Man of the Cloth, Part 2: On Calling

You might want to read “Man of the Cloth, Part 1” first.

I have often wondered what it means to be “called”, how a calling might feel or what it might look like.  I remember almost 10 years ago asking my pastor about it.  Wonderful, honest man that he is, he admitted he wasn’t sure himself (I never doubted his calling, I hasten to add; he was a great pastor, however that calling may have looked for him).  I wondered how many people who said they were “called” or “felt called” really were certain that it wasn’t their emotions playing tricks on them, that the Holy Spirit really spoke to them in some way.  Would I even hear such a thing?  Would God have to walk into the room, single me out and say, “I call you!” for it to be clear to me?  I often wonder if I could ever hear God’s voice, whether it was as a gentle wind, as it was for Elijah, or if He was smashing two cymbals together inches from my face.

Some people would say that God does not have a specific, unique call—at least not for everyone—other than to love God and love your neighbour, to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God—that we are called simply to daily Kingdom living.  I can certainly appreciate that—in fact, I think I would probably say that it’s true for the most part.  On the other end of the spectrum are the people who “feel called” by God or who sense that “God is telling them to . . .” or whatever.  I tend to regard that kind of über-spirituality with some degree of suspicion, if only because I have never had such a strong, clear sense of anything from God.  This week Scot McKnight linked to this post about “Feeling Called”, which I found quite enlightening scripturally and helpful generally:

So, how does a person discern a calling into ministry, a call by God to a particular task? This is not an easy question to answer, but I can trace the contours of what this should look like. First and foremost, a Christian should be aware of his or her general call to holy living and Christian testimony, the call all believers have by virtue of being called to salvation through Jesus Christ (1 Cor 7:15; Gal 5:13; 2 Thess 2:14). This includes a call to walk in newness of life, to love the brethren, and to proclaim Christ near and far. It implies a committed relationship to the Church universal and local, to build up the body of Christ through humble service, to give and live sacrificially. These things constitute the clear calling to which all Christians are to respond daily. They require no special recommendation or invitation, but they do, of course, require constant reminders and repeated exhortations. We too quickly forget the calling to which we are all called!

Second, the biblical pattern of calling to specific ministries or tasks involved either an audible (and often repeated) call from God, or an official invitation by legitimate spiritual leadership confirmed by the Church community. In the Old Testament this kind of call came through the God-appointed prophets, priests, and kings. In the New Testament it came through the pastors, elders, teachers, and leadership within the worshiping and praying community of the Church or even through the counsel of wise, mature, and trusted brothers and sisters in Christ. (link)

You might find the author’s words a bit too extreme (i.e. should John Q. Christian be called by the church even if he has no sense of it himself?), but I appreciate what the article is saying: calling is not as subjective or perhaps as mystical as modern Christians tend to make it out to be.  I’m not saying that I have a “calling” or that I have been “called” (or even that I feel called), but I should probably take heed of what has been going on in the last couple of months: the sense of shifting, the naming of things by others.  I need to pay attention because God might be whispering to me.  Or maybe He’s clanging pots and pans around my ears and I just don’t get it.  So I need to pay attention.

Stay tuned for a possible third instalment of Man of the Cloth: Fears, concerns, questions and misgivings.

2 thoughts on “Man of the Cloth, Part 2: On Calling

  1. Toni

    Marc – the more I’ve gone on with God, the more I don’t see such a thing as a ‘man of the cloth’ or people with ‘special callings’.

    As Christians, we’re called to walk in faith. Each one should be in faith for what they do – believe that God has called them to that. To just walk is to be in limbo, outside faith and adrift.

    Certainly some have a stronger sense of calling than others, probably based on a mix of their characters, hunger for God and determination to walk in His will. This does not mean however that we should trivialise guidance (dear God, should I sharpen my pencil now or later?).

    Part of the problem of seeing ‘special callings’ for ‘ministry’ is the old bordline heretical view of priesthood and laity. The concept of ‘pastor’ as being managing director of a church business isn’t much better.

    Do you have pastoral gifting, teaching ability, prophetic insight, a hunger to see people know Jesus? Then see how you can work out being a pastor, teacher, prophet or evangelist in your local congregation. If your gifting is annointed there and produces blessing, building up the body then sure, go where you can be refined, trained in more of the same.

    Did I miss something 😉

    This is an occasion when I hate blogging and wish for a face-to-face conversation.

  2. Don Hendricks

    I agree with what Toni said. My sense of calling coincided with the evening of my changed heart. I was sensing the weight of sin lifted and I heard and inner voice which said, this is what you are to do with your life. I was 17 and was ordained nine years later, after my gifts had been tested in youth work, seminary and a year of on the job training as an associate. Yet, while I was in seminary the age of entering students kept rising and the incidence of family men coming from a time in the business world became the norm, and I always felt they had some advantages in that more mature calling.

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