There is an old joke—so old, in fact, that it may be unknown to a newer generation and, therefore, recyclable.
A young farmer, standing in his field, observes a peculiar cloud formation. The clouds form the letters G, P, and C, and he thinks them a call from God: Go preach Christ!
The farmer rushes to the deacons of his church and insists that he has been called to preach. Respectful of his ardor, they invite him to fill the pulpit.
That Sunday, the sermon is long, tedious, virtually incoherent. When it finally ends, the leaders sit in stunned silence. Finally, a wizened deacon mutters to the would-be preacher, "Seems to me the clouds were saying 'Go plant corn.'"
If it really happened that way, it wouldn't be the first time there's been confusion about what it means to be called into ministry.
The concept of a call is one of the most profound of all biblical ideas. The Bible is riddled with stories about calls to men and women who, when summoned to service, went out and marked their generation in a particular way. Such calls had several commonalities.
First, in one way or another, they all originated out of the Godhead. God the Father called Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and Amos (to name a few). Jesus called twelve men "to be with him," and then sent them out to disciple the nations. The Holy Spirit called Saul and Barnabas and others to apostolic opportunity. No one in the Bible anointed himself or herself.
Second, biblical calls were quite unpredictable. Gideon, for example, responded to his call, "How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." Why David? Why Jeremiah? Why Simon Peter? And, of all people, why Saul of Tarsus who recollects, "I was a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent ...