Arguably no work equals Charles Bridges’ (1794 – 1869) assessment of the call of God on someone’s life and the responsibility of those involved. In Bridges’ book, The Christian Ministry, he places the responsibility of determining one’s call into the ministry upon the conscience of the individual and the local church to which he is committed. Bridges calls this evaluation process the internal and external call of God:
The external call is a commission received from and recognized by the Church, not indeed qualifying the minister, but accrediting him, whom God had internally and suitably qualified. This call communicates therefore only official authority. The internal call is the voice and power of the Holy Spirit, directing the will and the judgment, and conveying personal qualifications. Both calls, however-though essentially distinct in their character and source-are indispensable for the exercise of our commission
Bridges states that for an individual to know he is called of God to serve in the ministry he must have received an internal call, which is the God-given desire within him to do the work of the ministry and his own conviction that he has been gifted and empowered by God’s Spirit to do so.
This person must also possess an external call, which is the affirmation from the local church that this person possesses the gifts and godly character suitable for a Christian minister. Bridges, Charles Spurgeon, and many other godly men, whom God used in the past to prepare those called into the ministry, all agree that both the internal and external calls are important for a person to possess in order to enter into the work of the ministry.
Thus, it is essential for you to possess the God-given desire for the work of the ministry and the affirmation of a local church that you should pursue the work. Allow them to test and train you so that they are equipped to affirm you, or not to this fine work. Though practically lost today, both callings are essential to have confidence that you have truly been called into the ministry.