Feb 09

5 Responses to a Call to Ministry

Article by Jon Bryars

To begin, it’s worth saying that the call of God is not something reserved for those who have decided to make Christian Ministry their occupation. A calling is something that every Christian has received. In fact, to be a Christian is to receive the call of Christ and to respond by dropping our nets and taking up our crosses. 

When you consider that the word vocation is derived from the Latin for “calling”, we can rightly say that every Christian is in vocational ministry. While there are those of us who feel called to “equip the saints for ministry” (Ephesians 4:12), we are all saints in ministry whether that is serving a church, starting a business, working a job, or building a home. 

Every Christian is called into ministry, the question is, how do we respond when we hear the call?  

Responding to the Call

In my devotions, I came across the specific vocation of Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1- 4:17). I was struck by two things: First, the response of Moses to God’s call and second, the response of God to Moses’ response.

Look at how Moses responds to God and consider if you have done the same: 

  1. Who am I? (3:11) 

“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

God tells Moses that He has seen the affliction of the Israelites and that He is sending Moses to set them free. Moses responds, as we often do, by looking inwards. This can be our first response to God’s call on our lives; to question why God would choose us. Why out of the millions of people would God choose to use me? If Exodus 2 is anything to go by, Moses had every right to question whether he was qualified for the task. If our lives are anything to go by, we might feel the same when God calls us into something. 

  1. Who are you? (3:13) 

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 

Moses’ second response to God is to ask who this God is. This seems justifiable. He needs to know in whose name (by whose authority) he will be going. When called by God, it might not be our inadequacy that we question but God’s authority. Who is this God that calls us to give, sacrifice, suffer, build, labour for Him?

  1. They will not… (4:1)

“… “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’”

Next, Moses doubts the effectiveness of his ministry. Again, given his previous interactions in Exodus 2, this seems justifiable. For Moses, the question of “who am I?” led to the conclusion “they will not”. We too will anticipate ineffective ministries when we focus on ourselves as inadequate ministers.

  1. I am not… (4:10) 

“Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”

Moses continues to look inwards but now it is more specific. He pinpoints the reason he can’t do what God has called him to do. 

I am not… Outgoing / Confident /Articulate / Educated / Wealthy / Young / Talented enough.

Pick your poison.

The response of “Who am I?” is usually grounded in a particular quality or qualification that we believe we lack to complete the task. 

  1. Send someone else (4:13) 

“Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”

Moses’ final response is to plead with God. Surely there is someone else who could do this. If God really wants to liberate this oppressed people, then He will find someone else. 

Responding to our Response

Look at how God responds to Moses, and consider if He might be saying the same to you:  

  1. To “Who am I?”, God says, “I will be with you” 

12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Exodus 3:12

God takes the focus away from our inadequacies and towards the sufficiency of His presence with us. 

  1. To “Who are you?”, God says, “I am who I am”

 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”  And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ Exodus 3:14-15

God reveals Himself as the covenant keeping God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When we need reminding who it is that is calling us, we can look at how God has revealed himself in Scripture, through History, and in our lives. The same God who parts seas and calms storms, stays lions and slays giants, is the same God who calls you to follow him.  

  1. To “They will not”, God says, “I will work powerfully through you” 

The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Exodus 4:2-5

God doesn’t just promise to be with us. His presence with us by his Spirit gives us confidence that he will equip us with everything we need to carry out the task. 

  1. To: “I am not”, God says, “I made you” 

11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” Exodus 4:11-12

God is not ignorant of what we lack because He sovereignly ordained not only what we have, but also what we don’t have! Oftentimes, it is our deficiencies and weaknesses that God uses to demonstrate His power through us (1 Corinthians 1, Acts 4:13). 

  1. To “send someone else”, God says, “I will send someone else… with you” 

14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. Exodus 4:14

Even though the final response of Moses kindles God’s anger, it doesn’t quench His grace. God brings Aaron alongside Moses to help Moses accomplish what God had called him to do. Consider who God has graciously brought alongside you to help support your ministry. 

Your call and His story. 

The vantage of hindsight allows us to see what God would achieve through Moses. 

Moses became enveloped into a story much bigger than his own. His would become the paradigmatic story of liberation that would serve as a foreshadow of Jesus’ victory over sin.  

It is difficult to imagine a world where Moses didn’t leave Midian and lead the Israelites out of Egypt. But if it was up to Moses, that would have happened. 

But God is not only patient, He’s persistent. So, however you have been responding to God’s call, whether you are making excuses (à la Moses) or running to Tarshish (à la Jonah) it might just be time to surrender to His will for your life. 

What is God calling you to do this year?