I'm interested in starting a speaker team that would travel to speak at conferences and conduct workshops (national and international), publish books, tapes, etc. So far I have a ministry of one (me). The first thing I think I should do is go back to Divinity School and get the teaching and credentials I will need, while continuing to build my ministry. Do you think that's a good and necessary first step? I know so little, but I am willing to be used by God. I believe God is calling me into women's ministry. I have had the privilege of speaking at a few women's conferences and I have never felt more fulfilled and complete doing anything else. The Spirit seemed to provide me opportunities to really reach these women, and I love the impact that is reported following these events. My ministry is not under the umbrella of my local church. How did you know you were called into the ministry? Please share your thoughts. -- Vanessa Bowden

I appreciate your enthusiasm, sister. It sounds like you are positioned to help many, and are eager to be used by God.

Here is what I teach. All Christians are called into ministry, on the basis of the gifts they have received. Although I don't work full time for a church, I still consider myself to be "in the ministry," like all other Christians. When I first began to do "church work," I raised financial support so that I could have a couple of years to train as an intern. After two years I was taken on as an official (paid) employee. For me, theological study has been very important, and I am afraid it has been greatly undervalued by too many preachers. I also received a lot of encouragement from others--and I think that is perhaps the prime way we begin to realize that God is calling us to a special work. God usually makes it clear through the community, the church family.

I do not subscribe to the denominational notion that God speaks to us in our hearts and directly calls us. Isaiah was called (Isaiah 6), Paul received a miraculous call (Acts 9), and the Lord addressed Jeremiah directly (Jeremiah 1). We should not expect such things to happen often today--because they were very rare occurrences even in biblical history.

In the same way, we might ask how God calls people to become Christians. 2 Thessalonians 2 says he calls us through the gospel. And then he chooses us (when we choose him in willing response). Many are called, but few are chosen. To hear the call, we have to deal with self-righteousness, and to believe that we truly need the Lord (Luke 5:32).

Now, I'm not saying I don't believe God answers prayers or makes things clear for us. It's just that I don't see any scriptures supporting the doctrine that we will receive a special call to ministry if God wants to use us. After all, he wants to use everyone!

I would probably not start a "ministry of one," if by that you mean no one else is enthusiastic about it. Delivering encouraging lessons is something a number of Christians do, even though they do not work for a church. But a vocation would, I agree, require serious preparation. You could return to divinity school if possible, and keep your options open. Pray a lot. (I know you are already doing that.) Share what you have, no matter what your full-time vocation is. Let God work through your life.

One more thought -- and I know I am repeating myself, but this is very important. The Spirit often makes our gifts and calling clear to us within the context of the local church. Not everyone has the gifts he/she thinks, and we all have blind spots, so the best advice you get will be from local brothers and sisters (not me!). There is also a document at the website on criteria for teachers--eleven suggestions in all. I think it may help. God bless.

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