A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post related to my calling (as a prelude to this post.) My experience really got me thinking about what we understand a calling to be.
Within the church world (Church), we have celebrated the idea of a calling into ministry. While I certainly believe many are “called” into ministry, the exclusive use of calling as it relates to a ministry career has diluted the power of the word and the scope of what God wants to accomplish through his Church. It’s similar to how worship has been stripped of its intended meaning and now solely elicits thoughts of singing and music.
“We all have the same calling. It’s a calling simply to obedience. That calling is a lifelong commitment. Our assignments, or what God tells us to do, however, vary in detail, complexity, and length.”
Why is this distinction important?
- It empowers the laity of the Church. Those sitting in the pews can hear from God and act on His prompting. Their assignments, whether in the Church, neighborhood or workplace, are as valuable as the minister’s and essential to fulfilling the Great Commission.
- It humbles the minister. Our “calling” into ministry doesn’t trump the call to personal obedience. God may be giving us multiple assignments that are overlooked because we understand our ministry is fulfilling what we believe to be the one assignment God has for us. Many times we justify disobedient actions (or inaction) with the greater good of our ministry work… Like preaching a great sermon on prayer, but neglecting to pray ourselves. Integrity and character can sometimes take a back seat in the vehicle of ministry and many times it’s our family who suffers (Read “Hate, Love, God, Family, Ministry“).
- It frees the minister (or missionary). We assume our call into ministry is a lifelong commitment. What if we understood the lifelong commitment as simply obedience? There are certainly those whose call into ministry is a lifelong assignment, but could it be that there are others whose assignment into ministry may be temporary? If you are living in integrity and with accountability feel God is leading you out of full-time ministry, it might just actually be okay to walk away. Which leads me into my final point…
- It encourages those who have walked away from full-time ministry. Ministers (or missionaries) who leave the church (or the mission field) sometimes carry the unspoken label of someone who just couldn’t cut it. No matter if they were truly led in a different direction, there is still that stigma of failure. We see the statistics of the thousands who leave the ministry each month in the US and it’s difficult to believe every one was from failure, moral or other. (Side note: Moral failures are the result of rejecting the lifelong call to obedience… See point two.) We champion those who move from the marketplace into full-time ministry yet judge those who do the opposite as loving money more than God. Could it be that they could do more for God in the marketplace than they ever could in the ministry? I’m willing to bet many simply have new assignments.
I’ve always said
“Trust God with what you know and He will take care of the unknown.”
In other words, be obedient to the assignments you have been given and God will take care of the rest. Your calling is to obedience and you must follow through on your assignments no matter the who, what, when, or where. Live each day faithfully in obedience and you will always fulfill your calling.