Bonus Post! I know, you weren’t expecting this one, right? But there are only two more Sundays in Lent, and so I thought I would add an extra post, and this one seemed particularly fitting given a few interactions I had and observed over the course of this week.
The words “call” and vocation are terms used extremely frequently in my seminary community, and particularly at this point in the academic year. The year is drawing to a close, and graduation is just a short 40 days away – seniors like myself (3rd year M.Div. students) are beginning to seek calls, applying for them, putting themselves out there for churches, non-profits, hospitals, hospices, etc. to scrutinize, etc. before deciding whether God (not man) is calling a person to that location. Call is divinely contractual, not humanly or earthly contractual. It is a promise, a covenant made between two ordained parties to serve God honorably. Seeking a call is unequivocally different than finding a job. One of the most profoundly unique things I have ever been told about this came from a member of my classis; one minister said that once you begin calling a pastoral position, regardless of its location, “a job,” its time to walk away and surrender your ordination vows. Serving God is never a job – never a burden, never burdensome, never 9-5 like a job. Serving God involves being filled with the Holy Spirit, ordained first by God, washed by the water, and coming to the table with the understanding that it is not YOUR table, but Christ’s table.
Nothing about ministry is human; nothing about ministry is of the minister. Everything in ministry belongs first to the church, and second to those who inhabit it. The Holy Spirit gives the church life, fills it with its breath, and God ordains His creation in its various manifestations to serve the church.
Job takes God out of the picture, and puts YOU in the picture alone, all by yourself. “I got the job” is all I heard this week. Which is all well and good, and congrats to all who are employed! But in ministry, this is a troubling posture to have, as whose church are we serving? The church of [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE]? Or the church of God? Because if we are getting jobs and not seeking calls, then we are becoming self-serving individuals, completely detached from the larger purpose of serving the various members of God’s body. But in changing the posture from “getting a job” to “seeking a call,” the attitude becomes less self-serving and narcissistic and more prayerful, more focused on where God through the Holy Spirit desires each and every one of us to go in order to serve, not forever, but for the here and now.
This morning, I was blessed to be a part of my field ed supervisor’s installation service at Dutch Neck Presbyterian Church. This church has been through so much over the last several years, and has struggled to find the right fit in a pastor. Suffice it to say, the laity has held the church up – prayerfully, financially, educationally, in its preaching and in the performance of the sacraments. In every aspect, the people of God in Dutch Neck have thoughtfully, lovingly and prayerfully looked after this congregation, in the good times and more recently, in the bad. My supervisor, in his installation service, recognized that this partnership was not one of his doing, nor was it one of theirs, but was ultimately one where God was at the head, and each and everyone present was merely ordained to a life of service. Service to the church, to prayer, to education and to whatever was next for the church.
This really got me to thinking: every step I take as a Christian is not about me, nor is it of my choosing, but is ordained by God. I am ordained by God as a member of the church for service, and if I decide to be something other, or “take a job,” then I am not following God, nor am I allowing God to work through and in me, but am deciding that my plan for myself is far greater and more awesome than anything the great I AM could ever devise. How presumptuous.
The wonderful difference between looking for a job and seeking a call is the sheer fact that God is intimately and prayerfully involved in each and every aspect of the process, and cares enough to open the amazingly right doors and close the horribly wrong ones. Because lets face it, our human drive to want more, want the best, and just plain want will always come before the ability to see what is best for ourselves. But God will always have the best in mind for His creation, even if it might not look like what we had envisioned for ourselves.
Prayerfully consider when you’re considering a life change, seeking a call, or even looking for a job. Try inserting God into the picture in big life changes, and you just might find that life’s big and most daunting decisions look quite a bit different – less self-centered, and far more vibrant and filled with possibility.
God is doing incredible things with the church and in the world, independent of you as an individual. You personally are not the sole key to the revolution of the church, nor will you alone change the church. And if you believe this or someone led you to believe this, my condolences. But life simply doesn’t work this way. However, the church is headed in some amazingly dynamic directions, and if you are willing to lay down your ego, your desire to be the sole “doer,” and can work as a part of God’s created team of beloved ones to better this place called the Church, then the world can become a better and more reconciled place.
So how do you understand your call? Is it to be a doer? A discerning doer with a heart for what God has in store for you? Or are you someone who desires to find a job and “do what you want and what works best for you?” Important questions to think about, maybe even taking them to God in prayer.