By William Ballard
I am firm believer that the most important job and/or duty in life is that which is involved in the office or work of the ministry. In this office/work no one may enter in without first being called unto by the Most High. Consider Hebrews 5:4 “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.”
The Apostolic Church recognizes a necessity of a divine call, and quite frankly, it is considered improper and dishonest (characteristics that do not make up a Christ-like individual) for anyone to take upon himself the work and duty of a messenger of Christ without first being divinely called.
No one, no religious organization, or church leader can tell someone that they have been called to any certain ministry. In other words, any applicant for ministry must first know and feel in his/her own heart that he has been called by God.
Therefore, the writing ministry is not altogether a learned profession. And we can call it a profession in that it should carry with it ethics and respect due to the honour of its field. However, the ministry is more than a profession, but a vocation, and that of a sacred calling.
In the words of J.T. Pugh (Author of For Preachers Only):
“It is not a pursuit chosen from among many equally obligatory, but one accepted upon the persuasion and conviction that 'I have been called to preach/write.' While Christ was upon this earth, He selected from a larger group of disciples those who were later to minister the Word, but He did not transfer to them the right of appointing their successors. This prerogative He still retains, and He calls His ministers now, as He did then.”
The Call Must Be Definite, And The Decision To Announce it is The First Step On to Sacred Ground
The problems and discouragements of the ministry make it paramount that every Apostolic Writer be wholeheartedly convinced of his/her calling. Many anointed and talented writers have given up to ridicule and hatred and returned to secular work in grave doubt that he/she was ever truly called.
For a God-called writing minister to announce his/her call too soon can be a dangerous step. The decision to announce such a call is a decision that must be made by the called writer himself. Making this decision is the first step on-to the sacred grounds of divine choice and human will. In this secret place there are only two occupants, the writer and his/her God.
The recognition that this decision will involve the rest of your life should caution you not to meddle with a matter so far-reaching (even beyond the depths of the natural) and personal. I am sure that there are many who have struggled with the haunting doubt that they were ever truly called. It hurts to admit that one was wrong in his or her aspirations. In fact, some carry such scars and torment to their grave. Oh, the value in being cautious in ever influencing someone to announce his/her call to the writing ministry!
Nonetheless, if you have arrived at making this sacred decision for yourself, it is in order for me to offer ALL encouragement, and to help you in your pursuit towards your calling wholeheartedly. Most of the time a person who has received a true call from God, and has answered that call, has a passionate desire to respond to that call with all zeal and drive. It is as if necessity has been laid upon you. The truth is: The Call of the Eternal is in Your Soul! It is a deep feeling that “woe is unto you if share not the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Paul stated the strong drive he felt from his call in Colossians 1:28-29: “Whom we preach (write), warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” We also feel this passion in 2 Corinthians 5:20: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech (called) you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
How Do You Know If You Have Truly Been Called?
There are many opinions in regards to defining the evidence of the truly called, however, ALL can agree that there are some basic motivations present in the divinely called. One of the first evidences is that of a never satisfied hunger for a close fellowship with God.
The majority of great Apostolic Christian Writers can look back to the time prior to the life of their writing ministry when GREAT burdens of prayer drove them to their knees. In fact, it is in this time of intimacy with God where the call is usually made. For most Apostolic Christian Writers those great hours made up days of climactic experiences with the Most High. To be absent from those cherished intimate moments with God created a strange sense of loneliness, a soul hunger that only prayer and God could ever satisfy.
In the deep corridors of many writing ministers minds is the memory room of a place where they retired often in the heart-searching desire for God. For some it was the church. For others it was the woods or perhaps a room at home. For me, it was in hiking trials and large fielded mountain terrain. These certain places and hours are cherished to many because it was the hour and place of their divine love feast. It was in those times and places where Jesus courted them in love, as He diligently did Peter's on the beach with these words that he would never forget, “Peter…lovest thou me?” (John 21:15-17).
Another piece of evidence that materializes the Apostolic Christian Writer's Call is a new perception or evaluation of the world in general. Simply put, “The things of earth grow strangely dim.” As your fellowship with God increases so does your spiritual awareness increase. I like how J.T. Pugh put it in his book For Preachers Only, “The soul moves further out, hungrily, into the stream of God's will.” As your fellowship with God grows once-coveted materialistic goals of life begin to shrivel up and die.
Remember my story and the desires of mine that I shared with you in the Introduction? I mentioned my desire for NBA stardom and selfish rewards. I also mentioned the transformation of my desires after my call to ministry. Feeling so keenly about spiritual things now, it is often difficult for those like you and me to understand why others remain so unmoved to fervent prayer and holy pursuits. A strong awareness now of Christ's SOON return calls for a rethinking of all worldly desires and pursuits.
At this point earthly ambitions are viewed as unimportant and unnecessary, and carnal rewards as vanity. Now, measured by the weight of Judgment and the length of eternity, earthly things once held dear lose their significance.
Let me put it to you like this: As you all know, we were all born into sin. Thus, the entrance into this life gives us drive for those things secular and as far away from God as possible. It is like getting into a car (the world) and stepping on the gas full throttle towards sin. And it is like with the speed of a jet engine.
However, when you are brought to this place of intimacy with God that we spoke of earlier, the frequent zest and pursuits for the secular life begin to run out of gas, so to speak, and the most important part of the day becomes those that are filled with spiritual activity – courtship with the Lord! Daily, a new perception of the extremely short life span you and I have begin to warn us that, “only what is written for Christ will last!”
Certainly, there are many wonderful saints today who have been touched by the Hand of God and powerfully seized by this divine craving, but who were never called to an office or certain ministry. I must make it clear here that this type of holy compulsion is not solely given to just ministers of the gospel, but that anyone God desires to call to His secret chambers of life changing intimacy can feel this tug.
However, with that said, there are no doubts that he who is divinely called to this ministry comes to a place in life where his eyes are opened to holy things as never before.
Before we move on to the next section in this chapter I do want to mentioned one last thing. It doesn't matter what kind of writer you are (a writer of non-fiction, fiction, and so on), it is a daunting to task to write a book, especially one that is written from the pen or keys of an Ambassador of Christ. Once divine content is written, the evidence is recorded for all generations to judge you (the writer) by your own words. Pilot must have felt that same weight of Judgment of credibility when he said of the inscription he ordered to be affixed to the cross of Jesus Christ, “What I have written, I have written.”
With that said, I believe it is important that you understand that this ministry is made up of imperfect people who have a passion, a burning desire to model Christ to the world and to share His message. It is my desire to be that one of the finest Ambassadors for Christ that I can be, knowing full-well that with out Him and the power of His Spirit working through me, I am flawed and will make mistakes. With that, I accept Paul's challenge:
“Be an example to the believers in word (written and spoken), in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. … Give attention to reading (study of the Word), to exhortation, to doctrine. … Mediate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.” (1 Timothy 4:12-13,15).
An Unwavering Compassion for Lost Souls
To be completely honest with you, it would be inconceivable that anyone could be divinely called by God and led into the ministry without being engulfed into an unwavering compassion for lost souls. In fact, the existence of Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) was put here solely for you and me (and the rest of the souls that inhabit this earth). And it was for the sake of others that Jesus Christ called his first disciples. (See John 4:35)
To the seventy He sent out to preach, He said, “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few” (Luke 10:2). The soul that God is dealing and working with concerning the ministry will more than likely also feel the heartbeat of God and His unwavering compassion for His lost sheep (a lost and dying world).
Let me put it to you like this: The God-called minister of writing's communication will not only be perpendicular, but horizontal as well. The call of God is distinctly in relation to others. It is hard to imagine a person being called to write as a messenger of God who never witnesses to the lost, who does not work with seekers at the altar, or who does not weep and mourn for sinners in secret. The God-called writer is to write and share the gospel, and the gospel is for sinners.
I am sure many of you have heard the proclamations of youth declaring, “When I grow up I want to be...[insert whatever noble and honourable profession you can think of here].” While sharing the gospel through the ministry of writing is not simply a vocation or a profession, who would question that some of its mighty drive stimulates the soul of God's chosen long before he acknowledges his call? Many great Apostolic Christian Writers today were at one time the strongest altar workers in their local church. Some entered the ministry while sharing the gospel at everyday outings such as grocery stores and encounters at Walmart or other similar establishments, or even during conversational chatter at the workplace during break times.
Judasim was mainly limited to a single nation. Christianity, on the other hand, extends its sympathies and provisions alike to each individual and to ALL nations. It makes relationship with Jesus a personal occupation and the salvation of souls a grand objective of its ministers.
Promoting the Work of God in General
The call of God is usually made evident in the fervent interest and selfless act of servant-hood when promoting the work of God in general. Many God-called servants of the Most High started their journey in service to the King through janitorial work, mowing grass, and general repair work about the Church. This is not only proper but good for it mirrors the examples of many ministers mentioned throughout scripture.
To be honest, it seems that the most progressive ministers of the gospel were formerly their pastor's right-hand man. They were not lacking in their full responsibility to the growth of their home church. The true God-called writer and messenger of God will always show an interest in every facet of God's work. He has a longing for the growth of his local Sunday school, a yearning for the lost about him (outreach), a burden for the mission field, and an expectant eagerness for the success of every local revival. In these cares and burdens, he/she begins to give off an illuminating glow for the ministry.
God is sovereign and appoints His own representatives, irrespective of human opinions or arrangements. However, when one is really called, those who are in sympathy and harmony with the work of the Spirit will recognize it. God could instantly reveal it, as He did the call of Saul of Tarsus to Ananais, but He seldom does. God is indeed supernatural, but is not foolish. An Apostolic Christian Writer's Call will make way for him/her.
Some of the greatest Apostolic Christian Writers began their work for God and grew up into fruitfulness some time before announcing their call to the ministry. Matthew Simpson, a Methodist bishop in 1880, stated, “Better to dig coal in the mines or break stones on the road than to stand in the pulpit (or in our case, the minister of writing's desk) uncalled of God.”
In time, public proclamation will validate an Apostolic Christian Writer's Call. The fire shut up in his bones will be detected by others, and soon those about him will know he is among the prophets. Consider that of the story of young David. He was called by God and anointed by Samuel to be King of Israel, but did not step into the palace and take his rightful seat on the throne until His call, desires, and the witness of the people were all in harmony. Likewise, your desire and call will harmonize with the claims of the gospel.
The call of God may first come off as a vague impression, or like that of a waking dream. If you have found your mind mysteriously lingering on the subject of ministry service, perhaps you have felt these thoughts while in the midst of anxious activities for Christ's Kingdom, understand that you are not alone.
Getting Started in The Writing Ministry
A clear understanding of divine things, a ready utterance, tact, and especially success in doing good is a great start to have in going forward in the ministry. The writing ministry occupies a large field and requires a variety of abilities. Therefor, some areas of this ministry yield itself to more readily plain, dedicated, common-sense than to the more bookish and profound. For example, for some, education was known to disqualify some ministers from a congregation because they did not speak the same language of their sought after flock.
The truth is: There is always a place for everyone who is truly called by God to minister, or God would not have called them. However, as it is most often stated in business literature, you must know your audience and speak their language or they will not hear you.
It is also true that there is a great magnitude of conflicting advice when it comes to where to start in this ministry. Some urge new ministers to leave all and share the gospel at once, while others suggest a waiting period. Bible college is always a possibility and quite often a desire of a prospective minister. Some of the most wisest advice that I have ever gotten was that I should pray, mediate, and adhere to the guided judgment of a handful of concerned ministers that are reliable. Of course, this still does not eliminate all the questions.
For example, should you immediately quit your day job and launch with full force into the work of the ministry? Should you keep your job and minister through the written word as often as the opportunity presents itself? Should you make plans to attend Bible college? I would highly suggest that you count the cost and weigh these things before announcing your call to this ministry.
It is better to become a good student, and strong and helpful servant of the Most High, following your own convictions and adaptions, than to become an inefficient minister by following the opinions of many.
In the first place, to put it plainly, you should judge yourself. You must be able to be honest with yourself. Personal truth will always be your best friend in such matters. Let me put it to you like this: You must recognize the things that you need to work on in your own life in order to be the “workman that needeth not to be ashamed.”
You should at least have a fair English education, a working knowledge of the Bible, its chronology and major divisions, along with a sound understanding of doctrine. You should also have an understanding of church government and history, both civil and sacred. You should also have a general intelligence level, sufficient enough to place you in equal to or above those whom you are expected to serve (your readers).
You see, as for preachers and pastors, their congregation is limited to those that are in attendance, however, when it comes to the ministry of writing, our congregation expands its reach past four walls and can even pierce the hearts of someone on the other side of the globe. Certainly, you cannot surpass the writers congregation in all fields of learning, but in the realm of religion, truth, and morals, you must be the leader. How apt is the advice of Paul: “For if we judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31). Then, of course, you must be able to write clearly and chronologically and prepare a message that can be understood for it has been said, “When little effort is used to read, much effort has gone into the writing.”
With all of that said, you should prayerfully and intelligently arrive at the best method to follow in order to qualify you for your call of ministry. It is often in the case of our Faith that one be educated in the work but not out of it. Most learn to write of what they feel and believe while they are seeking to know more. They, of course, do not always write correctly or profoundly at the beginning. But in time, as they apply themselves to both work and study, they learn the art of writing readily and forcefully.
Not all who enter this ministry are privileged enough to attend Bible college, but often their ministry is just as fruitful and productive as their more fortunate brothers and sisters. While I cannot dictate a particular course to take in regard to entering this ministry, I must solemnly advise that every prospective writing minister prepare himself in view of his great responsibility to God and the immortality of souls.
If God has truly called you to this ministry it is His will that you succeed, and it is also His will that you shape your course and journey accordingly. You must hold yourself accountable to the Most High, who called you. Understand, that there has never been a great minister who did not first start out as a great student. Hence the verse, “Till I come, give attendance to reading … mediate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that they profiting may appear to all” (1 Timothy 4:13-15). “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightfully dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Whether you are able to attend Bible college or not, it is imperative that you prepare yourself through much study. Apostolic Christian Writers must understand their business/ministry in order to be successful. They must pray, read, think, study, and plan to know what to say and how, when, and where to say it.
It is true that Jesus said to His first ministers, “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak” (Matthew 10:19). However, Jesus did not discourage reasonable study, but He gave them comfort in view of probable surprises and emergencies when they would have no opportunity for preparation.
Let it be known, the approach to ministry is a long, hard road of prayer and study, whether it is done in school or out. Regardless of which road is taken, you should consider yourself an apprentice to many truths, both practical and spiritual, until after three or four years of hard study and ministerial work. This does not mean that you cannot be winning souls, teaching through the written word, and doing much good for the Kingdom of God now. When ministerial responsibilities begin to come you will be more glad you disciplined yourself during those early years.
The called Apostolic Christian Writer of the gospel must approach this ministry with certainty. You cannot approach this decision lightly; it is vital to know your calling. There will be times when you will question it but while in the heart of the battle you must have a deep conviction that you are called of God and you are following His holy urge.
Not everyone has the same experience in his or her calling. Some may hear a voice or see a vision, while others may just have a vague impression and drawing to the ministry. There are those like Nehemiah who merely responded to a need, only to find themselves right in the middle of God's work without really planning to enter into the ministry. Regardless of what experience you have had to usher you into this calling, you must have a conviction that God's will is the most important in your life and you are solely pursuing Him.
Several of the Old Testament prophets experienced an identifiable call, a life changing moment, an incredible vision, or a divine compulsion. Isaiah saw the Lord on the throne, accompanied by winged seraphim, in a splendid display of God's presence. His call came in the form of a question, “Whom shall I send and who will go?” Isaiah quickly responded, “Here I am Lord, Send me!”
Jeremiah was called before he was born. God said, “Before I formed you in your mothers womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). With that sense of destiny he was able to fulfill a difficult ministry of rejection and scorn. He saw himself as “a man of contention to the whole earth” (Jeremiah 15:10), but was faithful throughout more than forty years of ministry and was a witness to the destruction of Jerusalem that he had long prophesied about.
Through the experience of Jeremiah, you can rest assured that God already knows the vocation for which you are uniquely qualified. He knows your abilities and disabilities. When He called you He did so knowing full-well who you are. When He calls it is not just an assignment or an occupation, it becomes your life! His call says, “I have appointed you and YOU have a job to do!”
Amos was a farmer, a man from the fields. He said, “I was no prophet. Nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said to me, 'Go, prophesy to My people Israel.” (Amos 7:14-15).
When God calls, our background is immaterial. Our handicaps become our assets. Our deficiencies become tools of His sufficiency. Apply yourself to learning and rely on the Spirit of God to prepare you for the task of ministry that He has made for you.
The call of God is a call to action! It is never a call to sit, but to arise. It is not call to stay, but to go! Moses ran from danger in Egypt to the security of a deserted place. He built his new life in the shelter of obscurity and the comfort of anonymity. But God knew where he was and used the desert place to prepare a future leader. A spiritual encounter in a secret place, a prophetic voice from the burning bush became a burning purpose for his life. He would never be the same!
Moses was taken from his safe shelter of obscurity to the center stage of Pharaoh's palace in Egypt with a divine directive, “Let my people go!” It takes a definite call to inspire such bold assertiveness. When the call of God is written on the tablets of your heart with the finger of God, and the message is confirmed in your spirit, there is a confident boldness in your ministry.
The mantel of this ministry is a regal robe and a wearisome weight. Sometimes you write with such anointing and power that you feel as though you were Moses on Mount Sinai delivering the message of God from a personal revelation. Other times you wear the weight of ministry like a ball and chain delivering a difficult message with the burden of Jeremiah. You can love it and be frightened of it, but never dishonour it, … and wear it well.
The call to be a messenger of the Lord Jesus Christ places demands upon the individual that surpass every other vocation. There is NO GREATER CALL.
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About William Ballard
Freelance Writer, Copywriter, Blogger, Inbound Marketing Specialist, and Author, William Ballard, helps small businesses and entrepreneurs, like you, broadcast their message across the Internet (and offline through direct mail response marketing) and be seen as experts in their field. He has been dubbed the Expert Marketer of Writing.
William, a writer and blogger since 2007, enjoys sharing with others his experience on how to become a successful writer, blogger, and author. View more about William Ballard →