The External Call
“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty” (v. 3).- Acts 6:1-7
Continuing our discussion of how God calls people to particular vocations, let us return to the calling of a minister of the gospel so that we can draw some parallels between that and the Lord’s calling of people to other professions. We have seen that Scripture talks about the internal call to the pastorate. It is a noble thing for a man to have the inward desire to be an elder, provided of course that the desire is to serve other people and not to be served or to advance one’s fame (1 Tim. 3:1). In the case of the Apostle Paul, we find that he had a strong inclination to preach the gospel, a desire to be a minister that had to be satisfied (1 Cor. 9:16b). These are manifestations of the internal call to ministry, but as we noted, such an internal call need not be limited to the pastorate. God has created people with various needs and desires, and part of the call to love one another involves working in vocations that help meet these needs and desires. A strong desire for a particular line of work or a sense that one is called to a specific vocation can be evidence that the Lord is calling one to that vocation, whether the vocation is that of a doctor, homemaker, store manager, plumber, custodian, computer programmer, or any other lawful line of work.
In the case of the call to the pastorate, most denominations have recognized that the inward call in itself is not sufficient for ordination. Because we are fallen, we can deceive ourselves and think we are hearing from the Lord when we are really just seeking to advance ourselves or are motivated to seek full-time ministry for the wrong reasons. That is why the church also stresses the external call to ministry. If a man feels called by God to the pastorate, this call must be confirmed by other Christian leaders. They must agree with him that he has the gifts, temperament, and other qualifications for the pastorate. Other men who are elders in the church need to be led by the Holy Spirit to see that the man who senses an external call is really hearing from the Lord. Even laypeople play a role in the external call to ministry by affirming the aspiring minister’s teaching gifts and skills. In today’s passage, we read about the external call given to the first deacons of the church (Acts 6:1-7). The church had to seek out men who showed evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
God also works through external means to call people to other vocations. If you desire a certain line of work, you should expect others to affirm that you have what it takes for that vocation. That way, you can be sure your sense of inward calling is not self-deception.
Sometimes the external call to a particular vocation comes before a man or woman receives an internal call. If several individuals are noticing particular gifts in you or are suggesting that you pursue a certain line of work, it is worth taking their advice seriously and considering whether they might be right even if you have not yet felt an internal call. There is wisdom in a multitude of wise counselors (Prov. 15:22).
Passages for Further Study
1 Samuel 16