“Calling” is a buzzword in many church planting circles now. Everyone wants to stress the importance of “calling”, and yet I’ve found that to many the idea of a calling is vague and lots of people aren’t even sure exactly what it means.
What is a calling? Why is it so important in missions work?
It’s not without reason that calling is such an important topic in church planting circles. You’ll hear about it at church planter assessments and trainings, because calling is essential to any church planter or missionary.
What is “Calling”?
My definition of calling in regards to church planting is this: Calling is the assurance that God has called you to a specific people, in a specific place, for a specific time, to perform a specific task(s) that is rooted in Scripture.
A strong sense of calling is absolutely imperative for any church planter and missionary for several reasons. Here are a few.
A strong calling will keep you in the field when things get tough
If you aren’t positive you are exactly where God wants you to be, what’s going to keep you in a hard place when everything is going wrong? You will leave the field as soon as it gets difficult.
It is widely known that William Carey spent 7 years on the field in India with no converts! During this time, his wife eventually went clinically insane and he lost his infant child. And he stayed!
When you are convinced that God has called you where you are and that He will sustain you as you labour at the work He has given you, then you can weather the storms of disappointment, suffering, rejection, and persecution. Without that sense of calling, staying on the field is not likely.
A strong calling will draw others towards what you are doing
No one wants to follow someone who isn’t convinced that what they are doing matters and is important. Without a strong sense of calling, you won’t have compelling vision, because you won’t have a strong conviction.
The men in my life who I have always been most drawn to are those who give the clear sense that they are willing to die for what God has called them to. When Paul appealed to Timothy to emulate him, he pointed to his own willingness to suffer as a result of his calling:
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling…” (2 Timothy 1:8-9)
A strong calling will increase your love for the people you are sent to
One chapter later, in 2 Timothy 2:10, Paul makes an amazing statement: “I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.” (NLT)
Those are the words of a man who knew that God had tasked him to do the most important thing in the world! Do you feel that way about what God has called you to? Can you say, like John Knox, “Give me Scotland, or I die!”? It helps to remember that eternity is at stake.
The love Paul had for the Gentiles was not his love, it was God’s love. As Paul received the call to take the Gospel where it had not been proclaimed, he received with it God’s heart of love for His lost sheep, the very sheep that Jesus came to die for. It’s hard to endure much suffering for any people if you don’t love them.
Are you called?
Calling isn’t necessarily an objective experience that we can wrap our hands around. It comes in different ways for different people, but much like the Spirit of God in the act of regeneration, you cannot see it, but you can see its effects.
A man or woman with a calling will persevere when things get tough, draw others in to the vision, and have a deep love for the people he or she is reaching, a love that is willing to “endure anything” to reach them.
Where has God called you? Do you see these effects of calling increasing in your heart? If so, it is a strong indication that you are right where you are supposed to be.