As a preacher's kid, my youth was all about church. We discussed ministry the way some families discuss sports. When a new pastor or leader gave his first sermon, we hoped it would include an exciting story of his "calling." In fact, we were never as concerned about his resume as we were about his calling. We didn't want a businessman. We wanted "God's man." We were confident that "the called" would not lead us down the wrong path.
I'm consumed with what it means to be called. We all have talents, and even those who volunteer to clean Sunday school rooms are "called" to be helpers. Every volunteer, teacher, and nursery worker is important to God's work. Yet when we elevate leaders, teachers, and those who impact evangelism in the church, shouldn't we pray for them to have a specific calling? Will their influence and ministry have greater impact because they are called? Is there a deeper calling that goes beyond just being "willing" to do the job?
The term "called" refers to the way Jesus called his disciples. Many biblical characters made important contributions, but it was the "called" disciples who delivered the most impact. Their spiritual accomplishments highlight the idea that God's anointed work will take us down a different path.
What does "the calling" look like? It would be nice if called people looked like actor Charlton Heston when he descended the mountain as Moses in Cecil B. DeMille's production of The Ten Commandments. He climbed the mountain with brown hair and returned with white hair and a beard. If the called exhibited a physical change, it would be easy to distinguish their ministry. Instead, those who are called experience an internal change. Their eyes are fixed on a bigger goal, and their actions are always filtered through God's Word. Yes, that's the mark of a Christian as well. A called person however, will jump to the big picture even faster. For example, a called person might struggle with anger, but when faced with a difficult situation his or her calling provides the necessary power to overcome human flaws and quickly become a peacemaker. God's universal plan will always win over personal desires.
Should we pray for "a calling"? Absolutely! I believe we all have a place in God's plan and we'll be more successful if we're in tune with the master's call. Ephesians 4:1 instructs us to "live a life worthy of your calling." Paul goes on to promote unity within the church and to explain that the gifts of God are for the edification of the body of Christ. In other words, we should pray to be unified, to be called, and to strive for holiness.
When asked, one pastor felt his calling required more of him than others. He pushed to be more accessible, to be a living example of Christ's teaching, and to give 150 percent to the body of Christ. He provided for his home, but everyone understood that God's work came first.
Another church leader explained that his calling was to be the example that others needed. "How can we teach God's commands if we can't live them? I exemplify that it is possible to live a holy life. It's hard, but we can do it!"
Dr. Crocker looked into the distance. With a determined look he responded, "God owns me. Period. I am completely and totally his. When you are called, you will do extraordinary things because you are always obedient to God. God uses the obedient Christian."
I've felt that calling. Focused on a specific spiritual issue, my eyes twinkle, my voice raises a notch, and I feel as if every cell in my body has just been elevated to alert status. My mind kicks in with reasoning powers that aren't available for other issues. When I'm consumed by my calling—for a split second a spotlight hits and I recognize its heavenly origin. I am both exhilarated and humbled. I rejoice in every second of enlightenment. All too soon the moment is over. The article, conversation, teaching session is put aside. The spotlight dims and I put the "calling" back in the box as if this gift from God were only a loan.
But what if I didn't put it back in the box? What if God meant for each of us to make it permanent? What if he expected us to live our calling 24/7? Should it become a permanent part of us until it changes who we are? What if it became the burning bush that engulfed our every thought, wish, relationship, and deed? If our calling never left us, perhaps we would be better mothers, fathers, wives, friends, and ambassadors for Christ.
Some leaders neglect their families in order to give everything to God. We rightly encourage them to be more "present" or aware of daily relationships. That causes some to compartmentalize their work. Like me, their calling goes back in the box. God did not intend for our calling to disappear when we clock out of spiritual work.
The heavenly answer is not to put our calling aside but to allow it to define who we are. When the called are consumed with the calling, we are better people, more rested, and even friendlier. When our calling is more like the life of Jesus, our personal life can only follow suit. Not once did Jesus ever change. He was Jesus every moment of every day. When he rested, he was the Son of God. When he preached, he was the Son of God. When he had pity on the poor, he was the Son of God. When he attended a wedding, he was the Son of God.
When you are called, you will reflect Christ every moment of every day and his power will allow you draw on that call for strength, passion, and endurance to do his will.