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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ministry Calling

In Christian circles, we have some "religious speak" - lingo that we use to describe different aspects of life in Christ. One of them is this notion of "calling."

Simply put, it means that someone believe God has called them (or someone) to do something specific. It could be as simple as a "calling" to fix dinner for you. Or it could be something as big as a "calling" to start a new ministry or a new church.

The thing is, when a calling is authentic, you know in the depth of your soul that it is God that is speaking to you. His Holy Spirit drags you into it and if you don't respond you know it's disobedience on your part.

The most typical types of calling I hear about (from fellow Christians) is to do something - like feed the homeless, go somewhere - like on a mission trip, or start something - like a new ministry.

Now the interesting thing is that I usually hear about these "callings" from God when the people whom He allegedly called are looking for help. They most often want money, but not infrequently they want you to dive in with them and help with the heavy lifting. The good news for them is that I'm generous with my money and usually like to help others. The bad news is that God isn't always calling me to whatever it is that He's called them to.

That's right ... God isn't always calling me. So what's up with that? Well, here's the thing. God created us to be in community with each other. He created us to be His servants - to exist for His pleasure. His plan is to work through us (obedient Christians). I believe we have to consider that when God calls us to do something, go somewhere, etc. In other words, He doesn't like to work alone ... and He doesn't usually like for us to work alone.

When God calls us to a task, He is also calling others to work with us. We need to look for those people - and join with them to build a beautiful house for God. So when I become convinced that God is calling me to do something, I should NOT ask, "Who has money that could support me?" We should not starting evaluating all our friends to see, "Who can I get involved to help me with this?"

The real questions we should ask are less obvious. When God calls us to a task, He has different answers. "Who else did God call to this particular mission trip, task, ministry endeavor, etc.?" Of those whom God called, "Who else (besides me) will answer that call obediently?" "Who else is willing to obey God like I am?" I believe these are the questions to ask.

It is summer time. The church mission trips are in full swing and the economy is in the dumpster. Existing ministries are dunning donors and potential donors desperately seeking funding to maintain their existing programs when the needs for those programs is mushrooming.

Many people that I know and love are asking me to support them in this or that mission trip. Just since the first of this year, my wife and I have given thousands of dollars to support special requests for mission trips. Sadly, we've had to turn most of those requests down. We don't have the capacity to fund them all - even if we wanted to. But the point we know for sure is that when we prayerfully consider each request, God often says, "No."

The truth is we are not all called to the same thing at the same time, or in the same way. Some of us are called to different things. I hope that those who are doing the asking will not begrudge those of us who must say, "No." I pray that they will turn to God and realize if He calls you to something, He has the responsibility to resource it. So true obedience to God's calling also means pure submission to God's plan for resourcing it.

We are never called alone. We are never expected to answer a calling alone. Perhaps we overlook those two points when we feel alone in our calling --- and get frustrated in our efforts to move forward - alone!

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