Is This What I Was Called For?

Ever have those days when you think “am I really called for this?” Those days where everyone is a critic and no one is happy with anything you do, the messages seem to fall on deaf ears and people seem more concerned with the lighting and the volume of the music than with what the scripture is says. Have those moments? I am currently not serving in vocational ministry, and it leaves me heart broken some days. I know my calling, and I have shared it on here, so I’m not going to rehash all those things. There is bi-vocational work in my immediate future, and I feel blessed that God’s calling on my life is still so strong, but as I look back on the 12 years I spend in full time vocational ministry, I wonder, is this really what we are called for?

If you serve in Full Time ministry, you probably relate some. I often tell people who are going into the ministry that you spend 60-80% of the time doing the stuff you don’t want to do or feel called to do to spend the other 20-40% of the time to do what you are called to do. When it gets to the point that it become 80% of what you are not called to do and you are not skilled at, the church will then begin to evaluate your performance on that 80% and you will soon be out of a job. Some pastors make it longer than others, but it’s sort of a general rule for ministry. It’s why most guys stay at a church for 3-6 years. It’s why the majority of people who are called into ministry never retire from ministry, they drop out, or too often are forced out.

I guess things aren’t really that different for us as they were for the Apostle Paul. After all, he was kicked out, ran off, forced out, pushed out and even stoned. He found himself making tents to get by. He was rejected, laughed at, forced out, not paid, arrested and eventually beheaded by his critics.

So fellow ministers, some days you may ask yourself, “is this really what I was called for, to be beat up by those I am trying to serve”. The answer is probably “yup”. It’s not always fun, it’s seldom easy and you will be under valued and under appreciated. It’s the reason why so many don’t make it, there is a huge struggle with depression and so many fall into sin. Often, it’s just a form of escape-ism to get away from the stress and the pressure. So what is the answer.

Here is my opinion, being is several situations where I was supported greatly and when I wasn’t supported well at all. First, better find some good friends. Gut level honesty, be yourself with, vent about real life friends. When you are a pastor everyone says they are your friends, but many of them will turn on you pretty quick. Doubtful you will hear from these people ever again once you are no longer at that church. They are your friend at the church, but when you are gone, they will just move on. You need good friends. You need good heroes. These are usually dead guys, guys like Edwards and Owens, most of these guys has trials and persecutions, so they get it and they wrote about it. You also better be sure you know your calling and life mission. I have been in several churches, some para-church ministry and in plenty of transition, but through it all, I know my calling. I feel called to help people find their ministry and serve God in their capacity, where they are. I want to empower people to serve. That’s not always easy when the people expect you to do the work for them, but I am sticking with that calling through everything.

Ministry is hard, there are critics, slanderers, wolves and some who will seek to destroy you for no good reason. There are also a lot of great and wonderful people out there who need someone to help them and to serve them. It’s what we are called for, and to be honest, it often stinks. You will spend nights awake thinking about all the things you have done wrong, all the places you failed and all the people who are lined up to point it out. Press on my brothers and sisters, press on. This is what we are called for.


  1. says

    It saddens me to hear such vile remarks about the church. It is even
    more discouraging to hear such one sided blundering and an apparent
    disdain for God’s people and his work. Even more, I’m nauseated by
    the attitude of entitlement and the trumpeting of victimization.
    It sounds so dreadful to be called to be a pastor in America of all places.
    I pray for a work ethic and dedication by pastors that may somehow be
    comparable to all those supposed ravenous wolves we are called
    to so faithfully serve! May the whining end and the real work begin.

    • Christiane says

      GENE, I didn’t hear in this post ‘vile remarks’ . . . but I did hear that your Christian brother is sharing some of his own pain.
      Did you read his last paragraph? Did you make it that far, before you wrote your comment? I’m not sure that you did.

      Take another look.

      As far as having a place to express honest frustrations, it is important to remember that, among Christian people, we are to be a ‘listening people’ . . . none of us should ever fear from the other condemnation or lack of compassion. if we reach out to them with what troubles us.

      Take another look at this post.

      Is there not a preacher or minister of God who has not at some level felt discouragement at times? Maybe you might have some way to ease that discouragement? Remember who you are and put down your stones, but don’t walk away in disgust, GENE. Sometimes ‘the real work’ is right in front of you. Let your response to the pain of others be tempered by the grace you yourself have received, and then be at peace.

      “Bear ye one another’s burdens;
      and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ. ”
      (Galatians 6:2)

    • Dave Miller says

      Ministry in the church of Jesus Christ is never easy. Sinful people (and sinful pastors like me) make it quite the challenge. But it is also a joy and privilege to serve God and his people. We have to balance those things.

      In 31 years of doing ministry, I’ve been at the place of despair and discouragement Dan describes several times.

      But I think Gene does get at the heart of the solution. When times are bad and hurts are strong, just keep moving on, doing the work, serving the Lord and waiting for things to turn around.

      • Frank L. says


        I’m entering my 36th year of ministry that began on a submarine at about 700 feet below the surface of the Pacific.

        It has been a hard journey to be sure. I was hoping it might start to get easier at some point, but instead, the kind of challenges simply changed.

        Now, I must deal with health issues and other general difficulties that come from being a “Half-century” old. My church is wonderful and stable, but pretty much stuck on a high center. I also in this ministry must administer a school through high school, as well as oversee a Day-Care Center.

        I am also trying to guide a very hurt (by the church) young adult son through some very difficult times. Currently, my daughter is pregnant with my grandson and is having very difficult medical challenges.

        Sum it all up and it comes to a heavy load.

        So, I love your advice: “just keep moving on, doing the work, serving the Lord and waiting for things to turn around.”

        Very encouraging words, my Brother.

      • cb scott says

        I rag on Dave Miller a lot. I guess it is because I like him and respect him a great deal. I like to write posts and comments here about sports. Why? Because I know know it is meaningless and is a good way to take a break for reality on occasion.

        Then I read a post like Dan Barnes has written and a comment like the one Dave Miller has made here about ministry never being easy and knowing personally that Dave’s comment is very true.

        What we do (meaning those of us who shepherd the flock God has assigned us) hurts. Sometimes it hurts really bad.

        There have been many times in these many years now, that I have camped out at Acts 9:16 and pondered the truth, the agony, and the pain of that verse.

        After spending some time in that camp —days, sometimes a month or more— I find myself moving my camp to 2 Timothy 4:1-8 and 1 Peter 5:1-4.

        That is when I am able to think and do as Dave has testified of his journey also.

        ” When times are bad and hurts are strong, just keep moving on, doing the work, serving the Lord and waiting for things to turn around.”

        Dan Barnes has written true words here and Dave Miller has responded with words just as true. And guys who stick with this thing we do long enough know their words are true.

        We also know that the words of Jesus are true, even more so. Why more so? Because He is God. He said He would never leave us . . . . and He won’t. How do I know He won’t leave me? Because He is God and He said He won’t. I hang on to that.

    • says

      You are welcome to your opinion, but this wasn’t disdain for the church, just an effort for me to try to encourage many I know who are hurting and feel the attacks of those who lash out.

    • says

      Well yes Gene it saddens me too, to see Christians fakeing what they stand for. But me being a new Christian I myself have seen this more than ive wanted to. I just wish that i could see some more real Christians around me. I would like to be able to say i dont see this in the church i attend but i do. People think others dont know what they do or how they act when they are not in the presents of the church. i am 16 yrs old and even i have seen how quote ‘evil ” christians can be. it really saddens my heart to see that people that have the power to do good just put on an act. dont get me wrong i love going to hearland, but that is more because of the welcomeness i feel and i truely feel God has called me to stay there even after my dad has left. i may not always agree on what is said but i even as a new Christain know right from wrong .

      • says

        Cassidy, it is one of the saddest truths of Christianity – that Christians often don’t behave well. We are the weak link in God’s work in this world, but still he loves us and uses us and forgives us.

        Whatever you do, do not let the failings and sins of Christians (and pastors, for that matter) ever derail your faith in Christ or your passion for him. He is the one you can count on and serve. Human beings will sometimes let you down, hurt you, anger you – we are what we are. But keep your focus on the ONE who will never fail, or fail you.

        Thanks for stopping by SBC Voices.

      • Frank L. says


        My son went through some of what you are apparently going through. He let it drive him away from church altogether. It breaks my heart as both a father and a pastor.

        However, what makes it worse is that leaving the church behind has not been the answer. Now, he’s adrift at sea trying desparately to find the shore.

        The church will never be perfect until we restrict humans from participating. But remember, spots and all, “Jesus loved the Church and gave Himself for it.”

        I pray God blesses you richly during this difficult passage in life.

    • Frank L. says


      I’m not sure you and I read the same post. Talk about “vile remarks.”

      It seems you know nothing about what it is like to actually pastor a church. Dan’s post hit the proverbial nail on the head.

      I must say, I’ve met people who feel just the way you do about pastors — it wasn’t a happy meeting.

      “Whinning?” That seems proof positive that you don’t have a clue about what Dan and others in ministry have experienced. I greatly respect your right to have your opinion, but I’d like to go on record saying I don’t think your opinion is quite right.

      I won’t try to convince you that most pastors are anything but “whinny.”

      Dan’s words certainly resonate with me after 36 years in ministry — over half of which I partially or fully supported my ministry by working one or two other jobs.

      I did it gladly and would do it again — but I’d certainly be more aware of some of the pot holes.

  2. Greg Harvey says

    I think I’ve shared this story before, but I will repeat it because it allows me to provide a perspective that is helpful in response to Dan’s blog.

    I occasionally would forget my Bible while going to the churches my dad pastored. He was gracious and permitted me to borrow Bibles from his office when I did that. One that I borrowed was a NT with the plan of salvation outlined via what we now would call hyperlinks in it: on the first page was “turn to page xxx” and on that page a verse was underlined and an explanation in the margin explained it.

    If I recall correctly, it highlighted the Roman Road but enriched with other verses. I doubt seriously it was my dad’s invention, but it WAS in his handwriting, and the very last page linked to the inside back cover where he gave his testimony and where he explained that he believed that even if he was the only sinner in the world that Jesus was willing to die for just him. I had already given my life to Jesus Christ but as a 10- or 11-year-old it was a very personal perspective into my dad’s faith that was passionate and touching. I remember asking to keep the NT because of that and while it eventually got lost in our shuffle overseas and back in the 70s, I still treasure the memory.

    The next truly major step for me from a faith perspective was a sense of calling around 12 when my parents were considering missionary service with the then FMB. I felt strongly that God was calling me to go with and support my parents in their application to be missionaries and going overseas. So when we got on the field, I was trying to learn the language–I was 12 already so unlike with younger children I didn’t pick it up for free–and mom and dad provided a language teacher to me when we moved to Madiun. I’ve shared that the language teacher helped me get on the local radio station and I read from the Today’s English Version of the Bible over the air as English language practice for locals (something I didn’t remember until a few years ago when one of the other MKs reminded me of it.)

    From there, in my last year of high school, I prayed that God would give me my own faith and that I wouldn’t just depend on what my parents believed. God answered that prayer in some awfully surprising ways including sorting through the many years of exposure I’d had to the OT and “systematizing” my understanding of it so it fit together. As I’ve also shared, I encountered the Doctrines of Grace during Paul’ Gritz’s Church History class at SWBTS, became intrigued by them, studied them, and concluded that I agreed with the Scripture that they’re based on and largely subscribe to them.

    That personal journey isn’t my WHOLE story, but it helps me make this claim: every single one of us has our own personal story and our own personal walk with God. Just as my dad wrote that he believed Jesus was willing to personally die on the cross for just his sin, I’ve come to realize that each of us should treasure that personal story and that personal walk because it is often unique even if it shares similarities with others.

    That’s even more true for those who are called into ministry. Now I share a singularly Baptistic view of ministry: we’re all called to it. We all need to find a place in our community of faith–our local church–and seek ways to serve. If it is truly better to serve a single day in the House of the Lord than a thousand days elsewhere–as the Psalms claim–then we need to seek to serve regularly with the talents and gifts that God has bequeathed to us. And we need to treasure every opportunity to serve that we take hold of.

    One of my delights was being the wedding janitor at Immanuel (then) in San Bernardino. It doesn’t seem like much. You really are going about undoing someone else’s event so that on the next day–a Sunday–the church can meet and not notice what just happened on its property. But a wedding is a sacred event when it occurs under the guidance of a pastor for the sake of the couple and usually for the sake of the congregation. I chuckle as I remember the advice Rob would give: in every wedding, something doesn’t go quite as planned and you either roll with that–and enjoy it–or you meltdown and have a great cry.

    I remember in my own–held in Houston, far away from where I was wedding janitor–that a dress a friend had made for my bride to be started developing tears in the lace arms as she was putting it on and that friend and my wife were furiously working to repair it. Jen was on the edge of tears as it happened. People were filling the building. Soon after one of the more touching ingredients of our wedding plan–where her dad handed me her almost one-year-old son after we’d said our vows–also didn’t go as planned when Nathaniel (now 20) refused to come to me. I got a good chuckle and Craig–my father-in-law–held Nathaniel while my dad gave a “charge to the couple” on committing to each other and to Nathaniel to be one family. It was something I’d asked my dad to do and he did a superb job.

    It reminds me that God commanded Moses to keep a journal of the journey of the Exodus which is part of why we have such a detailed account of that trip from Goshen to the edge of the Jordan. Perhaps the thing for those who experience God’s call to do is to do the same: keep a daily journal where you intentionally collect word pictures, actual pictures, videos, and recordings of the day. These then become a testimony to both your faithfulness to your calling and of God’s faithfulness to you as you faithfully execute your calling.

    It will, of course, record when things didn’t go according to plan. Perhaps it will include when you strike the rock instead of speaking to it. Or when as you’re on the mountain the people cast a golden calf. Or when they complain at God for his provision. Or when there is a mutiny against your leadership by your own family and God strikes them with the equivalent of leprosy in a way that demonstrates who he has appointed as leader. Or maybe it’s just advice from fathers-in-law as to how to apply earthy wisdom to a spiritual calling. Who’s to say what might occur in an faithful journal by someone who is committed to obeying God. It might even record that you don’t feel worthy for the calling–most pastors don’t especially at first–or that you don’t feel you can escape it because it overwhelms you and you feel the weight of God insisting.

    But treasure it for what it is: it’s the story of your relationship with God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, the Father, Prince of Peace, Wonderful. That God includes us in his plan and centers it around our obedience causes me both trepidation and great amazement. And my main spiritual role at the moment is “just” a husband and “just” a father.

    Now I have to confess: I haven’t done a great job of taking my own advice. Perhaps I need to go get started on that tonight. Anyone want to join me?

  3. Jess Alford says


    I have had several young men ask me, What is a Pastor’s job? I would always say, “Follow God”. Pastor, what are the jobs you do? My answer would always be, all of them.

    Praying for, and studying for my sermons usually required about 15%
    of my time. Everything else 85% of my time. What Jobs? All of them.

    I was once blessed to win seven people to Christ just because I stopped at a home and helped an elderly gentleman pick beans in his garden.

    Here is one that will blow your minds. I was out visiting and stopped at the home of someone I knew, a young man who was about thirty years old was there, whom no one was ever able to get to get him inside a church. The young man looked at me and said, preach, if you can pin me on the ground in a wrestling match I will go to church with you. I asked him, will you keep your word? He said I always keep my word.

    I was sitting on the porch, the young man was standing out in the yard.
    I leaped up, and jumped, landing on the young man’s shoulders taking him to the ground, and getting his long hair caught in a rose bush. While twisting his arm and hearing him yell, he mumbled something, I asked,
    what did you say?, He said I’ll be in church Sunday. Did I mention the young man accepted Christ?

    What are the Job’s? Everything…

    • Frank L. says

      “”Praying for, and studying for my sermons usually required about 15%
      of my time. Everything else 85% of my time””

      I don’t want to criticize anybody for how they fulfill their calling. I would only be a bit skeptical if only 15% of the time was spent in praying about and constructing one’s weekly message.

      There’s no way I could have enough confidence to stand in the pulpit with that amount of preparation.

      Whereas a great deal of work is done outside of the sermon responsibility, that is the one thing that the most people see. Some people think it is “all” a preacher does.

      • Jess Alford says

        Frank, You would be surprised what I can preach, with my Bible, a Broadman Commentary, and my Greek and Hebrew dictionaries.

        I could have misled you a little bit. The other 85% of the time, I’m still praying and thinking about the scripture no matter what else I’m doing.

  4. says

    There are many different kinds of men who are pastors and one answer won’t fit every situation. I’ll oversimplify for the purposes of this comment.

    Np pastor is perfect. Some pastors realize it. Some pastors don’t – or at least they don’t seem to. A few congregation members realize that the pastor is a fellow fallen human up front. Most congregation members think the pastor should be perfect and are often disillusioned to some degree when they find out that their pastor isn’t. And it seems that every congregation has those who get really angry and nasty about it.

    To pastors: You will suffer to one degree or another for your ministry. Inasmuch as you look to what Paul said about his calling for information regarding your own, you can consider this a biblical promise. Follow Paul’s example, therefore, and count it as a blessing. Remember, however, that you aren’t the only one called to ministry in your congregation. Every Christian has a place to serve in the Body of Christ and we are all promised suffering. Try to make it that your congregation does not suffer by your hands are you do by theirs, but demonstrate how they are to handle it when they are obedient to take the gospel on the road and end up suffering for it. Finally, you are not called to lead your congregation “as the Gentiles do” who lord over the people they lead. But Christ taught us to lead by serving. He has given you his chosen people to guide and direct with regard to their spiritual lives. When you get into the pulpit their spiritual lives are in your hands. Do everything you can to convey the truth of scripture faithfully lest you lead God’s people astray.

    To congregation members: Your pastor is most likely suffering as he should. Pray for him. Understand that he is not perfect and that he needs friends. Understand that you are probably not it. Having the pastor over for fried chicken on Sunday afternoon should not be a symbol of your high status in the church. (I’ve actually seen this before. It can get ugly.) The work on your knees for him and his family in private is your high status. You pastor is not perfect. If you feel the need to correct him on anything, go to him with the loving humility you expect from him. He is given to you by God as a spiritual guide in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Honor him as such. Also, he is not the only minister in the church. All Christians are called to minister and you have gifts that the rest of the church needs. Submit to your pastor’s direction in how you are supposed to use those gifts and be faithful to minister, especially in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Expect to suffer as your pastor does as you minister in the name of Christ and follow his lead in how to suffer well for the name of Christ.

    • says

      I am a man of unclean lips and clay feet. I just choose not to blame others. It is not an use and them issue. The church is not segregated by title. The church is one and the body overall is hurting not just the pastors.

  5. Jess Alford says


    Just one more little thing, Nearly all the people in the first church I pastored rode motorcycles. Several of my members wanted me to get one. My wife and I got our first bike, we rode alot of miles with my members. God used my bike riding in a strange way, I was known as the motorcycle riding preacher. Many visitors would show up at my church just to hear a motorcycle riding preacher. Many got saved.

    • Christiane says

      :) wonderful story!
      strange how God calls people to Himself
      . . . often, He makes use of something important to them within their own lives

      “He called the wise men by a star, the fishermen by their art of fishing. ”
      (St John Chrysostom)

  6. says

    Thanks for the story, I have found myself doing the “all things to all men” a few times. It has been a blessing to see God working outside the norm.

  7. Joe McGee says

    A young ministerial student informed me that ministry would be great if we did not have to deal with people. I have served as an Association Director of Missions for over twelve years and taught pastoral ministries in seminary and I have found that often pastors are suffering because they have a false view of ministry (This is not to say I believe that our brother fits this category). Many pastors have an opinion that everyone is suppose to obey them, after all they attended school and have been taught how to do church. The problem is that they have not learn how to lead their people to the right conclusions. Some preachers put themselves high above the people. However, Jesus set the example of leadership when he washed the disciple’s feet. Pastors must have a servant attitude. Some pastor take all rejections of the advise negatively. Yet, they have to learn that their job is to provide biblical counseling or principles and learn that if the people refuse that the people are not refusing them, but God’s word. Your job is to be found faithful and be willing to carry your cross daily. We are not serving in a playground but a spiritual battleground. Just a thought.

    • says

      Joe, I totally agree with you, and I am really, really not trying to put myself above anyone. My post is for those pastors who feel like they burning out, which we all know many, many pastors who are burned out. It’s the nature of ministry, the Apostle Paul experienced it, he was abused and challenged and run off. There are lots of hardships, but my encouragement is to remember the calling, and it doesn’t change, even when we are hurt. THAT is my point. Not that I am entitled to a smooth road or that somehow it shouldn’t be hard. That we need to remember what we are called.

  8. says

    This is not coming from someone who served in one ministry for 3 years and got hurt and left. I have served in 4 churches, 3 para-church ministries and been in Vocational ministry for 12 years. I know some of you have more experience, but I have been down a rocky road.

    I learned years ago that the “suck it up and just do it” attitude works for some, others need to share and be open. Maybe this is the wrong place to share and be open, so if that is the case, I am sorry.

    • says

      I apologize. I don’t have enough experience or wisdom when it comes to ministry to be engaged in this conversation so I’m signing off. I am a work in progress and to date don’t have the achievements to engage in this conversation. Again, please accept my apologies.

    • Jess Alford says

      Dan Barnes,

      I was asked once, what is a Pastor?

      My reply was, a Pastor is one that used to be beautiful, green, and fertile. But the sheep has grazed him to death.

      I think we all feel this way from time to time.

      • says

        I will have to remember that quote, thanks. I honestly don’t believe the issue is with the people, but more with the system of “achievement” that has been created and our American idea. I think too many pastors are more “American” in their work ethic and not biblical enough, and it creates a culture where we have to get more done and not feed the sheep. People become tasks, pastors become task managers, churches become assembly lines and it creates a culture that destroy too many. That is my opinion.

        • says

          Well said, Dan. That’s my opinion also. The expectations of the pastor in the Western Church is often opposed to what they need to be. I mean, we hear what the expectations ought to be and men are well-trained in fulfilling the right expectations in seminary. However, how many courses in handling church politics or establishing boundaries that the personnel committee of most churches will respect are there in seminary? More is laid on the pastor as the paid leader than should be. Congregations need to step up and own the ministry of the church.

          I won’t give any names, but there is a minister of music in my town who is preparing for this year’s Christmas program. It’s become a wildly successful program. Each year is a little different and a bit better than the year before. This year is no exception. In years past, he handled many of the details himself being an accomplished artist and finish carpenter as well as a gifted musician and leader. He could often be found before the weekend of the program spending nights at the church taking care of details. As it has grown he has wisely delegated more and more responsibility. He has a leadership team and several other teams under their care. No one, including him, has to spend the night at the church. Largely his job is to work on the music and the overall vision and conduct the choir and orchestra. As he has time, he goes around and gives his opinion on various other aspects of the program.

          This worship leader as he was sounds like a lot of pastors today. Today he is more representative of what pastors should be. But pastors can’t be that way unless 1) people step up to the plate and take over what the pastors shouldn’t have to do, 2) the pastors get out of the way and raise their people up to the task, and 3) other church leadership and the church curmudgeons stop getting their noses out of whack and stop loading up the pastor with more than he needs.

          BTW, this is biblical. It happened to Moses when Jethro told him to delegate. It happened to the twelve when they appointed Stephen and the rest to take over the business end of running the church so they could focus on what they were called to do. Paul instructed Timothy to raise up other leadership to help with the ministry of the church. It’s like Prego: it’s in there.

  9. says

    Dan – I’m sorry you are hurting and looking for an azimuth. I know that feeling well. Let me encourage you as you did for me.

    God has used you, is using you, and will use you when HE wants to do so. Sometimes we get benched to rest (remember the sudden departure of I & my wife from ministry) or sometimes to be tempered through water after the fire.

    He called me when I wasn’t looking and He will do the same for you. Enjoy the oxygen mask, the industrial sized fan, and the plentiful Gatorade bottles while it lasts.

    • Dave Miller says

      Subscribing and unsubscribing is something you do. I do not have a subscribe/unsubscribe list.