Divine Callings: Understanding the Call to Ministry in Black Pentecostalism

Divine Callings: Understanding the Call to Ministry in Black Pentecostalism

Divine Callings: Understanding the Call to Ministry in Black Pentecostalism

Divine Callings: Understanding the Call to Ministry in Black Pentecostalism


One of the unique aspects of the religious profession is the high percentage of those who claim to be "called by God" to do their work. This call is particularly important within African American Christian traditions. Divine Callings offers a rare sociological examination of this markedly understudied phenomenon within black ministry.

Richard N. Pitt draws on over 100 in-depth interviews with Black Pentecostal ministers in the Church of God in Christ-- both those ordained and licensed and those aspiring-- to examine how these men and women experience and pursue "the call." Viewing divine calling as much as a social process as it is a spiritual one, Pitt delves into the personal stories of these individuals to explore their work as active agents in the process of fulfilling their calling.

In some cases, those called cannot find pastoral work due to gender discrimination, lack of clergy positions, and educational deficiencies. Pitt looks specifically at how those who have not obtained clergy positions understand their call, exploring the influences of psychological experience, the congregational acceptance of their call, and their response to the training process. He emphasizes how those called reconceptualize clericalism in terms of who can be called, how that call has to be certified, and what those called are meant to do, offering insight into how social actors adjust to structural constraints.


And He himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some
evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping
of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the
body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11–12 (NKJV)

Be ready for whatever happens because it’s going to be a long
journey, it’s going to be a tough journey, and it’s not going
to be easy.

Jeff, Licensed Minister

Consider three professionals:

First, Adam. At thirty, Adam’s youthful indiscretions caught up with him and he was incarcerated. While in prison, Adam acquired something of a layman’s sense of the law by reading books in the prison library. He was able to gain enough rudimentary knowledge to serve as a kind of “jailhouse lawyer,” informally helping other inmates understand basic legal matters related to their sentences. It was there that he began to feel something of a call. As he describes it, “I felt a lot of pleasure in that. Not self-gratification. Purpose.” Upon his release, Adam spent his weekends volunteering at a growing neighborhood law firm. It was there that his decision to practice law matured. He approached the head of the firm with his intentions, arguing that he felt a strong pull to serve men like him: men who had made bad decisions but who deserved a second chance. Adam pursued a parttime apprenticeship in the law firm. Within a year, the head of the firm was delegating significant responsibilities to him. Three years later, Adam was named as chief operating officer at the law firm. The firm’s senior partner presents cases in court, but Adam is trusted with day-to-day mentoring and management of the firm’s lawyers. He holds a key role in the firm, yet everything he learned about law, he learned there; he’s never been to law school. Adam has only a high school diploma.

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