Personal Preparation for Ministry
Now that you know you are called to the ministry, the next step is how you might want to prepare yourself for a lifetime of ministry. This is one of the important first steps in your journey. There are practical issues that you need to deal with, especially in an Asian context, and the earlier you start learning those life lessons, you will be better prepared for it. Preparation for the vocational ministry starts when you sense God’s call on your life:
1. Develop and Grow in your Relationship with God.
When you handle the sacred things of God it becomes most easy for you to become secular. You take the sacred things of God for granted and routine and you become careless and callous. The Bible warns: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23. You “guard your heart” by continuing to develop an abiding and growing relationship with God through the practice of the spiritual disciplines and exercise. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) It is recommended that during your time of waiting on the Lord and preparation for equipping, that you build a good foundation with the Word, reading it and studying it from cover to cover. Get to know His Word! Read the teachings and insights of other spiritual giants of the faith. You might be able to learn a thing or two!
a. If you are single and unattached, you are free to make your own personal decision to respond to the call of God on your life. But as in many Asian families, parents do have expectations of their children in terms of their careers. That is a reality you need to deal with and not brush it aside. If you have not yet believing parents, it is imperative that you have a straight talk with them about what is happening in your faith life and a “change of career” for you. It is important for you to be a good witness in dealing with this issue. For parents who are believers, bless your child who is answering the highest calling in his or her life. Support their decision and not hold them back. What a privilege and honor it is to serve a God who gave His best and His all for us!
b. If you have a serious relationship with someone of the opposite sex with the view of marriage, it is important for you to share your sense of being called with your significant other. If he or she is not willing to be supportive of your sense of call, call off the relationship or let the relationship cool in order to have space for the both of you to evaluate your relationship. This might be the first of many of the price you pay for being a serious follower of Jesus Christ.
c. If you are married, the calling should be part of your praying and seeking the Lord together as husband and wife even before you start contemplating the call to the vocational ministry especially if the calling comes after you are married. It interjects a great unknown for the family that only a strong and abiding faith in God and His leading will overcome collectively. Even if he or she does not feel called to the vocational ministry your significant other plays an important role in your future ministry. He or she must be supportive of what you do, failing which, the relationship would not work and your ministry will not go anywhere. There are many practical issues to consider such as relocation, career change, starting over, change of role as breadwinner, loss of income and change of lifestyle. But these could become an avenue of spiritual growth when you experience the presence and provision of God and His leading as you face the challenges together as husband and wife.
d. If you are married and have children, you should share your sense of call with them so that they will know what to expect and to prepare them for their future role in the ministry. They should also be in the decision-making process if they are old enough and as they become partners in ministry with you. As a consequence of your being called especially for preteens and teenagers, many changes are going to come into their lives but you can make them as an opportunity for spiritual growth as a family as you pray and seek the Lord together.
a. If you have financial obligations to your parents, you should take that into consideration especially when your parents are not yet believers. Always maintain a positive witness to the family. (For the church, it should consider making special provision to help in this area. Your financial stewardship and investment will go a long way for the cause of Christ.)
b. Put your own financial house in order. Reduce debt or eliminate it altogether if you can before you start seminary or more critically, before you enter into the vocational ministry. Plan ahead for the years you will be in training for the ministry. Squirrel away a portion each month to finance your education. There is a real liberating effect on your ministry when you are debt free.
c. Tweek your lifestyle. Start learning to simplify your life and living within your means. Have a review of what you spend and what you indulge in. It may surprise you that going to have a boba or a cup of coffee at a fancy coffee shop less frequently and reducing your eating-out habit, for example, might save you a bundle. (You could learn to make those yourself and indulge in them all you want for less!!)
d. Just because God has His eyes on you and called you to the vocational ministry does not mean that you should have an entitlement attitude. Yes, God is going to supply all of your needs but how He does that is not for you to determine and expect. It is God’s prerogative and one should never assume God would do our bidding. It is your responsibility to take God at His word to provide for His servants. Most of the time, He provides through scholarships, secular work, ministry in the church or other means. Be thankful for whatever and however He provides because those are ways God is equipping you to trust Him in everything you need in your future ministry. Learning how to deal with the unrighteous mammon is one of the greatest challenges for a minister. When you have mastered it well, you will go a long way in ministry.
4. Community and Relationships
a. A person called to the vocational ministry is one who has to work with people. Ministry is a very people-centered “profession” and you have to learn to get along with people with the grace and the graciousness God has for you. Learn early to love people with their warts and all. You are God’s ambassadors. God is who you reflect in your life for them. Learn to be godly and Christ-like!
b. Learn to love the church in all of its imperfections. Be supportive, encouraging and uplifting in all you do. Learn to be humble and to serve with a servant’s heart. It is Christ’s body you are serving and building. And it is this body, the church, where you will devote your entire life whether you serve as a missionary, a church planter, a pastor, a minister or even as one serving in a para church organization.
c. Seek the opportunity to have secular work experience before enrolling in your theological studies. It is through work that you come to understand where your people are coming from in life and to experience first hand the dynamics of an honest day’s work. You will be better for it.
d. Having a call from God to be His special servant is a privilege but that should not distract you from giving your best in your secular work and calling. All the more you should strive to thrive in your profession or career not only as a witness to the Lord but to dispel the notion that it is when we are not good for anything else, we go into ministry. Such a notion is not uncommon in many secular or even “spiritual” minds. God deserves your best because He gave His best! In any case, God will use whatever He had given you for your future ministry. Be good at what you do.
e. Learn integrity and live integral lives. Operate with the highest moral standards in your work place and be a good witness for the Lord. Ministers get in trouble in ministry not because of a lack of knowledge but a lack of integrity and moral character. Build a good reputation wherever you are. There should not be a hint of impropriety in your relationships with people, especially with people of the opposite sex.
f. Build good relationships with people you work with and especially your family. Broken relationships need to be mended. Learn to live peaceably with everyone as it depends on you. This includes our relationships with “difficult” people in our lives.
Preparation for ministry is a life long process. Learn all you can from the “good” and the “bad” that life throws at you. But know that God will never permit anything He has allowed you to experience go to waste. Use those as opportunities to stretch your faith. If you allow Him and be patient, He is using all of life’s encounters to equip you and to mold you into a servant, a vessel, fit for the Master’s use.
Now you are ready to consider your next step: Choosing a place to be equipped for a lifetime of ministry.
當你清楚是神的呼召成為全職事奉時，你的下一步就是要知道如何準備好自己去面對這一生人的事奉。 這是最重要的一步。在開始全職事奉裝備之前， 一些實際的事情首先要去處理，特別在亞洲人的思想文化這方面。你越早開始去認識了解這些問題，並學習以正面的方式去處理，對你前面的事奉有莫大裨益。
作為一位傳道人，你要時常處理關於神的事情。但人性軟弱，久而久之你會很容易變得因循，粗心大意，甚至冷酷和世俗化。因此，聖經箴言4:23警告說：「你 要 保 守 你 心 ， 勝 過 保 守 一 切 ， 因 為 一 生 的 果 效 是 由 心 發 出 」。你要透過恆常並持久的屬靈操練與神建立一個不斷進深的親密關係。正如耶穌在約翰福音15:5，說: 「我 是 葡 萄 樹 ， 你 們 是 枝 子 。 常 在 我 裡 面 的 ， 我 也 常 在 他 裡 面 ， 這 人 就 多 結 果 子 ； 因 為 離 了 我 ， 你 們 就 不 能 做 甚 麼 」。建議你在等候神接受裝備前之期間，好好鑽研神的話語，將聖經從頭到尾徹底閱讀和了解，又參閱其他屬靈信心偉人的著作和洞見，從而幫助自己在神的話語上建立一個良好的基礎。
a. 如果你是單身，沒有在談戀愛中，當神向你發出生命的呼召時，你可以自由地自己做決定。 但，許多亞洲的家庭，父母在職業方面對子女實在有期望。 這是一個現實你要處理，不能把它放在一旁，置之不理。如果父母未信主，那麼你必須直接與他們傾談，誠懇地與他們分享在你的信仰生命中發生的事情，以及你為何改變你的「職業」。 處理問題時，要有好的見証，這是非常重要的。 對基督徒父母來說，祝福你的孩子，因為他/她回應生命中最高的呼召。 支持他/她的決定，千萬不要成為他/她的阻礙。 能夠被神呼召一生去事奉神，是一種特權和榮譽，因為神獻上衪自己一切最好的給我們！
b. 如果你正與一位異性認真地談戀愛，並且雙方都有意朝向婚姻的關係，你必需與你這身邊重要的人分享你被神呼召的感受。 如果他/她不願意支持你的感召，你應該停止彼此間的關係，或讓關係冷卻，以便雙方有空間評估大家的意願。 這可能是你忠心追隨耶穌基督所付出許多代價中的第一個。
c. 如果你已結婚，婚後感到神的呼召，甚或你開始深思有關全職事奉，你們倆人作為夫婦必需在這件事情上一同禱告尋求及好好溝通。因為，全職事奉為家庭帶來很多不知的未來，需要二人對神的帶領有著堅定持久的信心，才能克服一切障礙。 你身邊的丈夫或妻子在你未來的事奉中扮演著非常重要的角色。即使他/她沒有感覺到這個呼召，也必需得到他/她全力的支持。否則，夫婦關係就不能和諧，你的事奉也不會順利。有許多實際問題需要考慮，如: 搬遷、職業改變、重新開始、收入減少、家庭經濟支柱角色改變，並生活方式改變等。面對以上各樣的挑戰，夫婦二人若能同心，一起渡過，並在其中經歷到神的同在和供應，這一切便成為靈性成長的途徑。
d. 如果你已婚並有孩子，你應該與他們分享你的感召，讓他們知道該期待什麼，並為他們將來在教會中的角色做好準備。 如果孩子成長程度足以明白事情，他們也應該有參與決策過程的機會，並他們在事工中可以成為你的伙伴。如果孩子年幼，特別是在少年時期，他們在生命中會有許多變化，你們夫婦可以為孩子祈禱，並與他們祈禱，一起尋求主，將難題成為整個家庭靈性成長的機會。
a. 如果你對父母有供養的責任，要考慮他們，顧念他們的需要，尤其是父母未信主， 家庭中的見證十分重要。 （教會應該考慮在這方面提供幫助，成為神國度永恆的投資。）
c. 不要以為神選上了你、呼召你作全時間事奉，就意味著你擁有某一種特權。不錯，神會供應你一切所需。但，衪以什麼方式供應，這不是由你去決定，或按照你的期望。這完全是神的主權。我們永遠不應該假設神按我們的要求去行事。你的責任就是相信神的話，說: 神會供應衪自己僕人一切的需用。很多時候，神透過助學金、社會上的工作、教會事工或其他方式供給你。無論神供應什麼，或如何供應，你都要存著感恩的心領受。因為神使用這方法裝備你，使你在將來的事工中，將你所需要的一切信靠祂。作為一位傳道人，最大挑戰之一就是「馬門」，貪財是萬惡之根。當你能夠把錢財處理得好，正直廉潔，你事奉的路才能長久。