Who, What, and Where

Yesterday I was talking to a good friend about his next ministry assignment and what is most compelling to him about his next step in vocational ministry. We talked about which is more important to him during this next phase of his life—the who, the what, or the where. Through my years in ministry, I have noticed people describe their commitment or calling to a specific place of ministry differently – often leading with either what, who, or where.

The What:

Some lead with “what” they do, the ministry task they have embraced. “I am called to preach” or “I am called to serve students.” Now, of course, there is biblical precedent for being called to a task. God called Noah to build an ark, Nehemiah to rebuild a wall, and Paul to preach to the Gentiles.

The Who:

Others lead with the “who” they are serving alongside. They speak with affection about the team they are honored to serve alongside or the leader whom they believe will develop them for the future. The location and even the task seem secondary. There is biblical precedent for sensing a call to serve alongside others (Paul and Barnabas, for example).

The Where:

Others lead with the “where”—the location they believe the Lord has called them to. They speak of a calling to a specific city or community. Their passion for the location is so strong that the ministry task is a mere detail, one that can change without any loss of worth or identity. There is biblical precedent for a commitment to a specific location (Paul’s call to Macedonia, for example).

A few thoughts:

  • I find that the longer someone is in ministry, the more the “who” and the “where” matters. When one first enters vocational ministry, the “what” seems really attractive. Over time, you long to serve alongside like-minded brothers and sisters in a community you would give your life for even if your role evolves and changes.
  • If you are honored to find yourself in a ministry role where you are passionate about all three—the what, the who, and the where—you are incredibly blessed. Ministry is most fulfilling when you are passionate about the what, the who, and the where. Loving what you do, with whom you do it, and where you do it is an amazing ministry sweet spot.
  • There is great danger in being only a “what,” “who,” or “where” leader. “What” only leaders often love what they do more than the people they serve or the people they serve alongside. Ministry can easily become about them and the opportunity to utilize their gifts. “Who” only leaders can drift into valuing the relationships more than valuing the health of the ministry. “Where” only leaders can lose focus on important ministry functions while simply loving where they serve.

May the Lord be gracious to us and give us a deep passion for all three – the who we serve alongside, the community in which we serve, and the task He has given us.


  1. says

    Hey Eric,
    What a great post to help individuals discern transition! This could easily be sketched out into a venn diagram!

    The other filter I like using in this conversation is to be aware where our strength, passion, and the organizational need meet (another venn diagram). To find a place where the who, what, and where meet as well as the place where one’s strength, passion, and organizational need meet together is a powerful place to be.

  2. Mark Dance says

    Thank you Eric for this fresh perspective on how to discern our specific ministry assignments. I agree that all three aspects are important.

  3. says

    Maybe the question to ask is, “Why do I serve?” Figuring out the why gives meaning to the what, who, and where. Thoughtful article, by the way. I enjoy reading your posts.

  4. eric says

    Daniel & Mark — thanks so much for the encouragement. It is a powerful place to be Daniel.

    Edmond — that is a good word. If the “why” of serving is not because Christ served us — we will be empty regardless of the who, where, and what.

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