For a good bit of my vocation I have served as a “headhunter.”
I would find, recruit and pair up individuals who had certain skill sets with ministries, churches and institutions that needed to fill a staff vacancy or were launching a ministry for the first time and needed to design and create a position. I would help a person develop their resume, polish their interviewing skills and be attentive to the landscape they were entering. I would help a church with forming a job description and assist in crafting an interview process. I would help both of them to ask good questions and prayerfully enter the discernment stage. I would often remark, that they were good candidates for one another, that they matched up well and remind them this was a process to determine if there was a calling.
Whether it is a paid position, a volunteer, a new initiative or some other task we are always looking for the right people. In the classic Jim Collins book, Good to Great there is a lot of time spent discussing the need to get the right people on the bus (and to get some people off the bus) and to get people sitting in the right seat on the bus. This is a worthy principle to consider and I have lived this process more than a few times in my life both as worker in a system and being the “bus driver.”
In a biblical and spiritual sense, we are really talking about calling. God is the ultimate head-hunter looking for people and enlisting them into a Kingdom work. There are multiple stories in the bible of people being called by God for a task. Most of the characters have objections. Moses was called by God to deliver the Hebrews from slavery and bondage in Egypt and he responds by objecting saying he did not have skills, that he stuttered. He wants to pass it off (paraphrasing); Here I am Lord, send my brother Aaron instead! God convinces him otherwise.
We have plenty of examples of folks who were reluctant in responding to a call, asking questions, offering objections because in their own mind they were not gifted enough or ready for the task; Gideon, David, Isaiah, Mary, Peter, Paul and Timothy to name a few. One of my favorite stories of calling is Jeremiah.
“Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:4–9 ESV)
Having been in youth ministry for some 30+years this has been a prime text to encourage young people. In the calling of God we learn: you are not too young or too old, out of shape, rich or poor, educated or ignorant, too busy to serve God; you can have a checkered past or be an upstanding citizen, those things do not matter when it comes to calling. We are given this encouragement from 1 Corinthians 1:26-31…
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”
Calling is not about us. It is about Who calls us! Throughout the scriptures and church history we see time and again how God uses ordinary, everyday people to do extraordinary and amazing things. God makes unusual and surprising choices because ultimately He is not concerned with a person’s ability but rather their availability, their willingness to say yes.God makes unusual and surprising choices because ultimately He is not concerned with a person’s ability but rather their availability, their willingness to say yes. Click To Tweet
What We Hear
We hear in Jeremiah’s call;
Jeremiah, I have something for you to do, you are to be my prophet to the nations. Jeremiah ministered in a dark time, full of doom and gloom. Things were bad and getting worse. It was a time leading up to Exile! It was a difficult, painful, season of loss and tragedy. Into this very trying time Jeremiah is called to be a prophet. He objects, offers what he thinks is a pretty good excuse… but God’s calling is sure and certain and Jeremiah surrenders to it.
Calling tempts us to think of vocation as something reserved for great figures of religious history; prophets, evangelists, and missionaries. Jeremiah’s selection as prophet has nothing to do with his capabilities for the job. God declares Jeremiah’s role was made before he was able to do anything to merit his selection. Jeremiah does not have a resume!
God will give us what we need to accomplish what He calls us to do. The words, the resources, power and authority, favor and skills will come to us when needed. We must simply believe, be patient and when we get the marching orders proceed in obedience with courage. It is scary to step out of the norm, the comfortable; to take a risk. I’ve done this recently and upon occasion I freak out, as I traverse what I perceive as an unknown future. I keep hearing in my head and heart Jesus say to me, Jon, I’ve got this. I move forward knowing He does. In the midst of calamity, the middle of the storm we walk with One who by a single word of Peace! can calm the wind and the waves.
Finally, we have
Do not be afraid for I am with you! The presence of the Lord is ultimately all we need. There will be valleys but we fear not because He, The Good Shepherd is with us. Jesus promises in the Great Commission that, Lo I am with you always even to the end of the age.
We learn again in these moments of Proposal, Provision and Promise that it is not about us. This is God’s work and He will see it through. There may be twists and turns in our journey, we may look at things and see them as failures… God doesn’t. He has a plan and He takes the lowly, despised, weak things and leverages them for the sake of seeing His Kingdom come and His will be done.This is God’s work and He will see it through. There may be twists and turns in our journey, we may look at things and see them as failures... God doesn't. Click To Tweet
So maybe you’ve been reading about Fresh Expressions and you are intrigued by this fresh biblical approach to mission. You’ve watched a few videos and seen the fruit of changed lives. You’re thinking, I need to tell my pastor and church leaders about this, because they have the skills and position to make this happen.
Hit the pause button! Be still and listen.
Is it possible that God is calling you to this work? You may have your excuses but as we have seen that does not matter. There are resources, training and equipping available, at your fingertips- a click away.
Jesus taught us to pray… The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2) Pray earnestly for this but consider also maybe you are the answer to that prayer. Say YES to God and everything changes, including us!
The Rev. Jon Davis PhD is an Episcopal Priest, church planter, teacher, worship leader. He is on staff with Fresh Expressions as a mission strategist and is launching some Fresh Expression gatherings through the Abbey Mission in a NE suburb of Orlando. firstname.lastname@example.org