“I really feel called to youth ministry,” the young man across the table said to me. As a youth pastor who pours his life into students, for years these have been words I love to hear. Especially when they come from students that I have personally invested in. Such was the case of the the young man I was looking at that day.
I was so excited. I was proud of him. He was a man after my own heart. And yet, unbeknownst to him, for quite some time I had been wrestling with the exact words he said.
I feel called to youth ministry.
I understand what this young man was trying to communicate. I grew up hearing people say they felt called to ministry. It’s the old way of saying you feel God wants you to serve Him in ministry, often in a vocational sense. I’ve used the phrase myself many times, and I still find myself saying it from time to time. And yet, through the years, I’ve come to realize that it is actually not an accurate statement.
This really struck me one day while I was meditating the words of Mark 3:15-15 which say, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”
When I read those words, I felt God speak to me so clearly: Kevin, don’t confuse your calling with your assignment. I have assigned you to youth ministry for this season of your life, but that is not your calling.
Did you catch it? Jesus called to Him those He wanted “that they might be with Him.”
Our calling is to Jesus Himself. Our calling is not to ministry; our calling is to be lovers of Jesus. Our calling is not to doing, our calling is to being — being with Jesus! In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Our calling is to relationship. Our calling is to live intimately connected to Jesus. When we are connected to Jesus, He imparts His truth into our hearts. He begins to speak our identity into us. He reveals His heart to us. He makes His desires known to us.
It is then out of our calling that Jesus commissions us to go into the world. Jesus did indeed have a work for the disciples to do. And Jesus has a work for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Jesus gives us assignments — places us in positions, relationships, situations — for us to advance God’s kingdom. As we stay close to the heart of God in Jesus, we learn that our God is a God of mission, and He sends us to declare and demonstrate the good news. Our assignments may (and often will) change, but our calling never does.
I am not called to ministry, and neither are you. We are called to Jesus.
Are you living in your calling today? Are you drawing near to Jesus? If you are, you will surely begin to feel His heart for people and situations, and you will hear His voice and the promptings of the Holy Spirit to respond and do something about what He is revealing to you.