We hear the term “Calling” a lot in Evangelical churches.
> God’s call to the ministry
> God’s call to “full-time professional Christian service”
> God’s call to “bi-vocational wholistic mission service”
I think it has had a very negative effect on Christian ministry. Here are some problems:
A. It is a great excuse NOT to minister. “I would love to serve God in ministry… BUT… I haven’t been called.” It’s an excuse that cannot be analyzed or challenged.
B. It is highly subjective. The Bible talks about calling in very concrete terms at times (eg. Moses and the burning bush). But today, despite words like “God spoke to me and said…”, people generally say they are “called” if they feel a strong emotional pull to do something.
C. It is used to justify bad decisions. Someone is completely unsuited for a task but keeps trudging along because he believes to change profession is to reject God’s calling.
D. Calling tends to be confused with profession. Now we don’t just get called to serve. We are called to a “bivocational youth pastorate in a cross-cultural context”, or a “professional minister of music in New York”, or a “Barefooting, tent-making, ESL Missionary in Peru”.
E. Worst of all, it is used to divide and deny. Many seminaries will not train people who will not describe some mediocre set of experiences that they describe as their “calling”. Mission boards and pastoral search committees will reject people who can’t describe something akin to a “call”.
It is an unconscionable thing that a concept that is supposed to enhance one’s ministry has become a tool to keep people unused and ignorant.
Many people look to the calling of Paul as a guide for how we are to look at God’s calling. It was real… it could happen again, but it is no sense normative. Paul’s conversion and calling was so dramatic because he would have listened to God no other way. We should not seek to live in such opposition to God’s will that we could only respond by such drama. The vast majority of passages in the New Testament on “calling” refers to the call to salvation, open to all. The few verses that do indeed refer to a call to ministry, have had a lot of strange theological baggage tied to them. So…
-I don’t see calling as (necessarily being) miraculous.
-I don’t see calling as a unique aspect of the clergy.
-I don’t see calling as a test of service.
I see calling as a path, and a relationship. When Jesus spoke to Peter, Andrew, and others on the Sea of Galilee, he did not say, “I am calling you to a job as a professional apostle.” Rather, he said “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” It is like Jesus was saying,
“Be with me. If I go here, you go here. If I go there, you go there. Wherever you are will be home because that is where I am. Do what I am doing, where I am doing it, and it is enough.”