Sunday Sermonizing: The Strange World of Calling
Calling is a weird and sometimes confusing word in the circles I’ve run in for most of my life.
And I’ve heard it all. We’re called to a people.
Called to a place.
Called to a ministry.
Called to preach.
Called to marriage.
Called to singleness.
Called to serve.
Called to compassion.
Called to worship.
Called to mission.
Called to a person.
The idea of calling can be incredibly nuanced and confusing, especially in the Christian world. I’ve had to convince previous organizations I’ve worked with of “my calling”. The idea of “calling” in most Churches most often has to do with vocation and ministry.
But we live in an age when “vocational ministry” isn’t the only way to make a difference in the world.
In fact, it never was.
And is that really the highest thing you can be “called to”?
I can tell you, it’s not.
To be clear, calling can be incredibly specific. I’ve experienced this sort of specificity three times in my life.
- In 1989, I knew there was one person I wanted to make this journey through life with. We made vows to that effect. We’re still walking through the beautiful and the terrible 30 years later, with no intention of stopping now. Called to a person.
- 1993 began a season of life in which my calling was to serve a group of people as a pastor. Called to a people.
- There was a season beginning in 2003 where I knew I was called to live in another country, learn that language and culture, and serve the people of that country in the best possible ways. Called to a place.
Nothing’s changed with number 1. Everything has changed with numbers 2 and 3.
To this day, I don’t entirely understand they why and the how of this.
But, I do know my understanding of calling has shifted.
Vocational “calling” is not absolute, objective teaching in the Bible. There’s no universal “call to preach” or “call to missions”. There can be, at least for a time. I’ve experienced this. But it’s not definitive. It’s not for all. It’s not forever.
There is a forever call to follow, though. And this is the important one. The call to follow leads you to (and possibly through) a call to preach and a call to missions. The call to follow means there will sometimes be paths through places of plenty, and at other times through places of desolation.
The call to follow means it’s necessary to observe. To listen. We sometimes have to wait.
The call to follow is actually a lot harder than it sounds. It’s fluid. It’s active. It’s personal. It’s alive. There are seasons - and they don’t all feel good.
But living in a call to follow is where we find great grace and great joy. It could be a place. It could be a people. It could be a vocation. It may not look like any of the above.
But, it will always be a Person. And who we’re with is always more important than what we do.