The Call to Ministry

In Mark chapter 3, we get a glimpse into the happenings of Jesus and the growing crowds that were seeking to be with Him. They were attracted to the miracles and healings. There is a clear pattern, however, that whenever Jesus saw this, He would pull away from the crowds and seek a quiet place. As the scene in Mark 3 develops, we see Jesus doing this again. He moves away and goes to a mountainside. On a secluded mountain, Jesus calls a handful of men to Himself, men He had chosen to be His key leaders. Men He had selected to be called apostles. This was a call to ministry. As He withdraws from the masses, Mark records the choosing of these men and their purpose:

Mark 3:13-15 — “And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.”

It is important that we look closely at this scene to see the purpose of His selecting these men. As I can gratefully celebrate over five decades of ministry, I must confess that my ongoing battle is to be in the middle of the action and desiring to see success. My flaw is that I measure ministry by numbers, results, crowds, buildings, and offerings. Consequently, I must return often to this passage in Mark to remind myself what Jesus desired in calling the twelve.

What IS the call?

If we read the passage quickly, we can easily be drawn to words that say, “…he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.” That appeals to me. I love the idea of being sent out and drawing the crowds. I love the action part of ministry. Unfortunately, I am not alone in focusing on the action part of this verse. Many want to preach, go out, see things happen, see God move. We get busy on the doing part. Many of us focus on how we can do this or that, or the impact we might have. We spend time thinking of ways to get things done, search the internet to see the latest and greatest methods, spend hours planning action steps, programs, and methods in order to gather the crowds. Ministry can easily turn into pragmatism. It can become addictive. Too many times, I have found myself in planning meetings discussing the next great method for reaching the multitudes, which can quickly turn into calculating the things that will attract the masses. Being “sent out” can turn into marketing plans and figuring out how to be relevant and attractive.

Over the years, I found myself thinking we had succeeded in the calling to ministry because our crowds swelled and our graphs were pointing upwards. I have reasoned, “We must be doing things right because the charts verify it.” However, if the needles did not point north, then frustration, weariness, and doubt filled my soul, and I would search for a new method. A new scheme must be developed. I would find myself asking, “What did I miss in this calling from Jesus?”

As the years passed, I went back to this passage and read it over again and again. Finally, the light came on, and I realized I had missed the most important part of the passage. I missed the very reason Jesus called the twelve, the reason He called me to ministry. It is right at the beginning. How did I miss it?

Verse 14 — “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him.” 

The Call to Ministry

There it was. He called them that they might be with Him. This is the first order of our calling. He calls me and every believer to be with Him. This is the paramount of the calling. The sending out and the performing of miracles were secondary.

The call to ministry is for all believers. And it is first and foremost a call to be with Jesus.

The call to ministry is for all believers. Everyone is called to some form of ministry. The foundational truth is that it all begins in being with Him. Jesus wanted His disciples to be with Him. To have authority to do ministry, one can not simply rush into action. The authority comes from being with Him.

This is seen over and over again in Scripture. It was seen in Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Mary chose to be with Jesus. Martha, with good intentions, missed the first step of ministry. She was busy, but Mary chose the primary thing, sitting at Jesus’ feet. It was Saul who rushed into battle without the presence of the Lord. It would later be the disciples who could not cast out demons. In reporting back to Jesus, He would reply that only by prayer and fasting would challenging ministry be done. Ministry begins at the feet of Jesus.

Whether we pastor a church, teach a Sunday School class, or serve in music ministry, the most important practice before we “go out” is to be with Him. As we go out, we focus on Him. We sustain the work of God not by our schemes but by our worship.

We sustain the work of God not by our schemes but by our worship.

Seeking His face, being in His presence, initiates ministry. Far too many times in our fast-paced lives we miss this. We rush to serve, to do, to go out, and miss the ingredient that gives us authority and alignment. Our greatest need is not the next planning session, but it is the next prayer session. It is the quiet periods of waiting, listening, being with Him. That is our call to ministry!

In a world that is spinning out of control, I realize that being with Jesus is the ministry. Being with Jesus and having a worship-filled life is the greatest lesson I have learned in my many years of ministry. Being with Jesus trumps all my efforts. May God remind us often that the calling of the twelve started with being with Jesus. His plan never changes. May the brief but critical words that Mark records be our standard for serving Him.

Copyright © 2023, Dennis Henderson. All rights reserved.

Dennis Henderson left the senior pastorate after 54 years to become the North American director for The 6:4 Fellowship. He continues to consult with his home church, Northlake Church in Lago Vista, Texas, as the Pastor of Kingdom Advancement and Prayer. He and Billie have been married since 1965, and have four adult children and nine grandchildren. Billie and Dennis have a passion to help ministry couples and support the ministry of prayer in the local church through The 6:4 Fellowship.