What Is A “Call”?
I dislike the word “call.”
I feel like it is an excuse, right? I feel like if you desire to do something, you say “I feel as if God is calling me to do this” and you get your way because, who can argue with God?
Please notice that I didn’t say I didn’t like the idea of “call.” I only said that I don’t like the word “call.”
I suppose that I choose to think that “call” ought better be defined by actions, rather than words. “Hey Bryant, tell us your call.” I think I’d rather just bring in people whose lives I’ve made a difference in. I think I’d rather show them the communities I’ve been a part of. I think I’d rather show them the effort I’ve put in here or there. While articulating a call, in a verbal sense, is probably important…I tend to think that actions speak louder than words. But, as my wife always reminds me, I’m not always right.
If you’re an individual seeking to work in a local church for the foreseeable future, you’ve probably struggled with “call” once or twice. It doesn’t matter your denominational affiliation, you’ve thought about what it would be like to work within the local church. That probably sparked a thought in your mind about what your future might be. Most denominations have some sort of ordination system whereby you are examined by people who both know you and don’t know you and asked serious questions on your theological thoughts, ecclesial thoughts, and passions and “call” into ministry. It truly does depend on your denomination as to whether or not your “call” fits into their system.
It’s hard to describe “call.” This is probably because the term “call” is so multi-faceted. A “call” can involve your practical talents (what you are really good at). It can involve your “spiritual gifts”(remember taking those inventories?). It can involve the way you perceive your interactions with people. It can, and often should, involve your passion for the betterment of the world and desire to see the Church reflect Christ in every way possible. I can involve your, gasp, political feelings about what is going on in our world.
And the worst part about it is probably the fact that it changes on an almost daily basis. Certain things tug at your heart. Certain things cause you to change your mind. Certain things may make other concepts more vague or more clear.
I may not like the terminology (or really, just the way that the word has been abused) but I think one thing is clear: most everyone wants to know how THEY fit into a larger picture. They want to know what they’re being asked to do. They want to know how their gifts and talents are being used for the betterment of the final outcome. Without that, I believe, that we humans feel left out. We feel abandoned. We feel wasted. None of those are things that any human ever desires to feel.
One of the things about the society we currently live in is that we move so quickly that we don’t have a chance to think of how to articulate our “call.”
We do the things that we care about. We do them as well as we know how. But we rarely stop and think about why.
Which brings me back to my thoughts on actions as opposed to words. How do we better articulate a call? Why can’t it be wrapped up in actions? Why can’t we look back and see what we’ve done and are doing? Why don’t we present that as evidence? My guess: because if we can’t communicate through language, we are often lost in our world. We can’t tell anyone why we are doing something. We can’t explain ourselves. The way we interact with each other is through language. Because actions can be misinterpreted, we can only know someone’s intent by the language that they use.
But language isn’t perfect either. Humor is lost. Lying happens.
Well, if we can’t use actions, and we can’t use words, to give the most accurate representation of our “call,” how do we know what a “call” is? How do we see the “call” in an authentic light? How do we come to a realization and portray it accurately to others?
We have to discern the goodness of the fruit that results. We have to judge the outcome. And by that, with a little prayer, we can probably get a head start on what it is God is “calling” us to do.
One of the things I struggle with in life is watching someone else do something that I know I can do faster and better than they are doing. I know that you deal with this too. I get frustrated when I see others making silly decisions based on their lack of knowledge at any given point. As my wife often reminds me, I’m not perfect. But I think there is a reason I deal with this. I think that it is at those moments that I can see the outcome. And I can see how point A gets to point B. I know how to make it work.
I think we all ought to learn to judge fruit. We ought to learn to see the outcome.
We can’t, anymore, hide behind this wall of a “call.” Reality is what it is, and we must do our best to judge the outcome of our actions and those around us. Perhaps in this way we can see what God is doing in our lives and the lives of those we touch.
When we learn to judge the fruit, we will learn what the fruit needs to be like. When we learn what the fruit needs to be like, we will be able to see how our gifts can get us there. When we see how our gifts can get us there, we can see where our place is. When we see where our place is, we will know what our “call” is. When we see all of these steps, we will be able to better articulate what God is “calling” us to do. When we can better articulate our “call” we will be able to make a bigger difference in the world. When that happens, God rejoices.
It will be, and only be, at this point that we will stop hiding behind the wall of our “call.” Because then, and only then, that word will begin to mean something again.
It is not only important, it is imperative, for the the future of the Church for this to happen in the life of every single Christian.