“I’m called to be a youth pastor!”
“I’m called to be to a worship leader!”
“I’m called to be a worker against sex trafficking!”
“I’m called to be missionary to all the little kids in Africa!”
I have spent my entire life in the Christian bubble. Have you ever seen the movie Bubble Boy with the illustrious Jake Gyllenhaal? Yeah, that was me—but replace the actual bubble and add church camps, Royal Rangers (Christian version of Boy Scouts), Bible Quiz, “trendy” contemporary Christian Radio, and of course numerous True Love Waits rallies.
Ever since I could remember, there has always been this idea, this elusive mystery that was known as “God’s calling”. I can’t count the hundreds of hours I’ve watched my friends at camps and conferences fervently pray that God’s voice, which we all secretly hoped sounded like Morgan Freeman, would resonate in their head proclaiming they are “called to ______________”. If they didn’t get it, they would leave the alter defeated, as if it were stamped on their forehead that they were a nobody in the Christian faith, destined for a life of nothingness.
I, too, was one of those kids down at the alter. Although I can’t remember the specific time or place, I do remember feeling that I was called to be a youth pastor around the age of 12 (which back then meant I was going to be “cool” and all the good Christian girls would want to date me). Fast forward a few years later and a couple interesting things happened. First, I felt led to Missouri State University instead of a Bible College like Evangel University or Central Bible College. Second, it only took a semester for me to feel that my supposed calling wasn’t youth ministry but actually college ministry. Now, four years later, I am standing at the crossroads of my life, like many of you are now, quietly wondering what my friends and I meant the billions of times we claimed we were “called” to…
What does the Gospel Say?
Luke 5:10 “…Then Jesus said to Simon (Peter), “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”
Matthew 4:19-20 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.”
Mark 1:19-20 “When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.”
In all three of these instances we see something interesting. When Jesus called the disciples he never said, “Hey Peter! Come follow me as our song coordinator!” or “Hey James and John! We need a baptism specialist and a healing specialist! You down?!” Jesus called these disciples for one sole purpose: to be fishers of men. Jesus, in the Great Commission (Matthew 28) left us with three commands and the first of which was to simply make disciples. I don’t know if it was ever Jesus’ intent for the modern day Church to be so exclusive in that.
In a sense, we have turned God’s greatest command to be fishers of men and make disciples into a department store. We have this section exclusively for this, and that section can only be for that—and heaven forbid that this thing over here accidentally lands in that place over there.
People still ask me what I feel called to do, and although their intentions may be pure, it almost feels like some sort of holiness gauge and my answer is a badge that highlights my spiritual level. This isn’t condemnation; we all are guilty of it! I don’t know about you, but I know I have been guilty in the past of looking down on someone who didn’t necessarily feel called to any particular type of ministry. Just because it isn’t “holy” to us, doesn’t mean it doesn’t serve a purpose in God’s beautiful tapestry!
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE CALLED TO VOCATIONAL MINISTRY TO STILL BE AN INCREDIBLY IMPACTFUL MEMBER OF GOD’S KINGDOM!
God’s calling has become pop culturalized in the church—it has become something of a fad to claim that you’re called to a specific type of ministry.
So what happens when our alleged calling becomes our identity? There are a several things that could happen:
1. We become mentally and spiritually pigeonholed into only serving in that type of specific ministry role
2. We allow our pride to get in the way, and consciously or not, we judge others based on what “calling” they have or don’t have
3. We even deny going on dates or moving forward in relationships because one person may be called to be a missionary, and the other a children’s pastor or businessman (because that couldn’t ever possibly work)
4. We feel guilty if we ever leave or our desires begin to stray from that calling
5. We get so focused on "the call" that we miss "the NOW".
The reality is, God has called us ALL to be fishers of men. Now don’t get me wrong, God has also given us incredibly unique talents and passions that gives us directions and a sense of purpose. I am by no means saying that if you have a talent for music that it is wrong to pursue worship leading or if you’re great at numbers that it is wrong to pursue accounting. But what I am saying is that if you let that calling define who you are, you’ll completely miss the bigger picture and what God has in store for you and those around you.
If you have a knack for accountancy, be the best darn accountant you can be—but don’t pass up an opportunity to be small group leader just because you don’t feel “called” to teaching. If you’re passion is music, don’t pass up an opportunity to be a Sunday School teacher just because it’s not on stage. The disciples literally set down their lives and what they were occupationally skilled at to follow Jesus.
God called us to the moment we are in. If he opens a door for you, then he's called you to be as effective as you can right there. That door may be a season where you are a youth pastor, and the next you may be a middle school principal. But whatever door He opens, whatever season you are in, your biggest “calling” is to be a humble and obedient servant.
Many of you, including myself, are entering a new phase in life and I hope this helps. I hope this encourages you to not be discouraged if you feel like you haven’t been called to vocational ministry or feel as if you have to be called to a specific ministry. At the end of the day whether we are a college pastor or professor, a worship leader or businessman, a missionary to the little kids of Africa or beautician, we are all called to share the love and hope that is Jesus Christ!