“I have been called.” What a profound and powerful statement! We are very familiar with that statement in our church environment. The “call” designates, elevates, and empowers; pastors, preachers, evangelists, and missionaries all attest to that experience that led them to a vocation focused upon service to God through the life of the church. The call is an awesome and solemn task initiated by the Lord and received with a sense of responsibility that transcends time and affects life in profound ways. The call propels us to a stewardship of life that has eternal implications for the one called and the ones served in response to that call. My call was clear. Just a few weeks after I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I sensed the Spirit of God saying to me, “Paul, I want you to shepherd my people.” It was a call I didn’t embrace immediately. Having watched my parents endure intense moments of pain and opposition as God’s servants, I was not interested in saying yes to the possibility of such events occurring in my own life. Yet three years later,, at age fifteen, I made that complete surrender to the Lord that opened the door to the most amazing life’s journey one could ever imagine (well, that, at least, is my perspective)!
While we celebrate the vocational call, Servant of God, let us never forget that there was a call that preceded the vocational call. It was the call to be a devoted follower of Jesus Christ; the call to Christlikeness, the call to developing an intimate relationship with Jesus through a life of faith and obedience. This is the call that comes to every believer. We are called to love (Matthew 22:34–40), to be disciple makers (Matthew 28:18–20), to be witnesses to the world of the reality of Jesus (Acts 1:8), to develop the attitude of Christ (Philippians 2:5) and, among other scriptural injunctions, to build up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Corinthians 14:12; Ephesians 4:15–16; 1 Peter 2: 4–5).
The vocational call should never be the foundation of our kingdom service. To allow it to become so can lead to an abuse of power and position that can do inordinate harm to the kingdom mission, harming individuals, damaging congregations, and tarnishing the name of our Savior and Lord. Not even the vocational call gives us the right to be ungodly in thought, word or deed. And yet how many times has the vocational call been used as justification to control and manipulate others, to promote personal preferences and agendas, to exercise fleshly desires, and to respond in ways devoid of the love and grace afforded us in our relationship with our Savior. Paul even reminds us that when speaking truth, it is to be done in love (Ephesians 4:15). Such teaching leads to the edification of the church and the fulfillment of the kingdom mission.
The first call: this call is to an intimate relationship with God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the call to being a disciple maker; it is the call to love. It is the foundation for every other experience in the Christian life. It is the call that comes to every Christ-follower.
And some are also called vocationally. What an awesome experience! It is a call that does not abandon the first call, but—to be most effective and God-honoring—builds upon the first call. It is a call to a life of service that flows from divine love and permeates every relationship and activity of life. Whether professional or personal, within the church or outside the church, the vocationally called servant of God sees in every moment an opportunity to accurately witness to the truth that is Jesus and to exercise the giftedness that empowers God-honoring service.
We have been called, Child of God!
Has your response to that call honored and blessed the Lord?