As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went. (Acts 13:2–4—NKJV)

For most observers, the call of God seems to be some sort of mystical sensation impressed upon special people who have such a close relationship with God that they know explicitly what the will of God is for their life. The reality of the calling of God is much more attainable than that, and responsibilities to His call touch every believer. Biblically speaking, the call of God granted to His servants is both a personal act of God and an intentional responsibility of believers in the context of the local church. This understanding in no way restricts the sovereign action of God nor restricts the responsibility of man.

I have long been a proponent that every man ought to live his life in obedience so that God can call him to ministry if He so desires. This kind of devoted life requires dedicated living and communion with God. Making yourself available to serve the Lord in any way He chooses is characteristic of authentic Christianity. Such a quality of life recognizes general calls from God to service on a daily basis. The calls appear as acts of biblical obedience to God’s Word and to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

This kind of godly sensitivity is what is so wonderfully illustrated in an official capacity by the call of the first deacons in Acts 6:1–7. A practical need was made known to the Jerusalem church, and the apostles instructed the brethren to seek out seven men of their number who were spiritual, walking humbly before God and men, men upon whom the approval of God rested. The church initiated the search and chose quality men for the office. The men were installed as deacons by the apostles and they served. Most general callings of God today similarly fit this pattern. A need is perceived, a godly person who is especially talented in the area of need is brought forward, and then they serve to meet the need.

The “call” to ministry which captures our attention today is a bit different. It is different first in the specificity of the service. Ephesians 4:11–12 lists the gifts God gives (specific offices) to the church age saints: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Apostles and prophets were offices which were given as gifts to the church in its formative days, ending with the close of the Apostolic age, upon the death of the last of the twelve. Evangelists are the traveling missionaries proclaiming the Gospel where it has not been before. Pastor/teacher is the office most of us are the most familiar with as a position of special call to ministry.

In order to understand this special call, let’s look secondly at Paul’s call to be an apostle to the Gentiles. When Paul (Saul) was saved, God explained to Ananias His special intention for Saul: “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” (Acts 9:15) Paul describes this call’s effect in 1 Timothy 1:11–12, “According to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.”

Doubtless, you can see that Paul was especially pointed out by God to serve as a missionary apostle. Note that his call was made practical and given its scope by the local church in Antioch as the believers moved in concert with God to send Paul. His accountability was to God and the Antioch church as is evident by the fact that he reported his activity to them (Acts 14:27).

Are you living in sensitivity to the calls of God to obedience every day? Are you purposely seeking out in your local church those who are being directed of God toward a calling to the mission field or the ministry? Are you praying for those who are presently serving in those offices, especially those who have come forth from your local church? Trust and obey.