“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” – Genesis 12:1
In my 14 years of pastoral ministry many have asked me, “Sam, what is God calling me to? Does God call only a select few? Why isn’t my calling clear?” Often when these questions are asked, calling is associated with a career (a specific job we do) or a place (a country or an organization where we do a job). To be honest, this association continues to lead many to feelings of failure, insecurity and discontentment and also to constant comparisons, indifference and inaction. For someone to be called they first need a caller, and a career and a place cannot call us.
In Scripture, we find God is the one who calls. He calls an individual like Moses, a family like Abraham and a nation like Israel to do certain things and to go to specific places. Jesus called Peter, Matthew, Andrew and the other disciples by name to repent from their self centred ways to a God centred life. A careful reading of the Scripture quickly makes us aware that there is more to calling than just a career or a place. While the call to a specific place or career may be clearer for some, the dramatic and crystal clear minority experiences of some should not become the majority expectation of all (Os Guiness).
Let us look at calling this way. The Greek word for church is “ekklesia” which means the ones that are called out. God calls His Church primarily to Himself than to an organization or a country or a career. A calling is not something the church chooses. The Church is chosen. Paul Stevens rightly states that in the Bible there is only one call of God that comes to God’s people, but there are three dimensions in that call: to belong to God, to be set apart as God’s people and to do God’s work.
In this sense, all are called, all are called together and all are called to every aspect of life. This understanding equips the church to live focused on God so that the needs and skills around us does not become our call. This understanding of calling also contributes to a deep sense of meaning and identity that is formed by whose we are rather than what we do. What this means is that even when we are unemployed or retired or disabled or sick, we are defined by whose we are rather than what we do.
So instead of getting frustrated with the specifics and pausing our whole life to figure out what organization we need to work for, what country we need to move to or what career we need to choose (although they may have their place), may we ask ourselves as people called by God, how can we with our existing abilities and opportunities join with God in what He is doing and be of greatest service to other people in the here and now?
Samuel Williams is co-founder & content director at Fluid. He is also the teaching pastor at Avenue Community Church in Toronto, Canada.