by Sam Doerksen
I can still recall my graduation day: college was in the rearview mirror and I was filled with excitement, passion and a willingness to serve – I didn’t know where, but that didn’t matter. It seemed obvious to me that I was called to pastor a church! What an amazing call to follow!
But when I started to go through the process of finding a church where I could be their next pastor, I began to realize that fulfilling that calling is not just about feeling and being convinced that I was called by God. I needed to find a congregation that affirmed my calling.
The pastor and the church
A calling involves two sides: there’s someone who calls and there’s the recipient to the call. Following the call is not done alone. Think about this way: if someone were to say, “I have been called to preach in your church,” but the church says, “No, you have not been called to our church,” the calling doesn’t work. The confirmation of the call needs to be clear for both church and pastor.
Consider how we see this at work in Acts 13:1-3:
“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”
Here we see the value of the congregation praying for and standing with the ones that have been called to this particular ministry.
The purpose of the calling
The calling is to serve God in a meaningful way. Does God call us to do everything that comes to our attention? Or do we work together with Him, recognizing our dependence on Him? We need to know what He wants us to do and what He doesn’t want us to do.
The calling can be the glue that keeps us focused on the work that God has given you.
I recall being asked the question during my examination into the pastorate. “Who called you”? It was God who had called, even though God used people in the process. The answer seemed quite simple. Or perhaps it was the answer that I thought should be given. What if I had said it was because of all of my giftedness or abilities? Would that have been a fair answer? As time went on, the days turned into months, the months into years, and even into decades. All of a sudden the depth of the question returned. Who called you? This question became a very important one. Actually the answer was of even more value. God did. With this being the case, the grace and the strength is given to continue to do His work in the church. If this is something that I just take lightly it may not last too long.
Returning to the call
After a pastor has listened to their calling and joined a congregation, the next time they think about their calling is often when the going gets tough. You have heard the old adage, When the going gets tough the tough get going? I have found that when the going gets tough, we are being refined into a more mature minister of the gospel.
But what do we do when the going gets tough? We remember our calling!
Who has called you into the work you are doing? Who will sustain you? What is your part in making this work? You may need to step back and ask what is it that God wants you to do. He doesn’t call us to burn out or go beyond our means. Remember the story of the wise man who built his house on the rock? He had listened to the words of God. He survived. Does this principle apply here as well? Have we prepared ourselves for the task?
I would like to encourage those who have been called and are working in their calling. Continue to be faithful to the one that has called. Jesus has called you. In Matthew 11:28-30, we see this:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Rejoicing in the calling
But we need to remember, too, that even in Jesus’ time, there were those who chose not to follow Him – who chose not to listen to the call. An example is found in Luke 9:57-62:
“As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
God calls many. For some, the answer is no, but for others, the answer is yes. They followed – and we can rejoice that they did!
“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.”
As you serve, may you be encouraged and strengthen in the hope and strength that Christ gives. Be sure to revisit your calling from time to time. Get back to what you were called to do!
Let me leave you with this final encouragement from 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17:
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”
Sam Doerksen and his wife, Pauline, are the program directors at our Manitoba Kerith Retreats location. For more information about our retreats, visit Kerithretreats.ca
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