Are you hearing your calling? Take some time to discern its meaning

Asking the Question

 “How do I know God is calling me to Word and Sacrament ministry?” You are probably asking yourself this very question if you’ve taken the time to pick up this document. There is no existing list of things to check off when we are trying to hear God’s voice. We simply have to listen. This document aims to help you do that.

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Questions?

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Listen to the First Answer

In Holy Baptism, we are claimed by God and given a mission for this life. Recognizing our baptismal calling is the beginning of the discernment process in our lives. No matter what we are called to, that call comes from God through the baptismal waters connected to His Holy Word. Recognizing this key aspect of the faith journey is critical to following Jesus. Luther, in his commentary on 1 Peter, once said that we exist for the sole purpose of serving our neighbors. There are limitless ways in which we can accomplish this service!

Think of all the people you know who are Christians. Do they all recognize that God has called them into a baptismal vocation? Perhaps you can think of a time in your life when you didn’t understand the call on your life as a baptized child of God. There are myriad ways the baptized serve the Lord: by being a parent, teacher, mentor, missionary, coach, nurse, lab tech, trash collector, bridal gown alteration specialist, florist, police officer, fire fighter, water treatment plant worker, farmer, librarian, mechanic, volunteer at school, and the list goes on and on.

 

How Can I Hear My Personal Calling?

Discernment is defined as “the ability to side between truth and error, right and wrong.” Discernment is a life-practice. It never ends as long as we have breath in our bodies! This happens in at least four ways:

  1. Immersing oneself in Scripture, which is truth, wisdom and enlightenment; God speaks to us primarily through His Holy Word. Martin Luther once wrote, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.” However, be aware, Scripture isn’t an answer book; it is the vehicle of the Holy Spirit. Discernment is a process that is led by the Holy Spirit. Through our continual reading, study and meditation on the Scriptures, God the Holy Spirit communicates insights to us. He renews our minds so that we have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-8), which teaches us to sacrifice, submit to God’s will, and be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s nudgings. Scripture doesn’t present discernment as a guessing game. God is not trying to keep His will secret from us. In fact, most of us don’t falter in discernment as much as we are weak in knowledge (especially of Scripture) and wayward in obedience to what God has made known to us.
  2. Participating in the body of Christ and seeking guidance from trusted Christians (pastors, mentors, etc.) as they consider and confirm the gifts, passions, traits, weaknesses, etc., they see in you; One caveat: Beware of focusing exclusively on teachings about spiritual gifts. Certainly, Scripture teaches that the Spirit gives individuals gifts for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God, but pride, especially in the form of perfectionism, can mask or distort our understanding and obedience to the person God has made us to be. Spiritual gifts must not be sought after as ends in themselves, but rather must be developed by experience and God’s grace as tools for obeying Jesus’ command to love one another.
  3. Study and practice these disciplines to rest before God, listening to His heart for your life.
  4. Finally, attention to the needs in God’s world almost always informs discernment of vocation.
 

Are you discerning a call to the Office of Ministry?

If your answer is “I am, and I ask God to help me,” then talk with your pastor, talk with staff at the seminary, talk with folks who know you and whom you trust, and most of all, talk to God through prayer, and he in his time will open your eyes to see the path to which he is calling you.

Take the first step by applying to the NALS network