I wrestled with this question for years: when is the right time to enter the ministry? A little background might help. The Lord Jesus saved me at sixteen and I experienced a pretty radical transformation. I knew I desired to serve Him with my life somehow. So you could say that my call to ministry came soon after my conversion as a teenager. But I knew that I lacked training, so I went to Bible college and seminary. That took approximately 10 years of my life—I also gained a cute wife and three precious kids during that time. But over those years I wrestled with when I would be “ready” to begin full-time ministry. Even between college and seminary I wrestled with the decision to either find a ministry position or further my education. I think it is right to say that for many years I did not believe that I was ready. A quote that I stumbled across today during my sermon prep may have helped me in those days and may be a help to someone else in the future:
“No matter how much exegesis, theology, and counseling one has studied, one is never ‘prepared for the ministry.’ A genuine call to ministry always calls us to that which we are not adequately prepared. It is only in awareness of such that the Christian experiences the presence and promise of Jesus Christ, and learns to depend not on human capabilities but on the one who calls and in the power of the proclamation to authenticate itself.” (James Edwards The Gospel of Mark, p. 183)
Now I fully trust in the sovereignty of God and His timing for me to enter ministry. Furthermore, I think there is wisdom in waiting a little longer to enter ministry rather than taking a pastorate early in life. Life experience is a huge help in ministry and I know very few men in their early twenties who have the maturity to shepherd. But for myself, there may have been more of a tendency to trust in developing my own capabilities rather than depending on Christ and His strength. With that said, when is the right time to enter ministry? My answer: when you are keenly aware that your own human capabilities are nothing and the presence and promise of Christ are everything!