Men and women have been called by God to various roles for as long as mankind has existed. Noah was called to build an ark so that humans could survive a global flood. Abraham was called by God to leave his homeland and his kindred for a new land that was promised. Gideon was called to lead a small battle force against the Midianites. The Bible is full of examples of how God has called people to do His work on earth.
When the time of Christ came, the people of God (the Jews) thought they had things pretty well figured out. They were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah who would save them from the Romans. There must have been hundreds of wealthy Jews who were just waiting to put their fortunes and their money behind the king who would deliver them from the hands of their Roman oppressors. Many would have willingly offered as much money as they were asked to gain the favor of the king.
Yet, when the prophesied Messiah came, He didn’t go to the rich people in Israel. He didn’t find the people with power and offer them places of honor in His coming kingdom. He came to the poor and despised – the fishermen, the sinners, and the tax collectors. In fact, Jesus core group of disciples must have seemed a rag-tag bunch to the people of His day. Their families weren’t wealthy enough to be in the courts of those who had it all figured out. They wouldn’t be seen at the feasts of the Pharisees or the teachers of the law. They were poor men – men without means or power. Men without anything, until they were called by their “Rabbi” to become His disciples.
What Does it Mean to be Called by God to the Ministry?
If we were to imagine Jesus coming to the United States today, calling people from their places of work as He did in the day of His coming, there would be plenty who would consider themselves most worthy to be His disciples. After all, so many of us today have it all figured out. We know how Jesus wants us to live. We’ve figured out the rules. We’re on our way to heaven. If the Messiah was to come today, surely He would offer us places of honor in His kingdom!
But are we trying to disciple the people Christ would have called? Perhaps if Jesus had come to our time and our way of life, He would have gone to the people who were working the family business, stuck in a job that would guarantee mediocrity. Perhaps He would have gone to the men who dropped out of high school to help feed their families. Perhaps He would have gone to the people who just weren’t worthy of being members of the church.
Perhaps Jesus still does disciple these people. When leaders are called by God to preach His word, they are pulled to the ministry no matter what else they might try to do. Whether they have money, power, or means to pursue traditional seminary education, they are compelled by the calling of God to serve in the capacity He is calling them to. Jonah is a great picture of what happens when somebody who is called by God to a task attempts to take other paths. God will always bring His servants back on track.
Of course, we know from the word of God that He prefers that we serve Him with our whole hearts. Therefore, everyone who is called to the ministry should serve willingly and to the best of their abilities. Perhaps the apostle Paul best portrays what it means to be called in his epistle to the Corinthians:
For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. (1 Corinthians 9:16-17 ESV)
Called by God or Called by Money?
There’s no question that everybody needs to earn a living. Even if you are called to the ministry, your body needs food and water to survive. Shelter is required to keep from being exposed to the elements. In the world today, it is all but impossible to come by these things without money.
However, some people who grow up in the church seek the pastoral position without feeling the pull of the Spirit to the ministry. Some seek it because it is a noble office. Others look to pastoral ministry because of the accolades they hope to receive. Some pursue ministry because it is what their parents want or expect of them.
As long as any of these people have the means, they can obtain training and ordination in any denomination. The willingness to spend money not only on a college education but also on a seminary afterward is a barrier, certainly, but not one that cannot be overcome by determined people with the financial means. On the other hand, it is a barrier that can’t be overcome by people without the monetary means. The monetary barrier is one that is not easily overcome, especially if God calls somebody who already has a family to provide for.
But many say, “if God really called you, then He’ll provide the money you need for your education.” Well, that’s one way of looking at it. After all, nothing is impossible with God. However, another possibility is that if God really called you, He’ll provide the education without the cost. If we look at it in this light, as Christians, it becomes important that we take as much of the money barrier away from God’s called leaders as we can. Those who don’t have great financial means often display astounding faith, as the apostle Paul has said.
Calling – the Secret Ingredient at Christian Leaders Institute
Bush’s ran a series of television commercials at one point that featured the family dog. The commercials were always focused around the dog’s endless search to discover the “secret ingredient” that made Bush’s beans the best. No matter how hard he tried, he was unable to find that secret ingredient.
Many years later, Pixar came out with an animated movie that was focused around the “secret ingredient.” They named the movie “Kung Fu Panda.” The movie starts with the panda in question working in his “father’s” soup kitchen. Early in the movie his father tells him that it’s almost time for him to learn the secret ingredient in the family soup.
Later in the movie, the panda (Po) is dejected after opening the legendary dragon scroll and finding nothing inside. He returns to the soup kitchen with all his dreams of becoming a great Kung Fu warrior. His father sees that he’s troubled, and finally decides to reveal something. The secret ingredient to the soup.
Bush’s beans commercials never end with the dog discovering the secret ingredient. The competitors who he’s trying to sell it to are never able to get what they’re after. The secret ingredient remains an unanswered question.
In “Kung Fu Panda,” however, we are given an answer. Po’s father tells him that there is no secret ingredient. “The secret ingredient is you.” The years spent making the soup, learning how the flavors blend, and finding that perfect combination of spices is the secret ingredient. One might imagine that this is also the “secret ingredient” in Bush’s baked beans.
At Christian Leaders Institute, we find that every student who is successful has a secret ingredient. Some might say that the secret ingredient is the determination to work hard. Some might say that it’s finding a mentor to help them through their studies. Others might say it’s just having enough intellect to complete all the course work.
This is all true, to an extent, but all of these things stem from the true secret ingredient. The real difference that we see in all of our students who have found success in their studies is that they are called by God to be ministers of His word. That calling drives them to complete their work. It drives them to find mentors who can guide them and give them feedback in their studies. It drives them to obtain the ministry training they need to be more effective stewards of all that God has entrusted them with. This is the secret ingredient, and it is one that no money in the world can buy.
Are you called by God to be a leader in His kingdom? If so, you already have everything you’ll need to succeed at Christian Leaders Institute.