I am writing to introduce you to an old friend.
I have known this friend for over 30 years, but recently he has become the victim of bullying, neglect, and even outright abuse.
Together we have fought battles, endured trials, and won victories. Oh the places we have seen! Honestly, I owe a lot to my friend. I am a pretty strong headed person, but if the truth were known, most of the trouble and most of the thrills I have experienced in the past three decades have resulted from this friend being in my life.
We are still together. My life is stronger, more focused, and yes better(!) because of this friend. I can stand when life is tough. I can endure, press-on, and even thrive because of this friend.
Who is my friend?
Well my friend has gone by many names, but for me it goes by: “The Call.”
Yes, I am writing to introduce, and to commend to you, the call to ministry as one of the most important concepts for ministry and missions.
I have been in discussions with people who disregard the importance of a call to ministry or missions. Some say being a missionary is merely a matter of personal choice or obedience.
Others argue that the concept of a divine call is so nebulous that it cannot possibly be helpful.
However, in my experience, and after years of working with men and women in missions, I have come to believe that a clear sense of a personal, call may be the most important factor for missionary success.
My friend, Dr. David Sills, has written a very important book on this topic. He defines the missionary call as: “an awareness of the needs of a lost world, the commands of Christ, a concern for the lost, a radical commitment to God, your church’s affirmation, blessing and commissioning, a passionate desire, the Spirit’s gifting, and an indescribable yearning that motivates beyond all understanding.” (The Missionary Call: Find Your Place in God’s Plan for the World, 30)
This is a good description of a missionary call. Some struggle with its lack of precision, and this is to be expected. However, these descriptive phrases set solid parameters for prayer and consideration. In my experience, when God calls, you hear it and you know it. You may spend some time making sure, but in the end, there is a deep conviction that any other decision would be direct, and willful disobedience.
The call to Christian ministry or missions becomes the motivating factor that helps us endure difficulties and stick to the task when time gets tough. It also reminds us to give God glory when ministry is good.
Charles Spurgeon is rumored to have said: “If God calls you to preach, do not stoop to become the king of England.” Now, whether or not Spurgeon, or someone else, said this. The truthfulness remains. God’s call gives direction, shapes decisions, and also helps us know when to say “yes” and when to say, “no.”
The validity of a call to ministry can be seen in the biblical narrative. God specifically called men like the Patriarch, Prophets, and Apostles to serve him. Each time, the person called was faced with a decision. To obey or disobey. Obedience to God’s call requires us to adjust our lives and face trials.
In the coming weeks we are going to explore this concept and how it relates to ministry. My hope is that, as you read these posts, you will seek God’s will for your life and that with courage, and with great tenacity, you will follow wherever he leads.