The leaders calling
Calling is the most critical component of spiritual leadership. Being equipped to serve, then, is more about calling than preparation, experience, personal giftedness, the items on the resume, or the accomplishments on the curriculum vitae. And, in some respects, that's a real dilemma in ministry today. Working with pastors I've learned how few of them can actually articulate their personal call to ministry. Over and over I ask troubled colleagues to verbalize their calling, that is, talk through a verbatim of what transpired in what they perceived to be their calling from God. Usually it's followed by some stammering, the verbal calisthenics of uncertainty, trying to explain what appears to be beyond human words. But, being the central impetus for ministry, a clear understanding of calling is essential if the minister is to rise to the high calling of God (Philippians 3:14).
As a result, there's a section in the Introduction of my book, Finish. Period. Going the Distance in Ministry (Westbow Press, 2015) dealing with the matter of personal calling. In my situation His calling was something I sensed for many years. After six years in banking and two more as the financial administrator of a large hospital I finally answered that call. It wasn't in response to a burning bush experience or a host of angels inviting me into the counsels of heaven. There were, however, years of experiencing five very distinct and consistent impressions involving what I perceived to be the voice of God---
1. The Holy Spirit convicted me constantly of a greater purpose for my life.
2. God gave definite direction as He spoke to me in times of personal devotion
and prayer over an extended period.
3. Directed Bible study explored and revealed His calling over my life.
4. Other believers affirmed and encouraged answering His call.
5. Life circumstances with Harriet, our children, my business career, assessment
of my gifts for ministry confirmed his call over my life.
These were all clarified one Sunday when our pastor asked me to speak on Baptist Men's Day. In the pulpit that day I knew he had called me to pastoral service. This call was an aggravating constant until Harriet and I prayed to finalize what He had been saying to me for more than ten years.
In the months following that experience God gave me Life, Ministry, and Passion verses. Those verses were framed and displayed in a place visible to me as we transitioned from our business world life to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the formal preparation for church service. As I write this today those verses hang on the wall over my home office desk, three mile markers to guide what has now been thirty-five years of ministry. The section Then There's the Calling, pages xxiv-xxx of my book, provide more detail about how I have interpreted His call and the ways His call has influenced thirty-five years in the pastorate.
Ministry is hard. No, I'm not one of those dooms-day pessimists who warn against the rigors of church service in the lives of those called to serve Him. Serving as the lead pastor of four local churches has been among the greatest blessings of our lives. There have been plenty of challenges, thats for sure. Mere humans will always be stretched in spiritual leadership. His calling, however, has been one of the foundational truths that has kept me, and so many others, on-point and focused even in demanding and trying times. To know His call has provided urgency, passion, and certainty as the limits of human endurance and steadfastness were tested. Being able to recount in great detail the elements of his call were always heart and mind refreshers, reminders of having been set-apart for Kingdom service. HIs call always brought me back to what He had designed for us.
Five promises have undergirded the great truth of His call---
1. He is always working in our lives (John 5:17).
2. He is always working for out good (Romans 8:28).
3. He is working His purpose in our lives (Philippians 2:13).
4. He will complete what He begins in us (Philippians 1:6).
5. He is working so that people will be in awe of Him (Ecclesiastes 3:14).
So, we have heart, mind, eyes, and mouth equipping us to lead in 2016. But, most of all, there is His claim over us. And, Paul reminds us that it is a forever claim. He wrote---
The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.
Romans 11:29, ESV
His call is the greatest component of our being equipped to serve.