Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
John 10:1-4 (NASB)

Christ’s Call to Ministry

I love hearing ministry leaders tell their stories about how Christ called them into vocational ministry.

Every story is unique. No two are alike.

Every story is very personal.

And no one ever forgets their call story.

They treasure it!

Christ the Great Shepherd

The Initial Call to Ministry

When Jesus Christ enters the sheep pen, he knows all his sheep individually. He even knows them by name. And they know his voice. You’ve probably had the same experience I’ve had. You hear someone talking but can’t see them, and yet by their voice you know exactly who they are. As I read these verses, I can’t help but imagine that when the shepherd speaks, the sheep’s’ ears perk up, they turn their heads toward the voice, and they listen intently. And when the shepherd calls them out of the pen, they follow.

As Christian ministry leaders, Jesus called each one of us from the pen to go out through the gate and enter into vocational ministry.

Many of us were probably quite attentive to his voice at that time because many transitions come when we are in crisis or upset, and are looking for direction:

  • It may be that we are unsettled in what we are currently doing, restless and needing a change.
  • Perhaps we’re finishing up a seminary degree and anxious to find a place to serve.
  • Maybe our world has turned upside-down and we are in crisis. Everything is changing and we need to find a way forward.
  • Or it could just be an opportunity comes your way, and you wonder what to do about it.

In all these scenarios, we end up searching for what God wants of us. And thus we are particularly attentive to his voice at the time when we first come into ministry leadership. And we probably stay attentive for at least a while, earnestly seeking to discern what God wants us to do.

The Continuing Call While in Ministry

But as we mature in our leadership roles, we may find ourselves growing in confidence of our own abilities, and we may lose the sense of dependence on God, and gradually his voice grows dim as we focus on doing our very best for God based on our own self-reliance.

Yet once the sheep have left the pen following behind the shepherd, the shepherd doesn’t stop talking with his sheep. The shepherd walks ahead of them, still talking with them, and they continue to follow wherever the shepherd leads.

However far you have come in ministry since your initial call, Jesus is still going ahead of you and keeps calling you to follow him. We must continue to listen to his voice just as intently, just as closely, as we did when he first called us to ministry, because he knows the good works that he has in store for us to do, and he doesn’t leave us to guess what they are. If you continue to listen to our Great Shepherd’s voice just as earnestly as you did at the beginning of your ministry, you will be led to all that he has in store for you. And having heard Christ’s continuing call, respond to it just as eagerly as you did his initial call.

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Now [may] the God of peace,… the great Shepherd of the sheep … Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20

Key Thought: The Good Shepherd’s call to ministry becomes his guidance in ministry.

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An exploration of Christian ministry leadership led by CCCC's CEO John Pellowe