God’s call to ministry
As Fran prepares for her ordination, she reflects on the journey that has brought her to this moment and how you can listen out for God's calling
When I was a young Christian, a common topic in our Sunday youth group was ‘what is your calling?’. We would hear stories from missionaries and ministers, but, as a girl in a Brethren influenced church, my ‘calling’ would always be to get married and have children. Women didn’t preach, didn’t lead, women just didn’t. In fact, one young couple arranging their wedding we told emphatically that the bride would have to give up her job before the wedding, (in the 1980s!) meaning that they would not be able to afford a home. Women might become missionaries if they were medically trained, or if they were primary school teachers. But I grew up being taught that God called men, and women only into supportive roles.
It wasn’t until my late 40’s in university that I realised that women could preach, could lead, could be in ministry. While Richard was training for ministry, I began to feel that God was calling me to ministry as well. I was privileged in Wales to preach and support a number of small churches where they were unable to have a minister. At my ordination we hear the story of how long the journey to ministry was. It was not straightforward, but I felt called by God, and that call grew stronger, particularly as I used my gifts wherever possible
We are all called to something. It doesn’t have to be leading or preaching. I remember in a bible study where we were talking about our gifts and talents, one lady bitterly complained that she had absolutely nothing to offer. Gently we went through all the things she liked to do in church: meeting people, talking about Jesus, attending the prayer meetings and ladies’ fellowship. She didn’t realize that her calling was to be welcoming, to share the good news. After that she was called to be official church greeter on a Sunday, she told people on the local bus what God had been doing each Sunday. She discovered her calling.
Another time we had been leading a service in a sheltered housing complex and one elderly complained that she was too old to do anything. ‘You can pray!’ we said. So, she did. Praying for all the churches in the town, the children, the schools, her friends and family. She had a real ministry of prayer.
As a final story, I love this one. There was an inner-city church which was in danger of closing because the elderly congregation was so small. It was also close to pubs and the alleyway by the church was often used as a latrine. One of the elderly women in the church decided that she was going to go the church at closing time and open the doors so that people could use the church toilets and have a cup of coffee. Several people pointed out that it would be late at night, but she commented that she didn’t sleep much anyway. Others pointed out that she might not be safe, so she invited them to join her. The result was that a group of elderly women opened the church for coffee at pub closing time, the alleyway was no longer used as a latrine and several years later that church is now thriving with a large congregation, some of whom first came into contact with the church after a night out at the pub!
As a church we are all called to bring our gifts and abilities as an offering. We are also called to explore what gifts we have. I would never have known whether I could preach, until I stepped up into a pulpit and preached. Richard would have never known whether he was called to pastoral ministry unless he trusted God and went forward for ministerial selection.
A couple of questions to ponder:
What do you enjoy doing that might be seen as a God-given talent or gift? How could you offer this for God’s glory in the life of the church and the world? Remember that these need not be big and obvious talents but could be smaller and more subtle ones that bring just a little light into people’s lives.
How do we recognise God-given gifts and talents in others? Do we encourage others to ‘have a go’ and to explore their gifts? Jesus called the disciples to follow him, to do what he did: he didn’t demand that they be fully trained and equipped before they obeyed him and shared the good news. How can we encourage others?
Sometimes hearing that call of God is loud and obvious, but in other cases, like mine, it is a slow burning desire, a thought that never goes away, and sometimes we don’t even realize what our calling is until we are ‘having a go’.
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