167. Reflecting on God’s Call

Our theme for the Missouri Annual Conference a couple weeks ago was Growing Deeper: Deepening the Spiritual Life for Leadership in the Church. Because the call to ministry represents a spiritual milestone of extraordinary significance for pastors and provides one of the most unifying and motivating experiences of our life together in Christ, we took a few minutes during the Clergy Session to sit quietly and reflect upon our callings.

I led the clergy in silent contemplation on several questions. At the end, we shared about our experience with one or two other clergy. Several people have asked for copies of the questions I used. The questions were gleaned from the first book I wrote, Testing and Reclaiming Your Call to Ministry, from Abingdon Press, 1991, which is no longer in print.

For this week’s blog entry, I’ve decided to reprint several of these questions. I’ve taken the liberty of adding a few more.

Quickly reading through them provides little of redemptive value. These questions are best used when there is time to think and pray and remember, perhaps in a retreat setting and in conversation with colleagues. Writing out responses in a journal may prove beneficial. They are meant to stimulate memories of people, places, feelings, perceptions, and commitments. They are meant to renew us. They help us remember Christ, calling, commitment, and vision. They remind us of the passion and power of our desire to follow Christ, a calling which the daily stresses, resistances, and routines of our work frequently grind down with the passage of time. Feel free to print them and use them in whatever manner deepens your connection to God and to others.

Questions for Reflection:

– Describe your original call to ministry. What key experiences formed your sense of call? How old were you? How did you feel? Was there a special worship experience, service project, prayer, Scripture lesson or hymn that was important?

– Who affected your call significantly: a pastor, a layperson, a writer, a youth worker?
What place comes to mind as you reminisce?

– How did you experience the presence of God during that period? When and how did you first use the word call to describe and organize your experiences?

– Who did you first tell about your call? What did you say, and how did you feel? How did they/he/she respond? How did you tell your family members that you felt called by God? How did they react? What negative responses did you experience? What doubts did you have? What was the greatest early barrier to becoming a pastor or church worker?

– During the time of your original call, what vision did you have of your future ministry? What did you believe Christ wanted from you? How has your sense of call changed? How has your experience of God changed? Are your motivations for continuing in ministry different from those you had when you entered ministry?

– How do you view the relationship between what you do in your work and what Jesus Christ did during his life? What experiences make you feel you are accomplishing the work of Christ? What important needs do you feel you are addressing?

– What do you find most fulfilling about your work? How do you see your future ministry? From what is that vision derived? Are you doing what you do today in response to God’s call?

– What kinds of experiences may make you reconsider your commitment to the ordained ministry? What are your greatest doubts about your call and ministry today?

– List the three most influential pastors in your formative years of ministry. What did each one most distinctively contribute to your understanding of ministry? What advice or encouragement has most influenced your ministry? What advice would you give to someone considering God’s call to ordained ministry?

– Who are your most intimate friends in ministry? Who have you learned the most from? To whom have you turned for help recently? Who turns to you?

– List the three pastors in your life today who most deeply influence your own sense of ministry. Do you have regular contact with any of them? What do you respect about their ministry? How can you more intentionally strengthen your relationships?

– How do you feel after you meet with a group of pastors? What other pastors know your deepest aspirations? Your deepest fears? Who are your most intimate and supportive companions in your spiritual life?

– What is your greatest source of spiritual renewal? Through what means do you receive the Spirit’s guidance? What prayers, Scriptures, authors, give you the most strength during times of spiritual depletion? How much time do you spend weekly nourishing your own spiritual life? What is most helpful? What is least helpful?

– When you picture yourself five years from now, what additional skills would you like to have? What would you like to be able to do well or understand better? What do you have planned during the months ahead that will help you achieve those goals? What relational skills would increase your effectiveness? With whom do you share your intellectual pursuits?

– How do your family members know of your active interest and affection for them? Twenty-five years from now, how would you like them to characterize your relationship with them? What are you doing today to move in that direction?

– Who have you identified who shows extraordinary promise for ministry? How have you expressed to them how you see their gifts? How have you invited them to a gentle and prayerful consideration about God’s call?

Yours in Christ,