In the Church of the Brethren, the call to set-apart ministry is of God. The discernment process, while deeply personal, is not solely a private affair. Individuals are called by God and the church through both a profound inner conviction and the affirmation of such conviction by a congregation.
Calling begins in the congregation. Either a person who feels led by God to explore whether he or she may be called to ministry or a congregation who has experienced gifts of ministry in one of its members may initiate the call. Congregational leaders observe the spiritual maturity and commitment of all persons within their congregation, anticipating that some will be ready to answer God’s call to ministerial leadership. Congregations should provide encouragement and positive role models for those considering ministry. The process of discernment is critical for both the ministry candidate and the church.
The Church of the Brethren practices the “priesthood of all believers,” which means that every baptized believer is a minister and, together, we are all responsible for carrying out the work of the church. We also call out “set-apart” ministers, people whose gifts, abilities and identities we notice to be particularly suited for ministry and church leadership. These are the sisters and brothers to whom we entrust our common life of faith.
Calling is the work of community. People who are called into ministry experience that call in many different ways – you’ll notice quite a variety of stories in these videos – but it always happens in the context of relationship. In the Church of the Brethren, the work of calling out people into set-apart ministry is the privilege and responsibility of individuals and congregations. If you have been sensing a call to set-apart ministry, a good first step would be to ask for prayer and conversation with your pastor, church leadership, or trusted friends. If you are sensing that someone you know might be called into set-apart ministry, don’t be afraid to tell them!
To download these videos, find copies on the Church of the Brethren Vimeo channel.