Why I Don't Like the Phrase "Called to Ministry"

I get the meaning behind the phrase. We are trying to help people discern the will of God for their lives, and sometimes the Lord calls someone to be a “professional Christian.” You know, a preacher, missionary, worship leader – fill in the blank. And that’s fine. I think there is a real, solid biblical basis for such a call.

Unfortunately, the language has also created the sense that there are 2 kinds of people – those who are called to ministry, and everyone else. The problem with that over-clergification in our language is that it implies that not everyone is called to ministry. Some of us are and we should, but the vast majority of people sitting in church pews don’t have a specific call of God on their lives. They’re just regular people – moms, dads, businessmen and women, doctors, teachers – you know, regular people.



There is no such thing as a regular person in the kingdom of God. There are only ministers. 1 Peter 4:11 puts it like this, after Peter described regular activities like loving each other deeply and offering hospitality:

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

That’s the key word: EACH. As in, every single one. Not just professional Christians. We are all called, every single one of us, to administer God’s grace. Whether as a doctor, homemaker, editor, teacher, or mechanic, we are all called to ministry.

Perhaps we need to begin thinking of ourselves first as ministers of the grace of God, and only secondly in a vocational context. First we minister – the only question is the context in which we minister.

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  • Steve H. says:

    “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Martin Luther King Jr.

    Amen, brother. Couldn’t agree more.

  • Michael K. says:

    Steve – What an amazing quote. I’m writing it on my wall right now.

  • Becky Dietz says:

    This created a lot of confusion when I was a teenager in the 70’s. There was a great move of God among us and we all rose up with a calling—and all we knew to do was to surrender to be a pastor or missionary. Very few became pastors or missionaries and many became moms, office administrators, business owners, teachers, etc. but with a feeling that they’d let God down and in fact, didn’t quite measure up. I’m sure we’ve all come to understand this now, but it would have been nice to have known then that we could be ANYTHING and serve God with all of our hearts. That’s what we actually desired.

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