The Sign Of True Calling
By now (I hope) most people who have read this blog before have recognized that from a young age I believed that I had been called to serve in full-time ministry. It had been my aspiration and goal for as long as I have been a Christian. In every avenue, I have pursued it and in every avenue, it has been denied. For a really long time I thought that this just meant that I needed to wait just a little longer. But after some recent events (which I am sure to go through at a later date), I have come to acknowledge and admit something. I don’t think I was ever called to full-time ministry. Now don’t get me wrong, I do think I have been called to minister, but I’ve come to recognize that my call looks much more like Paul’s call than like a local pastor’s call.
Let me explain. Many local pastors are called, go through some form of training, and then are hired on a pastoral team by applying for it like any other job. Now this isn’t a map to calling into full-time ministry, it can look a lot of different ways, but this by and large is considered the “norm”. Now if this process looks familiar that’s because it is. It is essentially the same process as any other job minus the issue of calling. You find your niche, go to school to become marketable, and then find a job by applying and buying into an organizational structure and mission. Ministry is similar, when hired into a pastoral staff those in charge of that staff are looking for someone who fits the organization, its branding, and its mission. This has become such a part of the process, that for many churches, hiring a new staff person looks more like a business endeavor than a spiritual one. Now, this isn’t about how pastors or staffing are chosen for a church (that post will be coming up shortly) but it is to say that I went through this over and over and could not find my way onto a pastoral staff.
A big factor in calling is evidence. If called, it will be evident to those looking for the called and that person who is called will leave evidence of that calling in the ministries that they are involved in. None of that was happening, the only times ministries had exuded true fruit in the way that is helpful was in things that I had initiated myself (such as this website). So instead of being a person working within the system, instead of becoming a pastor, I’m beginning to think I have more of a Paul calling than a typical vocational ministry call. Instead, I’ll be working diligently within ministry while at the same time working to provide for myself and my family. Paul intentionally did not allow the church to support his ministry because he did not want anyone to say that he was slanting truth to any one particular side. So he made tents for a living, and then spoke truth to the gospel community. Truth has always been an obsession for me, knowing what is true has been as close to breathing for me spiritually as anything else and because of this compromising it for any reason whatsoever has always been a great struggle for me. By working outside of vocational ministry, I am able to speak to Christian community completely uninhibited from allegiances of any kind apart from the gospel.
At this recognition, a sizable weight has been lifted from my shoulders. For so many years, I thought that pastoral ministry was my calling that being a person who sacrifices truth to love people is the call of the shepherd (which it’s not, but again that’s another post). The bible seems to support these assertions in that in every instance that there is calling, there is a great push towards that calling. In Exodus 3 Moses receives his call from God to go back to Egypt and demand that Pharaoh let Israel go. Moses didn’t wait, he didn’t go to school, become trained to be a leader and diplomat, he merely went. Calling and going are hand in hand. If you are called, there will be definitive immediate steps toward the fruition of that calling. Peter is called by Christ and goes immediately; John and James leave their father and all the equipment in their boat when called by Jesus for goodness sakes! Calling means that you go NOW to fulfill the purpose and mission of that calling, not that you take years to prepare and THEN go. This isn’t to rag on traditional theological education, but it is to say that we need to take a serious look at how we train modern pastors and church leaders and change accordingly.
There is so much more to say on this topic. So in the coming weeks I will be posting more on my thoughts regarding how churches look for and hire staff, and whether or not the modern conception of a “pastor” is really a textually faithful one. Much has been warped over the centuries with regard to how the church functions within itself, I think it’s time we start to undo some of that damage, and do our best to restore church structures that lead to authentic community. That is not something that I can do from within vocational ministry; it is only something I can do by standing outside of it and proclaiming the truth of God’s word with all its natural potency. I pray that this finds all of you well, peace and blessings and as always thank you for reading.
With Love In Christ
Justin (AKA The Nerdy Theologian)