4 Ways to a Better Understanding of the Call of God

Have you ever struggled to understand how a pastor and church are matched?

You’re not alone.

The truth that many have discovered is that any pastor cannot serve any church. Pastors and churches are all unique. So it stands to reason that there is such a thing as a mismatch and a God-ordained match.

Many years ago, I came across this concept of overlapping circles. And what I’m about to share with you helped my understanding (I cannot recall the exact source, or I’d be glad to give the credit where it’s due).

This tool can be helpful to candidating pastors and church leadership groups who are looking at candidates. It can also benefit pastors prayerfully considering staying or leaving an assignment. As well, this isn’t just for lead (senior) pastors. Other staff positions can also use this as a decision-making tool.

We should always aim to know God’s perfect will for the local church.

From what I’ve seen in ministry life, the right pastor in the right place with the right people, that’s precisely what we should all want!

These overlapping circles can help us get a better picture of the call of God.

So, here we go.

We start with the top circle representing God. The bottom right circle represents the pastoral candidate. And the bottom left circle represents the local church.

Now let’s review the overlapping numbered zones.

We’ll go in reverse order to explain these various situations.

4. Only the pastor (candidate) and local church circles overlap in this DANGER ZONE. The church and the pastor are together, but God has been left out of the equation. This leads to a lifeless, Lodebar-like, hopeless state if we persist in operating outside of God’s will.

Consider these questions about zone 4. If God isn’t there, do you want to be there? If the local church and pastoral leadership operate without God, is this a New Testament Church?

3. God and the pastor (candidate) circles overlap in this good but NO TRACTION ZONE. However, there’s no forward movement without the local church getting behind the call of God. This is the default mode for too many situations (maintenance mode). The majority of the local church doesn’t want to follow the God-called visionary leadership.

Pastoral leadership can be sure of God’s will, but something is woefully amiss if the congregation isn’t following.

2. This is a good but NON BIBLICAL ZONE. God and the local church circles are overlapping. In this scenario, even though they are together, the scenario is incomplete without the right person accepting the call of God.

God always works through leadership that He anoints and appoints. Without the right pastoral leadership, churches get into a murky place that soon smells like self-righteousness.

1. Viewing our circles carefully, you’ll see that the number one spot is the only place where all three circles overlap. God, the local church, and the pastor (candidate) are all together. This is GOD’S PERFECT WILL ZONE. It’s a place where Gospel ministry is carried out by teamwork. This sweet spot of life and ministry is God’s perfect will, and it moves His Kingdom forward.

There’s no place I’d rather be than in the center of His will. There’s no church body I’d rather serve and worship with than one that lives in this certainty.

Can pastors and local churches change zones? We sure can. We are all free moral agents. Sometimes we choose our ways instead of staying in God’s perfect will. Seasons change, and so do people.

For example, pastors can be so effective in their early years that the congregation’s growth can outpace their ability to lead. There are obvious options. The pastor could resign and move on. Or the next step could be adding new pastors to help provide for the leadership deficit. And in combination with that, the pastor should be investing in personal development and growth.

Pastor, if you become convinced that you’re situation is in the wrong zone, it’s time to pray. Don’t make a hasty decision. Seek God, wise counsel, and gather information before concluding what to do. Whether you’re seeking God’s will for a new place of service or considering a Spirit-led fresh approach, I’ll be glad to pray for you and be a confidant.

These circles and explanations are imperfect. But I hope it provokes you to think deeply, pray with an open heart, and seek to be led by the Holy Spirit.

I’m going to keep giving my best for God’s Kingdom. I want my family and the local church I serve to stay right in the center of God’s perfect will.

Ministry is not simply a choice that I’ve made. For me, it’s a lifestyle of sweet surrender to God’s call. “The call of God comes with an insistence that will not be denied and can scarcely by resisted” (A. W. Tozer).

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