I believe there is a great misunderstanding amidst the body of Christ, er, the Church as a functioning community of people who follow Jesus as Christ and Savior. We toss around this phrase called “The Call…” The great, mystical, mysterious event in which an individual decides he/she has been asked by God to be responsible for leading the Church in vocational ministry. And those who haven’t received “The Call” are put into an entirely different category all their own in the Church. There are those who are called, and those who aren’t.
What a dangerous hierarchy we’ve created in the Christian Church as the Called seek to lead the non Called… As the Called lead holy, mystical, righteous, and pious lifestyles while the non Called observe a nearly unattainable relationship with Jesus and measure their own spirituality by church attendance.
I observe a tragedy on both sides.
The Called (pastors, youth pastors, elders, leaders, etc.) experience a great deal of pressure to have all their ducks lined in a row… to boast of a neat and tidy spiritual life in which questioning and doubting God does not exist, and God’s voice is heard on a daily basis. Furthermore, the Called are expected, by many an average church goer, to immerse themselves into Christian subculture, a world marked by the Jesus fish car decal and Christian music. No wonder many pastors are creepy (picture blank stare, fake smile, and extended hand).
On the flip-side, the congregation, or the “non Called,” finds Christianity embodied in the pulpit, pointing to their pastor as the great spiritual instructor, often in place of Jesus. Church members don’t get involved because they don’t feel called. They say the janitorial role is just as important as the pastor’s role – because that’s what 1 Cor. 12 says, but I doubt many believe it (leaders and followers alike).
I find an imbalance.
I realize I’m not unpacking this all the way, but hear me out for now…
Jesus called Saul and He called fishermen. He called demon possessed people and prostitutes. He called tax collectors, tent makers, carpenters, homemakers, and doctors. He called children, the crippled, and the blind.
The Call is a Call to follow Jesus.
The Call that we think and know of today, is, in its manifestation, a gifting coupled with a passion for the Body (by the way, the gifting doesn’t necessarily mean extroverted, bold, and skilled at the guitar – I’ve met many a shy pastor who is great at what they do).
Same word… two very different meanings.
I was once told by a college peer that they give me “an A + with God.” Flattering to be sure, but I wonder if my stellar score with Jesus was matched with intimidation that I had somehow reached a level of spirituality that she could never have. I wonder, if she knew the questions, doubts, insecurities, and messiness that actually exists with my faith, that she would have still given me an A +.
I believe God is strategic with His bride. Jesus called a highly influential, zealous, and bold leader to lead the Gentiles into God’s kingdom. Saul was gifted in leadership. He was also a murderer before Jesus encountered him.
Do we believe 1 Corinthians 12:12-40? Do we believe that all who are Called into His kingdom are responsible for the nurturing and function of the Body of Christ? Or do we roll our eyes and nod our heads when we hear this passage, secretly asking what gifts God has possibly given us to contribute to the furthering of God’s kingdom?
I struggle with the word “Call.” My relationship with God has never been so unstable in my entire life and I am in full time ministry. Does this mean that I’m not called, then? Or is God perhaps tweaking my eyes to see the Kingdom in its entirety… Yes, I lead students (and their parents) into a deeper relationship with God as a vocation, and I enjoy my job very much. No, I’m not all that holy. I’m a freak show really. I think the homeless man who lives in our parking lot and maintains the landscape is much more like Jesus than I am. Mel mows our lawn, pulls our weeds, takes other homeless men out to lunch with his pocket money, and gives his homeless friend his spare broken down van to live in so that he will be off the streets. Yet the jr. high students in our youth group turn away when they see him in his raggedy clothes, terrified expressions written on their faces because they’ve encountered a homeless man… and they run to us with open arms when they spot JD and me. Interesting.
There is a lot more to say about this… and to be honest, I haven’t sorted it all out. There are a lot of things that I didn’t say that maybe I should have, and probably even more that I shouldn’t have said but I did.
I do believe in the Call. But I believe it has been misused, and even abused to unhealthily exalt church leadership, and in turn, confuse the people God has gifted to serve the Body through leadership by placing unrealistic expectations for their “spiritual walk.”
And, as my friend Caitlin says, this makes me want to eat cookies. Double Stuf Oreos to be exact.