Hearing and answering a call from God is the most awesome, life-changing moment a human being ever experiences. No one is ever the same again. Not only is the person changed, but also the way that person goes about exercising his or her faith undergoes radical transformation. And, every disciple of the Lord is called to ministry. Every disciple has a ministry that God has planned for them since before they were saved.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
These “good works” are their ministry as designed by God and is the call of God each disciple needs to respond to. This will, of course, change not only them but also the church. In these times in the Kingdom this emphasis on the call on each disciple’s life will received new and renewed emphasis and prominence. No longer will ministry belong to the paid professional.
This call is the moment when disciples find out why God put them on this planet. It defines our life and ministry. To go through life without ever experiencing and responding to this call is to die without ever having lived.
The call is a foundational experience in the life of God’s people in both the Old and the New Testaments. Some calls were dramatic, some not so dramatic. Some calls were very specific and some were more generic in nature. Some calls were to full-time Christian leadership within the Church and some were to be lived out in some other vocation – the area of their full time call and ministry. Other calls are more like a burr under the saddle than a glorious experience. But all calls leave the person with a different view on how to spend his or her life for God.
This means everyone is a minister and everyone is expected to fulfill a call to the ministry. This is earth shattering but biblical. In the New Testament there was no division between clergy and laity – everyone was a minister; everyone was a part of the priesthood of all believers. This is becoming, once again, a reality in the Church that Jesus is currently building. This has always been God’s plan for His people.
Whether the call is a burning bush, a big fish, a meditative moment, or a blinding light, a call not only changes a life, it also precedes all effective, authentic ministry. By “ministry” we are talking about much more than putting on church programs or sitting on a board, or being a faithful member of a committee. Authentic ministry goes way beyond institutional trappings.
Authentic ministry is always first an idea born in the heart of God. Authentic ministry always leads to some form of service to others in the name of Jesus Christ. That kind of ministry can begin in a meeting but can never be contained or achieved in a meeting or even a program. The foundation of all ministry is a radical obedience to a call bigger than one’s own life. The more specific the call is, the larger-than-life the call becomes.
This foundation to all ministry involves two things: obedience and call. Any form of authentic Christian living (and ministry) requires both. Without obedience to what God wants accomplished through our lives, we can’t fulfill our call and reach our God-given potential. Therefore a call is not a job or a task laid on us. It is not some personal vendetta or cause that we choose to follow. It’s not the result of some nomination and election process. A call is the way God expresses to us why we were put on this planet. Without hearing and obeying God’s call, we simply go about doing whatever someone else asks us to do on behalf of the church. Such action is not the essence of authentic and effective ministry.
Because of their call, Christians do what has to be done to achieve God’s mission for their life. Being obedience to this mission is an all-consuming passion for their life. And because our obedience to our call is so all-consuming, we are able to be flexible on most other things, such as style and methods.
The result of our obedience to this call is a deep, burning passion to carry out the mission God has given. Whatever allows that mission to flourish is all that matters. For this reason, people following a call don’t get caught up in wrangling over details such as style and method. Instead, they just ask one thing – if I do this, will it help me carry out my calling?
This simple question was the driving force behind Paul’s preaching on Mars Hill about the unknown God. It was also why he could say, “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all possible means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Think of how that understanding of calling and mission would change the way you and your local church do ministry and the impact of that ministry.