God moves people. Abram. Israel. David. Ezekiel. Mary. Paul. The biblical pattern is that God calls people first to himself, and secondly to places/opportunities of obedient ministry. Long tenures at churches are desirable, no doubt. I believe and have seen first-hand that when God is in it, long tenured ministers in every local church role can have a Great Commission impact that spans the generations and multiplies disciples who multiply disciples.
I believe many have left their posts when God wanted them to stay.
But I also believe many have stayed when God wanted them to leave.
So how do you know when to stay and when to leave?
Very often I find myself in conversations with church leaders about whether or not God is calling them to make a ministry move. Or with seminary students who are praying for God to open a door of opportunity for them to enter into the ministry. What follows is a generalized set of questions I ask them to help steer the conversation in the right direction.
Keep in mind that none of these questions, on its own, can stand as a litmus-test. Nor is this to be taken as a check-list or a percentage-pointed passing or failing grade mechanism. Rather, I find that many ministers with stirring hearts, who are looking for answers, are simply not asking the right questions.
If you believe God may be calling you to make a move in or toward a ministry position, here are 9 questions you might consider:
ONE: Am I walking closely with Jesus right now? God first calls us to himself, then to ministry. The best thing you can do for discerning ministry direction is to walk more closely with Jesus today than you did yesterday. If you are not in a regular rhythm of devotional practice—if your spiritual house is not in order—don’t even start to ask the question. You cannot expect to hear from God when you’re not walking with him.
“The best thing you can do for discerning ministry direction is to walk more closely with Jesus today than you did yesterday.”Tweet
TWO: Is God finished with me here? Sometimes this is communicated as “I have a peace (or don’t have a peace) about moving right now.” I’m not a great fan of that language in these situations. Much of the time, stepping out on faith is nerve-wracking and anything but emotionally “peaceful.” However, if you can say with confidence that God has released you from your current assignment, it may be time to consider a move.
THREE: Do I desire it? There is nothing wrong with desiring a new opportunity. Disclaimer: God will not always call you to something desirable (Isaiah 6:9-13), nor will he always call you to something simply because you desire it (Romans 22:15-26). So, as with the other questions in this post, don’t make this the one-question litmus test. But, if you are walking closely with Jesus and he has put a desire in your heart, it is a good idea to make yourself open to it.
FOUR: Am I gifted for it? Again, God sometimes calls people to things for which they are completely unqualified and/or ill-experienced (ex: Abram, Moses, Matthew, Titus, etc.). However, if the Lord has invested in you a certain giftedness then it is likely he will assign you where the faithful stewardship of that giftedness will maximize your effectiveness for Great Commission advance.
FIVE: Do those who know me best and love me most affirm it? All of us have those cheerleading yes-men and yes-women in our lives. Don’t ask them. There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother—those few whose well-intended wounds are better than the kisses of an enemy. Have an honest conversation with them about the opportunity and let them speak life into your dreams. Their words will not be the final authority, but there will be wisdom in their counsel.
SIX: Is God giving me opportunities in it? Until the Lord opens doors of opportunity, your best laid plans and most intimate desires remain in the realm of mere possibility. Pray for opportunities to fulfill the calling you believe he has placed on your life. When the smallest and most obscure opportunities arise to sharpen your skill or to walk in simple obedience, take them with gratefulness to God (ex: I cut my preaching teeth in nursing homes and funeral homes for seven years before I became a senior pastor).
SEVEN: Is it in my lane? It is amazing how some well-intended saints will encourage you to pursue something that you know, deep down, is not in your lane. At times they may even say something like, “God told me that you are the next…” Thank them for their confidence in you and for their encouragement. But if by pursuing this you cannot stay between the ditches of obedience to God on the one side and your spiritual giftedness on the other, then you need to think very carefully about flirting with it.
EIGHT: Is this something I can do without God? If you are smart enough, educated enough, experienced enough, connected enough, or charismatic enough to do this without God’s supernatural intervention, God is not calling you to it. Period. God has no interest in what you can do apart from him. Your giftedness and experiences are valuable, but only the supernatural anointing of the Holy Spirit can make you competent for ministry (2 Corinthians 3:6). Either you walk in complete dependence on him or you do not walk with him at all.
“God has no interest in what you can do apart from him.”Tweet
NINE: Am I willing to say yes? If you are not willing to say yes, don’t even ask the question. Entering a search process to stroke your own ego, to get some experience under your belt for interviewing, or to prove something to yourself or someone else are all tantamount to toying with God’s vocational superintendence. If you are not willing to say yes, then do not put yourself in a position to be asked the question.
In all of this, remember to be open to the possibility that God’s answer could very well be, “No.” Our hearts are deceitful above all else. Just because you feel like the Lord is leading you into something does not mean he is. Use these questions and others to help ground your praying and thinking in biblical truth. Be ready to say yes to God. Also be ready to receive no from God. After all is considered, there is no better place to be than right where God wants you.
Grace and Peace,