In my early years training for ministry a high emphasis was placed upon one having received ‘the Call’ into full-time Christian ministry. This came based out of Scriptural appeals like Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (NIV). Preaching to ministry students and young people often led to appeals to submit fully to the call of God into what would inevitably be low salary and poor working conditions for a higher calling.
There were and are positives to those responding to such appeals, but there are some negatives as well. Before I enter into that discussion I need to acknowledge that the world has changed since those early days of my training. My sense is that our younger people in ministry today (those younger than me) have often entered ministry positions with more realism and much less certainty about God’s call upon them. They may feel a definite call into their current position, but feel much less about their plight to a lifelong dependence upon the offerings of God’s people.
Those responding strongly to ‘the Call’ led into active and determined missionary endeavours and patience in the midst of trial in other church ministry positions. Without question the Church and the world at large has benefitted from the sacrifice and commitment of these individuals. To mention outcomes that shows benefits for God’s Kingdom abound. I for one am truly grateful. I believe the ‘call’ exists, but it has become less of an independent response and has gained more dependency upon the local church.
Saying the above about what may be a traditional understanding of ‘the Call’ does not mean that the Church has not paid a price for this position. Some of the shortcomings I have seen include the following:
– This emphasis on “Call” in the past often led to an overdeveloped pride in one’s calling. This in turn led to actions and beliefs of independence that was not accountable to the Church at large. An individual who feels like he or she directly hears from God has at times bulldozed ahead when a proper response would be listening and yielding.
– This emphasis on “Call” appealed to Type A personalities and top-down leadership structures that at times worked well, but at other times has left a wake of rigidity and dependence upon strong personalities.
– This emphasis on “Call” set up hierarchical understanding within churches. Those called or possibly paid for their ministry efforts were informally esteemed beyond what they deserved. Any individual in leadership is worthy of some esteem, but in the end each one of us are merely a part of a Body in which all are important.
– This emphasis on “Call” gave excuse to some for their non-involvement. Talented and gifted individuals could say, “I am not called to that.” (Anyone recruiting nursery workers hears this in various forms.)
– This emphasis on “Call” has led some to believe, in essence, that the Church owes them a job and a full time salary. Some believe they can do nothing else as it would be too worldly or beneath their “Call”.
I think we are gaining ground on the local church adding wholeness to our perspective on “call”. Times have changed. Pastors are seldom the most educated among their flock. With a little guidance, access to positive Biblical and spiritual truth is available like never before. I do not feel as many pastors the compulsion to lead and to give vision alone after a private conversation with God.
We have somehow gained more of an appreciation for the community that is the Body of Christ. I believe we have come toward the marker of loving the Church more with less of an inner compulsion to lead it. We need to have the realism and tact of this current generation tied to that inner ‘call’ directing us to serve Christ with outrageous commitment and sacrifice. God’s Holy Spirit is at work in our local churches helping us adapt. We still have some older paradigms to work through.
I invite you to interact with me on this subject. Your comments either ‘for’ or ‘against’ only help to fine tune a better understanding of where the church is at in 2013.
Your co-worker, Dennis