In class today we explored the Biblical foundations for our terminology of “God’s call.” The main concern was that our over emphasis upon God’s call as the seminal event in a pastor’s life will leave many feeling unfulfilled, restless or disappointed.
For me this highlighted a few recent experiences. On twitter a few weeks ago I saw an alarming statistic that stated 50% of pastors would leave the ministry immediately if they had some other career option (yesterday I saw a similar statistic say 60%). The tweet went on to ask: did the pastor mishear God’s call? Had God been mistaken? How can that number be so high?
Personally, when I announced a new sense of God’s call within my own ministry, a friend’s six yearold daughter called me to ask “What way did God call you?” Very practically, she wanted to know the mechanism of God’s revelation, and was not satisfied with my response, “It occurred through series of natural (and even a few supranatural) events and people who helped confirm the inward longings and nudgings of my own mind.” Have we overspiritualized this term that when we try to explain it to a six yearold it doesn’t make sense?
The professor’s point was that the frequent use of this term “Calling by God” has become misused in the church, and we have over emphasized the more accurate portrayal of the Bible, which reveals individuals who are seeking–striving and stumbling–to obey God’s will. There is no “call” in our classic Reformed understanding, just obedience.
It makes sense that the term “called” came from the Biblical examples of the Word of the Lord speaking to people. But this speaking never conferred a special status open and individual as if it was the culmination of God’s work within their life. Rather this speaking was an invitation to obedience: “follow me.”
It’s as if God’s Call to ministry is the same as the owner’s call to a minor league pitcher–both are examples when we say, “He got the call.” It is an invitation to participate in the Show, but it is an invitation that also means the real work is about to begin. And quite frankly, like the owner, God is more interested in our usefulness to His mission than to “make us feel good about ourselves” for getting called.