Saturday, August 22, 2009

Discerning Your Calling

As I coach pastors and prospective church planters I ask a lot of questions about calling. As I've mentioned before there are many different views about this issue. However, I think there are 5 components to discerning and clarifying your calling.
  1. It requires an increasing intimacy with the one calling us. Without an increasing intimacy we will not be able to discern the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. We will know our calling only to the degree that we know the Caller!
  2. It requires an increasing level of self-awareness. It's important to have a good understanding of your strengths and your weaknesses. It will not be your weaknesses that create the most confusion or problem for you, it will be your blindspots. Know yourself.
  3. It is confirmed in at least 3 ways. First, it is confirmed by an inescapable passion. What do you always come back to? Second, it is confirmed by the community of believers. What are those who know you well telling you? Third, it is confirmed by the fruit of your efforts. Are you an evangelist? Are you a gatherer of people?
  4. The calling to church planting requires certain aptitudes. That's why we always encourage prospective planters to complete a thorough church planter assessment to see how they measure up to the qualities of successful planters.
  5. The calling usually flows out of a journey. Can you identify the "markers" in your life that have brought you to the place of planting a new church?

Before you launch out in a church planting venture, make sure of your calling. For an additional training and resources, join us for "The Essentials for Starting a Missional Church." Also, get a coach!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Calling: What Do You Mean?

I have the privilege of working with church planters from many different faith traditions. I've discovered that the concept of "calling" is understood differently depending on your tradition or theological orientation.

Our brothers and sisters that come from a "Holiness" background tend to view calling as a very mystical experience. Those that come from a more "Biblicist or Fundamental" background tend to view calling as a more rational process primarily based on one's talents or spiritual gifts. Those from a more "Reformed" or "Covenantal" tradition tend to think of calling as something that comes from the church or the "covenant" community. Who's right?

I've wrestled with this concept for years and have systematically studied it from Scripture. (See last post for a summary.) I've come to believe that there is truth in each perspective. There is something that has to happen between you and God (mystical). There is something very rational about it that comes from ones journey/experiences and gifting. And I also believe that the Body of Christ plays an important role in clarifying and confirming one's calling.

So, what do we mean by calling? From Scriptural study, from great theological thinkers, and from faith tradition I have come to define calling in this way. Calling is a summons from God, a strong inner pull toward a particular course of action and/or place of service.

I close with a quote from Os Guiness: The problem with Western society is that we have too much to live with, and too little to live for. Discover your calling and live it out with passion!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

A Biblical Perspective on Calling; A Practical Definition

What can we learn about "calling" from simply looking at the Scriptures? Here's what I see:
  1. OT – to summons; to request their attention; everyday sense “God called to Adam…”
  2. OT – to name; to speak into existence (“God called the light day…”)
  3. NT – synonymous with salvation (ecclesia = called out ones)
  4. NT – called to various roles, responsibilities, lifestyles, places, and positions (Rom 1:1,6,7; I Cor 1:1-2,9,24,26; I Cor 7:17,20-21,24; Gal 5:13; Eph 1:18; Col 3:15; 2 Th 2:13-14; I Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Heb 5:4; I Pet 2:9,21; I Pet 3:9; I Pet 5:10)

From these passages I have come to see 2 dimensions of calling:

  1. Our PRIMARY calling is TO Jesus (into relationship & communion!)
  2. Our SECONDARY calling is FOR Jesus (to live out our primary calling in a specific direction, for which He has uniquely created us!)

In his book The Call, Os Guiness describes calling this way; Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and his service.

With that said, here is a working definition that I like to use for calling: Calling is a summons from God; a strong inner pull toward a particular course of action and/or place of service.

On a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest), how clear are you on your calling? If you're planting a church you need to be in the 9-10 range. If not, don't plant until you get clearer on your calling!