IT MUST INCLUDE YOUR SPOUSE AND KIDS
My first year working at Mars Hill Church was really hard. But at one point, my oldest daughter (who was 12 at the time) turned to me and said, “We knew it was going to be rough, Dad. But God called us here, so it’s OK.” If your family is not prepared to sacrifice, then you’re not called to ministry. Everyone in the family will experience spiritual attacks, so they need to be on board before you take the job. If you can’t fulfill your calling and take care of your family, then you’re not called.
4. IT’S FOR A SEASON
I’ve bounced back and forth between vocational ministry and the corporate world for the better part of a decade. When you’re called, it’s for a season. Now, that season may last months or it may last a lifetime. We can’t know, so be content, faithful, and patient with your calling today, and trust God with tomorrow.
5. IT DOESN’T COME WITH AN EXIT STRATEGY
You can quit a job. You can’t quit a true calling. If Jesus has called you into ministry, he will release you when it’s time to go. If it’s really a calling, you don’t get to decide when to leave. This is another huge difference between a calling and a job. Don’t start pursuing something else in the meantime. Do not go into full-time ministry with an exit strategy.
6. IT’S OFTEN IGNORED
Many people have a call on their lives but can’t hear it because they’re listening to the idols of comfort, money, possessions, status, sex, and power instead. Since a calling is hard, we rationalize our disobedience or flat-out ignore the Holy Spirit. Not everybody is called to full-time ministry, and that’s OK. But God is surely calling you to do something. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you, and be ready to respond in courage and faith when he does.
More than the hardship, more than the sacrifice, more than the pain, following Jesus’ call means we get to be a part of the work he is doing to save and change lives. It’s kingdom work with eternal implications, and the benefits far outweigh the costs.
By Sutton Turner