I have long disliked the concept of a “call” in Christian ministry. Let me explain.
The primary understanding of a call, as I have traditionally understood it, is that those who served in full-time ministry were “called” in a higher way. Were somehow closer to God; higher then the, well, common people. I used to be in the “called” club. I used to be a full-time pastor, and then – duhn, duhn, duhn – I wasn’t. No failure, no firing, I just left.
Was my call false? Was I a fallen pastor, a loser, a failure to God? Was I… whimper… common?
Man I was tired. My post was tough. It was complicated. A fallen sinful person (me) was trying to serve everybody – other pastors, elders and the congregation (all fallen and sinful too) and my time was up. The relationships were strained (not all – many were great, but to those with whom they were strained – let’s be honest) and so we (my wife, family and I) moved on.
I could have stayed in ministry for the sake of it, kept a job, but that didn’t feel like a call, it felt like stealing from the Kingdom to keep a title, a salary and a career path (eww), so I left.
Then what? I helped a friend plant a church within a church (PT – paid – no real sacrifice, and frankly a joy). I then served as a volunteer and elder, again giving my biblical best to serve. But ultimately there was a serious disagreement in doctrine, something I believe elders are biblically compelled to protect as part of their “call,” so we moved on again.
Pain, more pain. It was not fun.
Now again I am serving at a local church. Not a leader, not an elder, not a preacher, just a dude doing music trying to love God and love people (Matthew 22:34-40). I feel called to do that: to love as I have been loved (John 13:34), to serve as I have been served (Mark 10:45), to show my love to Jesus by obeying His commands (John 14:15).
I have had people ask me if I miss being a pastor. Hmm. I am just trying to be one of the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5) in service and obedience to Jesus Christ. I don’t think I need to be paid to be called. I think I just need to do it.
I don’t know where you are, but let me encourage you. A very small percentage of people can get paid to serve vocationally (my beautiful wife has encouraged me in this). If you humbly, I repeat humbly (James 4:6), seek to support the leadership of the church (Hebrews 13:17) and use your gifts as revealed to all and submitted to God, that certainly isn’t burying your talents (Matthew 25:14-30).
My call: give everything I can to God; it is how I worship (Romans 12:1-2). I have worked it through… my evolution, my journey (at least to date).
If you are wrestling with this, may the peace of God granted through Jesus Christ be with you too as you try and find your way!! (Romans 5: 1-5)