Of course! I’m happy to tell you the story of how I came to believe that I was called to ministry. I thought you’d never ask. It all comes down to a parable and a sound investment strategy.
The process started back as an undergrad at the University of Washington. I was heavily involved in the university ministries department (affectionately “UMin”) at University Presbyterian Church. My pastor and mentor was the late Steve Hayner — he went on to be president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and of Columbia Theological Seminary.
Steve opened doors for me to learn and serve, so that by my senior year I was chair of the leadership team for a ministry training small group leaders for Bible studies and prayer groups across the campus. I was teaching regularly. People were coming to me for counsel and support.
I was absolutely loving ministry.
I wanted to head off to seminary.
I had one problem: I had never heard the voice of God telling me I was “called.”
The year after graduation was my chance to put it to the test. I was offered a volunteer internship at First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley under someone else Steve had mentored: Mark Labberton, now the president of Fuller Theological Seminary.
I had majored in Business Administration. Mark found me a part time job as assistant business manager of a small grad school in Berkeley, “New College for Advanced Christian Studies.”
Doing both ministry and business provided clarity:
Ministry was life-giving. Administration sucked me dry.
If I’d known about St. Ignatius of Loyola, I’d have called these responses “desolation” and “consolations,” and done some discernment. Unfortunately, I didn’t.
But I still had a problem: No voice of God was telling me I was “called.”
For reasons I simply do not remember (call it the Holy Spirit), day after day I found myself meditating on Matthew 25:14-28.
You know the story: It is called the “Parable of the Talents.”
- Rich guy goes on a journey.
- Servants take charge of varying amounts of money.
- Rich guy comes back.
- Servants tally their profits.
- Rich guy gives out rewards.
The measure of money was the Greek “Talent.” From that (huge) unit of money we get our English word for a personal aptitude or ability. The connection was not lost on me.
Lesson 1: The rich guy gave the servants total freedom.
The master did not give the slightest indication of what they should do with his money.
Maybe God gave me that kind of freedom too. Maybe I had some choice in what I did with my life. Maybe either ministry or business could be a God-pleasing option.
Lesson 2: Whatever the profit, the rich guy was pleased.
Whether the servant invested a lot or a little, whether the profits were large or small, the rich guy was pleased. I didn’t need to find the perfect choice. Maybe I could take a risk. Maybe I didn’t need to know in advance that investing my life would reap huge profits.
Lesson 3: The only action that bothered the rich guy was no action.
One fellow buried the money and just gave it back. That really ticked the rich guy off. Weeping and gnashing of teeth ensued.
I never did get a voice from on high telling me to go into ministry.
Instead I got some talents entrusted to me. What was very clear was that I needed to invest those talents. The choice was wide open. In the end, my Master would receive all the profit.
What I needed was a sound investment strategy.
I loved my Master. The question I had to consider was where I might invest my life’s resources to get the best gain for him.
That is the question for you too.
Every talent you have actually belongs to God. God has entrusted it to you. God is looking for his mission to profit by his investment in you.
Tally up your talents. Consider the options. Invest.
My advice? Stop looking for specific directions. Choose.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments! When was a time that you had to choose for yourself rather than following specific instructions? How did it work out?