What does it mean to be “called”?

Jeff Keuss wrote an article entitled Vocation and the Call to Discipleship in which he noted the connection of what we do and who we are as followers of Christ. What he indicated was that anyone who is a follower of Christ has been “called”. Keuss maintains it comes down to this: “to be ‘called’ is the act of paying attention and following God or writes Annie Dillard, ‘waking up.'”

Growing up and around church most of my life, I have encountered this designation as something to be reserved for someone going into full-time ministry. That has certainly been true in my situation, and remember vividly an experience when I confirmed that belief with my church family who I was connected to in college. There are persons who have this kind of calling, a particular direction on one’s life to serve through the local church in some capacity. It is unique and has special meaning for those who have this experience.

Yet, I feel that all too often church members limit the definition to apply strictly and only to those who fit the above mentioned situation. When this is done, we get a skewed version of what it means to be “called”.

I’d like to make reference to the phrase “vocational discipleship” as a way to respond to this deficit in thinking.

This past week in particular, I have spoken to several of our own church members who have unique training and skill sets which allow them to serve in what might be considered “secular” jobs. However, they devote themselves to ministry in their own occupational settings. Some of them have been retired for a while, yet find ways to live out and share their faith in the community and through the church.

To the first century church the Apostle Paul wrote: “As a prisoner of the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph 4.1-3 NIV) He based his argument on a divine foundation, which he referenced in the following verses. In short, the principles for this unity are “one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God the Father.” Paul used seven references, the number of completion, to posit his high view of the church as the family of God.

One of the prayer points and hopes for 2014 that I presented to our people last month was to “pray for spiritual renewal and awakening in our church life.” I have been praying along those lines and encourage others to do the same.

There are multiple opportunities to share our faith in Christ and make a difference as the body of Christ, a metaphor Paul used almost 100 times in his writings. This beautiful image illustrates our connection and capacity for each other as followers of Christ.

Yes, I know there is a lot wrong with the church. There are a lot of hypocrites and self-righteous people rubbing shoulders with the sincere and unselfish folks. That’s just the way it is. That’s why Paul also said to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Unity takes work. It’s not always easy, and not everyone works as hard as others. That’s why we should only compare ourselves to Christ rather than each other.

The church isn’t perfect for sure. We shouldn’t make that claim either. We aren’t worthy of our calling, but let us live in a manner worthy of it instead. That should be our focus and our mission, for the Kingdom’s sake.


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