Seminary student Keith Twigg knows firsthand that the call of God is sometimes dramatic and clear. Having just turned 30, he was living in the Bahamas and working for a multimillion-dollar sports betting ring. For Twigg, it was a sunny life. "I had everything I wanted in the world and was totally content," he says. Little did he know that in just a few years he'd be a believer and a minister.
In the midst of what seemed to be a plush lifestyle, Twigg began to sense that God was speaking to him, sometimes even audibly. So he began reading the Bible. "The words jumped off the page at me, and I believed. Approximately two months after that, the father of a friend of mine led me to Christ."
Twigg packed up and moved back to San Diego, where he'd previously worked in resort management. Instead of rejoining the Southern California scene, he joined a church. "I immediately went to a class on my first evening back, and I immersed myself in my church," Twigg says. "My involvement took the form of volunteering in just about everything: homeless ministry, kid's ministry, small groups." This led him to start ministries focused on discipleship and assimilation. "The pastors of the church noticed, and they offered me first an internship and then a staff position," he says.
Twigg now works as the director of a multisite church in Montana andWyoming. He is also living out his dream of attending Dallas Theological Seminary through a distance-learning program of online and intensive courses.
Twigg's path from salvation to call to pursuing a professional ministry career is not only a testimony to God's grace, but also fairly clear and direct. For others, the journey to a ministry career is murky and peppered with questions: How do I know if I'm being called? What is a calling anyway? Is it a dramatic moment or something more subtle? Do I need to hear God's voice personally? What factors should I consider? Do I have to go to seminary? What about my "secular" career ambitions?
Professors and administrators from seminaries and Christian graduate schools have weighed in on these questions and delineate how to recognize and evaluate a call, as well as the next steps to consider.
What Is a Calling?
At its root, a calling is God reaching out to man in a way that is experienced subjectively, even mysteriously, by the individual. Oswald Chambers wrote, "The realization of a call in a person's life may come like a clap of thunder or it may dawn gradually. But however quickly or slowly this awareness comes, it is always accompanied with an undercurrent of the supernatural."
Other modern-day theologians agree. Mark L. Bailey, president of Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), says, "How [God] chooses whom he uses, and uses whom he chooses, is in the end a divine mystery, which should cause all to humbly worship him." He points to his own faculty as an example. "In a recent workshop, I surveyed our DTS faculty. Not even one went to seminary thinking they would be a seminary professor. Along the way, with a combination of gifts, God-granted opportunities, and the encouragement of others, post-graduate education was pursued and teaching careers began and still continue." As Bailey points out, those who hear a call often don't end up in the type of ministry they expected to be in at the beginning. But looking back they can see how God directed them.
"I find God's internal call to be quite subjective and even mysterious," says Alvern Gelder, director of mentored ministries at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He adds that Christians can trust God's sovereignty to direct their ministry plans.