Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Call

The process of birthing a call to ministry is one I find intriguing. An unassailable truth, that is a starting point for me, is this that there is not one person for who it isn’t a reality - Everyone has a call to ministry – Ephesians 2:10

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

So we are not a factory production line job - we are an example of fine craftsmanship. We are designed to have a relationship with God – we are also designed for good works – we are designed for action with purpose – for ministry.

What I find compelling is Samuel's call to serve in a set apart way. And of course Samuel was not a pastor: he was a prophet! Some things I notice from Samuel 3:1-21

1. Samuel was already in ministry when God called

“The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli…” (verse 1)

A call to ministry will very often be associated with an insatiable desire to minister - so one test of calling is simply is there any ministry! Along with this comes fruit of ministry - again its a key qualification for ministry. If we are called in one sense or another than just trying to serve somewhere is an important next step – don’t wait around for someone to spot your talent - get serving. Its often from this process that the groundwork is laid as it was for Samuel.

2. God had to call Samuel more than once

“The Lord called Samuel a third time and Samuel got up..” (verse 8)

The process of call is part of preparation for ministry – for Samuel’s ministry as a prophet he needed to learn to hear the voice of God and to speak sometimes hard truths – what better preparation than to have to bear the news of Eli’s atonement. When you look around the scriptures there are all sorts of different calls, but all come from God:

o The Damascus Rd call – Paul wasn't looking for it, he was already pretty happy with his calling
o The Progressive call – perhaps the most common - for the thickies like me
o A Call from birth – Jeremiah 1:5 “Set apart from birth” – even Samuel: 1 Sam 1:11 “…if only you will look upon your servant’s misery and give him a son then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life.”
o The Church's call – confirmed by the church appointing you – Barnabas – starts off as a Christian who sells a piece of land and gives the momey to the apostles – subsequently we find Barnabas being appointed to a task at Antioch and then ultimately he is recruited by Paul
o The Open door Call – walking into a ministry opportunity and discovering fruitfulness

All sorts of calls, and so often we seem to need to hear it more than once! And for many they work in tandem.

3. Eli was the first to realise God was calling Samuel

“Then Eli realised that the Lord was calling the boy.” (verse 8)

The role of spiritual mentors is critical – leadership development is really just a specialised form of discipleship. Research shows the role of the spiritual mentor may be the single most important influence. It's important to look at what Eli didn’t do though – he didn’t “call” Samuel – God did - Eli simply pointed Samuel to the call.

4. Samuel gave the Lord permission to speak

“Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Giving God permission to speak into your life is important - giving God permission to take your life, well thats a whole different deal. It may not be the career path your parents chose for you…or even what you would have chosen for yourself. And its an ongoing thing - the path to following a call is all part of the process - giving God permission to provide for you is part of walking that path and for me one of the most helpful confirmations.

Well just a few musing thoughts from me from Samuel's call - one of my favourite stories.


Sue said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts in your artcle.

I'd like to recommend a inspirational film project named ''The YES Movie '' Successful stories of today young CEO. by Louis Lautman.

Hope you will like it.

BJ said...

Thanks Sue - was it the penetrating biblical analysis or the pragmatic common sense that won you over?

As for Mr Lautman, I know that he has a reputation as a great sales motivator and trainer but I'm not sure that spamming blogs is the best idea he had recently...

Brent said...

I like this post. although my call often has elements of the different types of calling, i have always considered my call a call from birth. Honestly, i have always enjoyed people, searching for God, and where the two meet together. I didn't publicly recognize this call in my life until i was 18, and i wanted to make sure it was my calling and not just following my dad's career path, but my lack of desire to see where I would fit otherwise and consistent desire for people and God have constantly led me back to the conclusion that working for God and the Body of Christ was the dream place for me to be. Thanks for the insights.

BJ said...

Thats interesting - the interaction of different phases of call. You know, I think I started to get the first twinges of call before I was a Christian. That might sound weird but I knew I wanted to give my life to something beyond me, but I had no worldview frame of reference to do that in at the time. Later on getting involved as a ministry team leader, really "lit me up" and I discovered an enthusiasm and passion I didn't know I had. Even later than that, completing an MBA drew me back to studying the church. But even after that it was a leisurely stroll on the streets of Melbourne that the still small voice of God made it clearer. And finally, it took some of the cession originals (pre cession) to affirm me in a Christmas card as "truly their pastor". But I am slow :)

Anonymous said...

So what does it mean that whenever someone mentions call I feel the overwhelming desire to say 'SSHHHHHHHHH!!!' in a really loud voice??

BJ said...

Oh that's the step called denial...

Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

I would say I have had the progressive call too. This worked well cos I am thick and need constant reminding and harrassment. I never thought I would want to be or could be in ministry, but God has been slowly shaping and bending my path in ways that I cant deny. It is not easy and it is not fast, but its a path that I will willingly walk because through the dark patches is more light than I ever knew before.
I know its not me alone, because its not the path I know I would choose, but it is the only one I could choose, and I wouldnt have it any other way.