It is my tendency, and maybe yours, to think of calling to ministry as a future event. This idea could not be further from the biblical truth. The calling to serve the church, to love God, and to love my neighbor are all callings to ministry that should be present realities, not merely future dreams. The calling to vocational ministry takes place within a context of service.
Clowney makes several excellent statements regarding the exercise, development, and confirmation of gifts in present situations:
Your sphere of action, your ministry in the service of Christ, is marked out by the gifts Christ has given you. The gifts of Christ’s grace are like a majestic stained-glass window in his church. Each Christian is set in place like a piece of jeweled glass, so that the radiance of God’s grace may shine through him to add a beam of crimson or emerald or azure to the orchestration of color blazing within (28-29).
You may need rather different Christian friends besides those you have cultivated. . . . There is a disturbing possibility that you may need most the spiritual gifts of Christians least like yourself in age, social background, race—even denominational affiliation (33).
What opportunities do you perceive? The first doors are in the room where you are. The Lord has given you a certain set of present circumstances. Paul refers to this as a man’s “calling.” Here you must begin; indeed, here you must be willing to remain until other doors of opportunity are perceived and opened. The surest way to miss future opportunities is to ignore present ones (37-38).
The present calling to service is not only more important than a specific calling to vocational ministry, it is also a prerequisite. So in the midst of my own daydreaming and fantasizing about what the future may hold, I must recognize that these are truly vain thoughts if they are not firmly rooted in present acts of faithfulness. As I have often heard my own pastor say, “When people come to me and tell me that they are called to missions work overseas, I often ask them what they are doing to evangelize at their present place of work or in their neighborhood.” So too with someone claiming to be called to the pastorate. The friends around him should ask, “How are you stewarding opportunities to teach, disciple, encourage, exhort, evangelize others today?”
Ken Barbic at 9Marks, reviewing Edmund Clowney’s Called to the Ministry