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I never felt a "calling to ministry." It just happened. I respect those who have had a calling experience to be in ministry, but honestly, these stories leave me confused. Isn't everyone who places their faith in Jesus and begins to follow him "called" into ministry? For some it might be serving on a church staff. For others the calling might be serving as a full-time mom or a plumber or an engineer. Each of these is a sacred calling. We all interact with other human beings, and we all represent Jesus. We are all called into a sacred vocation. We're all on mission.

Perhaps I'm more sensitive than most to making a distinction between those who are called (into full-time ministry as a pastor) and those who aren't. About one third of the people at our church are college students. We also have a lot of young families. Members of this generation have serious reservations about trusting the church. And they are wary of building a hierarchy of those who are "called" and those who supposedly are not.

When we label only career pastors as "called," what does that say about all those in the church who also have pastoral gifts? They may be using their pastoral gifts to lead a mid-week Bible study or to shepherd people in a small group. But are they "called" differently than the one who does it all week as a job?

To encourage everyone to see their vocation as a sacred calling, our church offers a class twice a year called "Church and Mission." We walk people through the theology of vocation, and challenge them to see their callings as sacred. When they finish the class and formally join the mission of the local church, we commission them in front of the whole church body, just as you would missionaries going oversees or when a pastor is ordained. In our worship gatherings we explain what it means to be called into mission and each person tells the church what their sacred calling is. You may hear someone say, "My sacred calling right now is serving as a full-time mom to my children, raising them in the ways of Jesus, and befriending other moms I meet." Another might say, "I am a university student and my mission and calling is to represent Jesus well on campus and at my job as a barista." In those commissioning times, we hear from salespeople, youth workers, and technical workers. We anoint them with oil, as a symbol of the Holy Spirit empowering them for their mission. Then many choose to kneel and we pray for them.

To communicate that everyone has a sacred calling and not just the "pastors" or staff at our church, we downplay titles. In our bulletins you won't find the title "pastor." Not that we don't have pastors, but we don't want even to subtly undermine those people who, in various ways, pastor people but don't do it as their job. We're careful not to use language that suggests some have a special calling while ...

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Dan Kimball is pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California.

From Issue:Callings, Winter 2013 | Posted: January 16, 2013

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Displaying 1–5 of 10 comments

Nigel Forsyth

January 26, 2013  7:56am

Hey Christine , suggest you try it ... There are lots of small churches where Im from thatcant pay a pastor so the pastor works. He still has to feed his family , while the other folk in tthe church work and feed their families , then the pastor pastors , and so either burns out or gives upor the church gets part pastored . By the way i wonder how Peter fed his family (book of acts ) reckon he went fishing again?? I doubt it. I thought the article , that didnt denigrate the vocational call but rather raised all our lives and vocations to that of "call" was spot on . would love the church being the church all week ,on building sites ,in offices at school etc /.

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Christina Carey

January 23, 2013  9:29pm

I also would like to suggest that in the coming years, we encourage "pastors" who would normally pull in their entire income from their job of preaching and leading, to move away from expecting full salary for an all-encompassing job of being the pastor and move their congregation towards taking on more of the tasks and duties that a traditional pastor does. Then the "pastor" can carry a part time job "in the world" and do the sermon for the group as his or her main job. A "pastor" having a legit job in the real world would hold so much more respect and weight with laymen and non believers and help pastors stay in touch with the outside-Christian world. I despise it when pastors are like a celebrity and separate themselves from the folks of the church. I agree 100% that we are all called to a sacred task that is no less worthy of honor than being a pastor of a church.

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Nathaniel Marshall

January 23, 2013  6:43pm

John, I think there is a huge difference in our day and age. That certainly isn't debated. Perhaps we've made a distinction that the Bible doesn't necessarily make. Is it sinful? Not necessarily. But it's one that doesn't NEED to be there, and in the case of the upcoming generations (mine included, as I'm 22) it might be more beneficial to do away with. My whole life I was aiming for the position of "pastor" within church ministry, all the while neglecting the shepherding gifts that God had given me and discounting them because I wasn't being paid as a "pastor". But in Acts, for example, the "elders" (Stephen, etc.) weren't selected by the apostles: the apostles put the decision of that into the hands of the people! They said, "choose from among you" because it was evident who among them was already walking in the role that God had called them to. Not clarifying who IS a pastor, or who has authority, might not be good, but making other callings second-rate isn't biblical.

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Dan KImball

January 23, 2013  6:29pm

John, I think I would agree but disagree with you. I think when a community group leader accepts the call to pastor/shepherd a group of 10 of 15 people in a church that is very much a call. If I understand early church history and the book of Acts correctly, there was no "vocational" call to ministry as we think of it today. Even Paul was the tentmaker and from what I understand most of the elders/pastors of churches likely worked other jobs but pastored/shepherded the churches. Wouldn't you agree?

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Dan Kimball

January 23, 2013  6:26pm

Ah! That is very truly ironically funny that CT put my title as "pastor" in the bio. I guess that shows the assumed tradition of that title always being commonly used as it is. I do "pastor" all the time in our church, but so do many, many others and often much more relationally involved in people's lives than myself as they lead the smaller meetings and groups in the church. When I write my title I always write "on staff at Vintage Faith Church" or "oversees the mission and teaching of Vintage Faith Church". But very ironic that it was put here for my bio line after what I wrote.

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