In my first year as a Jesus-follower I felt God calling me to me the youth pastor of the Lutheran church I grew up in. Our church did not have a youth pastor. For Sunday after Sunday an announcement appeared in the church bulletin which read: "Please pray that we would find a youth pastor." I shared my sense of calling with our pastor. He agreed. I stayed for three years before moving, as a result of another call from God.
I experienced God calling me to study at a theological seminary. I was called to study, to learn, to research. My three years at seminary have been so valuable for me!
During that time God called me to be an assistant pastor at First Baptist Church of Joliet, Illinois. Linda and I were there for seven years.
We left Joliet when God called us to be campus pastors at the Baptist Student Center of Michigan State University. We were there for eleven years. We loved campus ministry!
In our tenth year there we sensed God was going to call us elsewhere. He did. We came to Monroe, Michigan, to serve Jesus at Redeemer Fellowship Church. We are in year twenty-seven!
Within this adventure Linda and I have experienced countless secondary callings. Like today, as God is calling us to reach out to some people. These callings give our lives meaning and purpose. Were there no God, then there would be no calling, no "vocation," and life would be without ultimate meaning and purpose. (Note: Os Guinness, in The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God's Purpose for Your Life, distinguishes between primary and secondary callings.)
A main way we experience God is by being called, and then, often in retrospect, seeing how God was in this all along.
Jacob Shatzer defines, in Transhumanism and the Image of God: Today's Technology and the Future of Christian Discipleship, "vocation" as "all of those experiences and insights that our lives are guided by Another, that we are responding not to inert nature that bends to our will, but to another Will, with whom we might live in covenant relationship, and to Whom we will be ultimately accountable.” (29)
Shatzer says a calling from God has four elements.
1. A call implies a caller, one doing the calling.
2. Often the call is to something the person hearing the call doesn't want.
3. Callings almost always lead to hardships that the person has to work through in order to obey.
4. The greatest danger is being distracted from the goal. Shatzer writes: "Often we act like making the wrong choice is the biggest problem. If we are responding to God’s call, the biggest danger is that we become distracted from that call by focusing on something else." (30)
"Our society is very different from one shaped by this notion of calling, because we prioritize power and control. We don’t want to respond to a Caller. We seek knowledge so that we can control rather than participate in a larger community. In fact, “Power has become the centerpiece of a new kind of harmony, one based no longer on the ‘right relation of things’ in a world that both begins and ends in mystery, but it is a harmony that comes from control.” Control diminishes relationship; the will of one alone is expressed, and conversation and communion are lost. A loss of vocation that emphasizes the individual will and promotes the desire to control prevents the propagation of genuine community."
Our current cultural malaise, angst, loneliness, and existential dystopian tendencies is partly, if not largely, due to the lack of meaning and purpose that logically follows from the absence of a Caller.
My two books are:
I'm now working on...
Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart
I am editing a book of essays on the Holy Spirit, authored by my HSRM colleagues. Hopefully this book (Encounters With the Holy Spirit) will be out by June.
And, when all this settles, Linda and I intend on writing our book on Relationships.