Unveiling the Difference Between Ministry and Calling

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Rabbi Eric Tokajer

Recently, I attended a worship service and the topic of the message was “G-D’s Calling Upon the Life of Believers.” The speaker to the congregation began boldly and encouragingly by reminding them that Isaiah was called to be a prophet to Judah, Jonah was called to prophesy to Nineveh, Peter was called to go to the Jews and Paul was called to preach to the Gentiles.

He went on to say that “If G-D called all these Bible heroes to ministry, then G-D also has called you to ministry.”

I found myself almost involuntarily nodding in agreement as he spoke along with most of the congregation. I nodded in agreement because, as a rabbi, I too had been “called to ministry,” that is until a few weeks later. I was listening to a different man speak in a different congregation and he said something so simply, yet so significantly true that it made me wish I could go back in time to that first congregation and shake my head no instead of yes.

You may be wondering what exactly was said at the second service? The speaker simply said “Paul was not called to the Gentiles, Jonah was not called to go to Nineveh, Moses was not called to lead Israel.” While each of the above statements may challenge your thoughts and understanding, the truth is that each of them is true nonetheless. 

The truth is that throughout the entire Bible, people are called to one and only one thing: a relationship with G-D. Look it up for yourself; here are just a few:

“I press on toward the goal for the reward of the upward calling of God in Messiah Yeshua” (Phil. 3:14). 

“He has saved us and called us with a holy calling—not because of our deeds but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Messiah Yeshua before time began … ” (2 Tim. 1:9).

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, make all the more effort to make your calling and election certain—for if you keep doing these things, you will never stumble. For in this way entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Messiah Yeshua, will be richly provided for you” (2 Peter 1:10-11).

“God is faithful, through whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Yeshua the Messiah our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).

The truth is that we as believers have become misdirected from our calling and focus on what we have been sent to do. I know that this may seem like unimportant semantics, but I assure you that it is not unimportant at all.

When someone is called, it causes them to draw nearer to the caller. When someone is sent, it causes them to go away from the one sending. When we focus too much on what we are sent to do, we can quickly get so busy doing that we fail to remember our calling. Our purpose and goal becomes our ministry, rather than our calling. 

Because we are constantly told that our calling is our ministry, we begin to draw near to our ministry, instead of drawing near to our G-D. We see what happens to those who forget that their ministry is not their calling every time we see someone in ministry fall because of pride and arrogance.

When we falsely believe that our calling is our ministry, then our ministry becomes about us. When we remember that our only calling is to draw near to G-D, then we will always remember that even while we are doing what He sent us to do, everything we are doing while we are sent has to be focused and purposed to help us draw near to Him. 

It is only when we are walking in our calling to draw near to G-D that we can hear the words that Isaiah heard in Isaiah 6:8 when he had drawn so near to G-D that he was able to see the very throne room in the heavenlies. 

“Then I heard the voice of Adonai saying: ‘Whom should I send, and who will go for Us?’ So I said, ‘Hineni. Send me'” (Isa. 6:8).

It is only when we fully embrace our only calling to draw near to G-D that we can be eligible to respond to the words “Whom should I send, and who will go for Us?” with the words “Hineni. Send me.”(Here am I, send me). 

And when we understand what our calling is then we can fulfill the great commision by going into all the world preaching the Good News that Yeshua shared, as we read in Matthew 11:28:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and ‘you will find rest for your souls.’ 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Notice that Matthew 11:28 begins with words that remind us once again what is our only calling.

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Eric Tokajer is the author of Overcoming Fearlessness, What If Everything You Were Taught About the Ten Commandments Was Wrong?With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, #ManWisdom: With Eric Tokajer, Jesus Is to Christianity as Pasta Is to Italians and Galatians in Context. Visit his website at rabbierict.com.

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Calling and ministry (Charisma Media archives)

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