The Card up Every Pastor’s Sleeve or Robe or Tunic or Suit

If you survey a wide enough spectrum of pastors and ask the question, “Why did you become a pastor?” I suspect the most common answer would be along the lines of, “I felt called by God to ministry.” After all, if I say I’m called by God to pastor, what are you going to say? “No you aren’t.” You see, when played, the calling card (pun) is unbeatable. It’s the Joker of ministry. This is where it all begins for so many men and women.

I remember my calling like it was yesterday. I was suited up on Sunday, literally wearing a suit and tie cause that’s how I used to roll. I was 15 at the time and had a love for the church. I also had a love for the ladies, but that didn’t feel as much like a call from God as becoming a pastor did. My pastor was making the traditional and somewhat predictable invitation following the sermon. “If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, come on down. If you want to join this church family, come on down.” I always wanted to shout, “BECAUSE YOU’RE THE NEXT CONTESTANT ON THE PRICE IS RIGHT!!!” But I didn’t.

On this particular Sunday morning, however, the pastor added a line I’d never heard before and wouldn’t have expected to hear in a thousand years, or as it’s known in the biz, ‘a millennia.’  He opened up invitation time to a third category of folks: “And if there is anyone here who is feeling the call to ministry and haven’t told someone about that, I’d like for you to come forward.” What! Ministry! Call! He’s talking to me. That’s what I thought. I felt my face get flush. When I’m nervous, angry, or socially uncomfortable my face turns red. Luck of the Irish I suppose.

I felt my heart beating faster and more heartily than ever before. This was it. The Lord had spoken. I was going to become a pastor. I thought I’d become a lawyer. I actually took the LSAT several years later when trying to run away from ministry. But I knew at 15 that I would become a pastor. I didn’t go forward though because someone might of thought I wasn’t saved the first time or that I had sinned since then. So instead I made an appointment to talk with the pastor.

From that moment on everything in life would be used to shape that calling. After all, every pastor has to have sermon illustrations, so even experiences that weren’t significantly formative could make for a good story. To this day though, if you ask me why I’m a pastor I’ll give you the answer, “Because I was called to be a pastor.” There are plenty of questions that I have about that calling. Is the calling permanent? Does the calling come with a contract? Is there free-agency? Do I really understand what being a pastor means? Was I called to be a different type of pastor than I’ve become?

I get the sense that my calling is ever evolving. In other words, I’m not sure a calling for everyone is a static thing, a once and done type of experience. What do you think about the calling card? Do you ever consider what God’s call on your life may be?


  1. Nikomas · October 10, 2011

    I wonder the same thing. it seems to me like many times callings are temporary. Sure there were a lot of younger kid-like people called in the Bible, but a lot of people in the Bible weren’t “called” until they were older. Leads me to believe that God has a certain time, a certain place and sometimes a certain task that he calls people too. I suppose we just live out our calling as Christians from day one, and then stay aware of God’s rabbit trail callings throughout life.

  2. patricklmitchell · October 10, 2011

    I was going to include a part about guys who were called later in life, so I think you’re spot on with that. Ravi Zacharias writes in The Grand Weaver that “God reinforces his call as we respond to his nod.” I like that because it means where I am now isn’t where I’m going. As Eugene Peterson says, ever step an arrival.

  3. thechurchinthemirror · October 15, 2011

    Glad I found this blog through SCL. I was called to ministry and then had some bad experiences, then couldn’t find another church position and just stuck to a paying job in the secular world. I’m talking with friends about that calling: is it temporary? Is it on pause? Is it something to keep pursuing not matter what? Then I consider King David, who was called and anointed at an early age but didn’t see that calling fulfilled for many years.

    • patricklmitchell · October 15, 2011

      Man you are dealing with some essential questions in regards to ministry and calling. How long have you been out of the ‘church’ world? I think callings can be temporary, but only in the sense that one step invariably leads to another–could be in ministry proper, but could be in an area you never would’ve imagined for yourself. David is a good example. Moses wasn’t called to his particular ministry until late in life. I’m learning that what seem like gaps in periods of calling are times of testing patience for the end of perseverance, hope and trust.

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