The Call of God, Ministerial Credentials, & Preparation
1. How Does God Call People?
There are at least two types of calling that come from God:
The first type of call extends and applies to all Christians. Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, NLT). This is a general call to all believers to follow Jesus, giving Him first priority in our lives.
The second type of call is to vocational ministry, when following Jesus involves a more specific, leadership-oriented direction for life, like serving as a pastor or missionary. Some of Jesus’ followers had been fishermen. They had already accepted a general call to follow Him, but Jesus added a more specific call to become His disciples, followers then known as apostles, as their primary focus in life: “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” (Luke 5:10, NLT). This was their response to the call, “And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus” (Luke 5:11, NLT). A call from God is more than a career; it is a life direction from Him to fully serve Him.
2. How Can I Know I am Called to Vocational Ministry?
God speaks in a variety of ways, often revealing His call through more than one method as a confirmation. Some confirmations are inward while others are outward. Because He is God, He is not limited! However, here are some of the frequent ways, useful like gauges, through which the Lord speaks about His call:
It is not the most frequent way God communicates His call but, when He does, it is dynamic, maybe even breathtaking. Read about the Apostle Paul’s call, as described in Acts 9.
Unlike the instantaneous revelation, when the entire picture of God’s call is revealed, often the Lord unpacks His will by pieces and allows people to digest and adjust to an ongoing revelation about His will.
Experiences, circumstances, Scripture, mentors, counselors, teachers, words of knowledge, prayer, tarrying in His presence, impressions from the Holy Spirit, peaks, valleys, milestones. God frequently includes these means and experiences to communicate His call to serve.
Most frequently, God reveals His will and call when people who love Him are already faithfully following and worshipping Him with their lives.
As with the Apostle Paul, who was then known as Saul, a hate-filled enemy of the church and Jesus, God sometimes calls people to a saving relationship with Jesus and provides a direction for life and service simultaneously.
We cannot live by allowing our emotions to control our decisions and outlook; however, emotions are a gift from God and He sometimes speaks through emotions as a witness or confirmation of His will. Frequently, this includes a broken heart for people who do not know Jesus as Savior and Lord.
God makes it clear that our minds must be in alignment with Him in order to understand and be all that He desires, “… let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NLT).
If God has called you into ministry for Him then it is likely godly leaders have noticed something about you that validates God’s call. They observe how God has gifted you with enabling characteristics, heart, and abilities that resonate with being a vocational minister. This is more than just close friends affirming whatever you choose to do. It is confirmation beyond buddy support. It is recognition by key people that God is shaping you for service.
This is an undeniable, inner tug that is like a push from the Holy Spirit. “Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!” (1 Corinthians 9:16, NLT).
3. If I Believe I am Called, What Should I Do?
Pray about it. Ask the Lord for clarification, submitting to the fact that God always operates on His timetable instead of yours. Counsel with your pastor and other spiritual mature people. If they encourage you about God’s call upon your life, then consult with your Open Bible regional credentials advisor. This is extremely important: Roll up your sleeves! Be committed to and involved with your church’s ministries. Serve whenever and wherever you have opportunity. Be busy for the Lord while learning how He can best use you. You will learn more both about His anointing and your heart, abilities, and gifts. Vocational ministry does not suddenly start upon receiving a ministerial credential; it begins well before that with service that helps point you to and prepare you for vocational ministry. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23, NIV).
4. How Do I Prepare for Vocational Ministry?
A ministerial credential does not in itself make a person a minister. Rather, a ministerial credential is conferred after application, confirmation of the applicant’s call and enablement, and verification that the applicant possesses leadership gifts and ministry competencies that Open Bible Churches believes are important qualifications for vocational service. There are two primary qualifications to become a credentialed minister: leadership gifts from God (no amount of education can substitute) and preparation through training, experience, and spiritual seasoning and maturation.
The psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:11 (NLT): “I have hidden your word in my heart.” In 2 Timothy 2:15 (NLT) we are instructed to “Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” Open Bible Churches is founded on a commitment to the understanding, interpretation, and application of truth from the Bible, God’s Word for life today. Becoming a credentialed minister who loves people and points them to answers from the Bible necessitates developing competency with the Bible, interpreting and applying its truths, and understanding how to live by them.
A credentialed minister must have more than knowledge of the Word and the capacity to interpret it. A minister must also be personally established on a firm spiritual foundation, to intimately know and walk with the Author of the Bible, experiencing a growing depth of relationship with and anointing from the Lord that enables and sustains a loving and grace-filled ministry presence with people. The Apostle Paul wrote: “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me” (Philippians 3:12, NLT). Spiritual formation involves ongoing growth in relational intimacy with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and personally incorporating spiritual disciplines which build faith-filled endurance and stability in testimony, and model joyful consistency in message and leadership.
An outgrowth of gaining Bible knowledge, of faithfully interpreting it, and establishing a depth of spiritual formation is realizing the importance of adhering to biblical truth in decisions and conduct. Open Bible Churches is decidedly evangelical and charismatic in persuasion, trusting and believing that the inspiration, promises, directions, and corrections for life in God’s Word and the gifts of the Spirit are vital and in no way diminished today. A person who desires to become an Open Bible minister must be in theological alignment with Open Bible’s biblical convictions regarding core truths for Christian living.
Passionless ministry is merely going-through-the-motions ministry. An Open Bible minister must do more than grasp the church’s purpose and mission. That minister must be committed from the heart and soul level to active engagement in the mission, to become God’s agent on assignment. Being missionally passionate means not waiting for people to come to church to hear about Jesus; it means going to them. Before ascending to heaven, Jesus proclaimed, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT). An Open Bible minister must be eager to lead and invite others to follow in pursuit of Jesus’ command.
Every organization or denomination develops and follows “rules for the road,” policies and procedures that provide a foundation for purpose, mission, relationships, leadership, and ministries coordination. An Open Bible minister needs to understand and identify with who and what Open Bible Churches is and desires to be. The Open Bible Manual provides source and guidance for all of the above. Open Bible Churches’ mission is to globally make disciples, develop leaders, and plant churches. Every person and church can pursue that mission individually, but Open Bible is committed to the belief that ministry effectiveness is multiplied by working together rather than as disconnected islands. The resulting strength, encouragement, and mutual accountability lead to fruitfulness.
It is important for a minister to understand that leadership is not lordship. Jesus made a distinction between common cultural definitions of leadership and a new understanding of leadership: “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26, NLT). The first leadership “skill” is understanding this character quality servant leadership. Effective leaders communicate through both Spirit-enabled gifting and developed skills, a blending of Spirit and personal work. In addition to learning how to lead by casting vision, organizing, and influencing, a minister must also learn how to develop relationships and work with people. People skills translate into leadership skills.
A credentialed minister is in the communication business and leads by communication example. Ephesians 4:15 declares: “we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church” (NLT). Ephesians 4:29 additionally states: “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (NLT). It is imperative that a minister is committed to developing and refining communication skills – allowing the Holy Spirit to anoint – learning presentation, teaching, and writing skills with the objectives of winning people to Christ and leading them to become disciples of Jesus, or doers of the Word. “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24, NLT).
While the competencies defined above are important to the development of ministers, individuals also have personal developmental needs. Open Bible believes in providing or directing ministers to training that develops and refines distinctive gifts or compensates for areas of leadership deficiency. Personal coaching encourages and resources ministers for continued spiritual and leadership growth. Ephesians 2:10 declares: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (NLT). A minister’s coach is committed to helping that minister discover and effectively focus on those good things. The Apostle Paul had a coach in Barnabas. Paul became a coach to Timothy. A ministerial coaching relationship includes a system of accountability that is motivated by Proverbs 27:17 (NLT): “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”
5. Types of Ministerial Credentials
• Basic Ministerial License – This is an entry level credential. View Course Requirements
• Certified Ministerial License – For ministers with additional seasoning and development of ministerial competencies. View Course Requirements
• Ordination – Conferred upon ministers who have achieved five or more additional years of faithfulness and fruitfulness in leadership, who have refined their ministerial competencies. View Course Requirements
6. Pathways of Preparation
If a ministerial applicant shows evidence of leadership potential, demonstrates character in relationships and conduct, and is being faithful to God’s first calling to be a follower of Jesus, we can help that applicant become a credentialed minister. The following pathways can lead to achieving competencies required for ministerial credentials by completing the ministry training program, or combination of the programs of Open Bible-certified colleges, institute, or schools of ministry:
- Inste Global Bible College (both local church facilitated and online)
- New Hope Christian College (Eugene, Oregon)
- Discover Ministry School (Live Stream)
- Harvest Bible College (Des Moines, Iowa)
- Legacy School of Ministry (Rapid City, South Dakota)
- Toledo School of Ministry (Toledo, Ohio)
- Acquire, Open Bible’s online ministerial training and coaching program.
- Completion and graduation from the ministry training program of an approved, non-Open Bible college, institute, or school of ministry.
7. How to Get Started
Let’s get acquainted! Start by submitting the easy-to-complete “Getting Acquainted” form on this page.