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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Calling



Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, (2 Peter 1:10 NIV84)

Now that we are firmly in the year 2013, I have been purposefully praying for and working toward the spiritual well-being of the people of Valparaiso, IN and surrounding areas for ten years now.  I began purposefully working toward this end in the winter of 2003.

Over the past ten years, I've had many people talk to me about this ministry - those who participated from within, others who have participated from "outside," and still others who have "watched" from the outside.  Often times, the conversation revolves around words like "success," "growth," and "health."  Those on the outside looking in are often confused.  They see a church that appears vibrant, dynamic, and healthy.  They see weekend services that are engaging and point people to God through His Word.  The watch as the Body ministers to many more people than themselves and helps others even when they don't appear to be able to help themselves.  The church appears to be healthy and dynamic.  Why isn't it growing?

Often times the conversation will turn to me.  Sometimes they will try to understand what I am "doing wrong" to keep the church from growing.  Usually, though, they try to understand why I keep staying and trying after so many setbacks throughout a 10 year ministry.  "Why do you stay?" they ask.  I try to explain.

Early on in my ministry here, I was reading every book on church planting, church growth, and leadership that I could find.  I wanted to understand how the "big guys" did it so I could glean from their wisdom.  One of the books I read was entitled Courageous Leadership, by Bill Hybels.  This book contained a chapter entitled, "The Art of Self Leadership," which was actually from an article Hybels had written in the summer of  2001 for the Leadership Journal.  That article changed my ministry fundamentally forever.

You see, any ministry (or vocation or job or class in school for that matter) will have bad days.  There will be times when you simply want to chuck it all and go do something completely different.  You will wonder, "What am I doing here?" and fight the question, "Is it time to quit?"  In those moments you will have no one to help you...except God.  You will need to know He is calling you to that place and that time.  So, what you're really asking is the question Hybels asked in his article:


Is my calling sure?

On this matter, I'm from the old school. I really believe that if you bear the name of Jesus Christ, you have a calling, whether you're a pastor or a lay person. We all must surrender ourselves fully to make ourselves completely available to God. Ask, "What's my mission, God? Where do you want me to serve? What would you have me do in this grand kingdom drama?"
Remember what Paul said about his calling? "I no longer consider my life as dear unto myself. Only that I fulfill the mission or the calling given to me by God himself" (Acts 20:24).
What happens when you receive a call from the holy God? Your life takes on focus. Energy gets released. You're on a mission.
I have to keep my calling sure. So on a regular basis I ask, God, is your calling on my life still to be the pastor of Willow Creek and to help churches around the world? And when I receive reaffirmation of that, then I say, "Then let's go! Let's forget all the other distractions and the temptations. Burn the bridges!"
If you've been called to be a leader, it's your responsibility to keep your calling sure. Post it on your refrigerator. Frame it and put it on your desk. Keep it foremost in your mind.
Ever since reading this article, I've asked this same question on a regular basis.  "Is my calling sure?"  I make sure that I am doing what God has called me to do - everything revealed to us through His Word and everything I know is a personal call on my life.

When I'm sure of His calling, I get to work.  There's no other option.  

He's the God of the universe.  I am His creation.  "Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the One who created it, 'Why have you made me like this?'" (Romans 9:20 NLT)

He's the Lord of all creation.  I am His child.  "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Galatians 3:26-27 NIV84)

He's the Ruler of Everything.  I am His friend. "You are My friends if you do what I command."  (John 15:14 NLT)

When we started this ministry, some new members of the church gave me a Scripture as an encouragement and a reminder.  I still have that Scripture as a reminder today.


for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29 NIV84)

Is your calling sure?  What's God calling you to do?