Decision-Making: Personal and Life Choices
“Basic Life Decisions of the Servant Leader”

by Wm. M. Pinson, Jr., Th.D. with Lloyd Elder, Th.D. adapted from SkillTrack® Vol. 10 – Decision-Making

The Christian servant leader faces certain basic decisions related to ministry and calling. Among these are the following: Have I responded to God’s call to salvation and service? Has God called me to a special kind of ministry? If so, what? Where?

“God’s call is a great mystery, far beyond our understanding. . . . God calls kingdom leaders to equip and build up churches.–Their chief work is to lead churches to carry out the Great Commission.”–Michael Miller, Kingdom Leadership, pp. 25, 34
  1. The basic call of the servant leader is the call to salvation and service.
    This call applies to all disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible reveals that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The invitation to salvation is clear, but a person must respond by repentance and faith in order to be saved. Without getting bogged down in a discussion of election and predestination, accept the fact that we are eternally lost without faith in Christ.
  2. Furthermore, the Bible makes clear that the call to salvation is a call to service.
    Therefore, every disciple of Christ is in some sense to be a minister, a servant to others, a need-meeter. If there is any doubt at all in you that you have repented of sin and put your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and
    Lord, do it now! The most important decision a servant leader makes is the decision to trust in Christ as Savior and Lord.The Bible also indicates that God calls some persons for special tasks or service. No second-class citizenship exists in the kingdom of God. The ground at the foot of the cross is level. A person called to special service should not lord it over others. In fact, servant leadership demands that a person
    follow the teaching of Jesus to be a servant of all.
  3. That God calls certain persons for specific ministry tasks is evident from several accounts in the Bible.
    Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Deborah, Isaiah, the twelve disciples of Jesus, and Paul are all examples of calling to special service. In each case, the call was not one to prominence and position but to ministry, calling for
    sacrificial service.

    “God’s calling is the necesary starting point in the life of a leader. There is absolutely no substitute. In other words, if you have not been called by God to lead His people, do not seek to do so on the basis of your own abilities or desire.”–Barna, The Second Coming of the Church, pp. 107-08

    But how can you be certain that God has called you to special ministry? And how can you know what type of ministry? And how can you know where? Each of these questions calls for decisions. Professor David Slover
    of Baylor University teaches a course for prospective ministers in call clarification. He shares with the students information and insights that help in making these basic decisions–God does the calling: “You
    did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name”

    (John 15:16). A person ought not enter a Christian vocation without assurance that indeed God has called.
Allen W. Graves wrote: “God takes the initiative in speaking to the individual regarding a call to the ministry. No (one) should offer himself for the ministry who cannot say, ‘I feel God is calling me to the ministry.’” (from David Slover, Unpublished Lecture Notes “Leadership in Ministry,” 2001)
Franklin Segler wrote: “How can I be sure that God wants me in the ministry? This question is asked by every serious person considering this vocation. The answer is not an easy one. The varieties
of human personalities and circumstances involved call for various approaches.  The call to vocation does not come to all alike. For one the appeal to emotion and mystical experience is greater; for another the appeal to reason and circumstances dominates. For all, there is, in some sense, a combination of these various aspects of experience.”
(from Slover, Unpublished Lecture Notes, 2001)
  1. What about the decision regarding a specific type of calling to specialized service? How does a person know if the calling is to pastor, teach, missions, music, administration, or what? Most persons who experience a calling by God to specialized service respond with a sense of obedience without a full understanding of what type of service will be involved. In fact, most persons experiencing such a call are not even aware of the variety of types of service. They simply commit themselves to do whatever God directs.

Bob Newell wrote: “For some, the initial call comes almost complete, with much clarity: but for most, the calling is frightfully vague. Actually the call is a pilgrimage, or a  developmental process, whereby the person seeks self-discovery, as well as more  information about the field of church-vocations.” (from Slover, Unpublished Lecture Notes, 2001)

Here are some suggestions for deciding about a specific type of service:
  • Evaluate God-given gifts. A person with no musical gifts whatever can pretty well rule out being a minister of music!
  • Seek information from persons in various types of service.
  • Be sensitive to counsel from others, especially to invitations from mature servant leaders to enter specific types of ministry.
  • Consider your personality type. An off-the-chart-extrovert is not likely to be called to be a researcher in a tedious field of theological study.
  • Assess your intellectual ability. God may have given you a high IQ to utilize it for careful research, writing, and study–perhaps as a teacher.
  • Realize that God may lead you from one specific type of ministry to another; don’t allow yourself to believe that what you are doing is what you will always do.
  • Other decisions focus on places of ministry. Where should I go to serve? How can I know when it is time to leave a place of service for another? To move or not to move?
“After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” –Acts 16:10
  1. Personal Reflections About Ministry
    Answers to the following questions may not come easily, especially if you are finding great satisfaction and fulfillment in a present place of service. But openness to God’s leadership is essential for the servant of Christ.
    These questions may aid you in deciding about specific places of service:
    • Am I open to continuing guidance from God on where to serve or have I “nested in” to the exclusion of God’s continual call?
    • Do I sense “my work is about finished here” or a “loosening of the moorings” to the present task?
    • Or even, do I sense that my flock seems about through with my ministry leadership?
    • Do I realize that a need does not constitute a call to a place of service; needs abound everywhere?
    • Have I prayed, laying the decision before the Lord: “Thy will be done”?
    • Have I sought wisdom from a very few trusted, Godly counselors?
    • How will this affect the well-being of my family members; have I asked for their input? Do I really hear what they have to say?
    • Am I in adequate mental and physical health to consider the new task/position?
    • Do I possess the qualities necessary to effectively carry out the task or serve in the position?
    • Have I completed substantial work in my present place of service? Would
      I leave behind an unfinished task that depends heavily on my continued contribution?
    • Have I considered any real or implied promises about staying put? Or, do my people sense such a promise?
    • Have I carefully probed the challenges of the new position?
    • Would I truly be going to a new challenge in ministry and not running from the difficulties of my present place; if so, is that “ok”?
    • Do I face up to the fact that there are difficulties and problems in any place of service?
    • Do I have a strong sense of oughtness about going to a new position offered me–a feeling that this is a right move–God’s direction?

Reflections: In making your decisions about calling and vocation as a servant leader, keep your mind’s notebook in proper balance – all your life decisions, big and small.



© 2010; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership