Something has been going inside of me. I’ve been feeling like I was missing something, missing a piece of my calling. There was this need out in the world, this place where my gifts fit but I couldn’t put a finger on it. Couldn’t figure out just what that was. Over these summer months, I’ve given myself some space in my schedule to study, reflect, be more intentional with my own life and calling, listen to the leanings of my heart.
I work with a lot of ministers, people who have said that serving in the local church is something that is “worth a life.” To put another way, it is something worth giving their lifetimes for.
We only get to live each day once. In the past year I was reminded time and again that this life will end. There is a ending date and we all have one. We choose what is “worth a life.” The things that matter the most to us, the things in the world that stir our hearts to the place we must do something, the things that bring us joy and the things that cause us pain.
And I’m more and more aware that there are more and more people who are changing the world outside of what we have defined as full-time ministry positions.
I heard an author say recently, “God is not religious.” And as my heresy antenna went up, he said, “At the beginning of time, the trinity wasn’t just hanging around saying, ‘We need to have a church service.'” He went on to say that he believes that humans created the ‘church’ and God knew they needed it and so because God loved these humans so much, he honored it, crawled into it with them. I’m not sure that I fully believe that church is just a human creation because while I don’t think the trinity was trying to plan a worship service or a youth lock-in, the trinity is God in commune with God. There was community at the beginning. Church should be community that reveals God.
I know there is much more in the history of how church got to be church as we know it but we’ve taken this posture that the church has a special possession of God. I have heard people say, “If people would just get right with God, our pews would be filled on Sunday morning.” But the problem is that while God is present in our church in very real ways, God has always been bigger than our churches. The church today became what it is because people responded to the needs they saw in the world.
Over and over again, even in scripture, we have a problem with making this nimble and spirit led response to the needs of the world into a program and then the program becomes the thing we worship. Our natural response when we experience our communal God is to want community, but too often the community becomes more important than God. Rather than listening to where the Lord is leading now, how God is speaking to us, the program or leadership position becomes the way we show faithfulness to God. If we let something go, end a program, get rid of a leadership/servant position in the church it somehow becomes a failure to God.
The story of Pentecost shows the spirit moving in the temple courts in new ways. The old temple structures no longer fit, God was doing a new thing. God will continue to move in fresh and new ways whether we are ready for it or not. The spirit will continue to call out and speak through those that are willing, even if it is not the established church leaders.
Let me be clear, I love the local church. I am a product of a local church. I love that God loved us enough to know that we needed tangible ways to experience God, to learn about God and have human community to serve the world with. I believe there are lots of ways that God still speaks through local congregations and ministry leaders. There are lots of churches giving room for the spirit to speak.
I just don’t believe that the church is the only way that God is working in the world. I know a lot of people who work each and every day for something they feel called to, something to make the world a better place, something really worth a life and only a portion of those folks are doing it on church staff. This number is only going to continue to grow as the landscape of the local church changes.
My doctoral work focused on calling, giving women space to explore what calling meant for them. As we studied the history of the church, theology, read about the future needs of the church, a portion of the women knew they were called into local church ministry or denominational ministry. Others said, “That’s not for me. I know I’m called to make a difference in the world but not through the local church.” One of my final reflections was that the church needed to continue “calling” adults at all ages, it needed to be part of our natural message. We needed to start thinking of “calling” in bigger terms than just serving full time on a ministry staff.
This is the same philosophy that drove my time in campus ministry. I saw that as an incubator for training people to be healthy, competent, world-changing leaders in their homes, communities, businesses, schools and in the world. We didn’t do leadership training just so that we could make our campus ministry better, though that happened. This was about launching them into the world and blessing them.
I have long seen my calling to equip, support, train and coach those working into their God given purposes through full-time ministry in the local church. That calling is not changing, it is just expanding.
I feel called to equip, support, train, coach and draw together those discovering their God given purposes in the world outside the walls of the church. These may be people who are actively connected to the church as members, or they may not have found their place in a local congregation.
I’m not quite sure what this looks like yet but it starts here. It starts by creating a tribe through social media of people who are looking for something that is “worth a life.”
At the first part of every week I will write a blog post that is designed to encourage, challenge and help you grow into your own calling. These will be book take aways, personality assessment learnings, interviews with people living a called life, coaching questions to ponder and more.
At the end of every week I will write a blog post that includes links to three to five resources that I believe will be helpful to live your calling. These will include cultural observation articles, leadership articles, podcasts, ted talks, videos, faith articles, and more. If you subscribed to ELM weekly, this will be something like that. These should help open your eyes, give a new perspective, be used to have great conversations with people you serve with and do life with.
If you know that you want to do something with this lifetime that is worth a life, this is the tribe and place for you. Whatever your calling looks like, I hope this will be a place that supports you, encourages you, challenges you and gives you something for the journey of living a life that really is worth a life.