The Calling Driven church – Putting Meat on the Bones

Several readers raised questions in response to, I Long for a Calling Driven church. The key questions (so far) are:

  • What does it look like to “hear” God through the people God sends?
  • How do we balance a need for Structure with following our Calling?
  • How do we balance caring for the needy with following our Calling?

Before answering these questions, let me put some meat on the bones of a Calling Driven church. A Calling driven church will balance structure and Calling.*

A Calling Driven church is neither a spineless jellyfish, so under-whelmed by structure that it is driven by the tides (and stings whatever it finds), nor is it a backbone-entombed tortoise, so over-whelmed by structure that its moves are ponderously slow (and it hides from whatever it finds). We need structure and Calling.

Hearing God through the people that he sends

When we seek God for direction, he sometimes answers with a word (like when he tells Abraham to leave his homeland), and he sometimes answers … with a person.

  • King Saul asks God for direction. God answers by sending a person. Jonathan attacks the enemy—almost single handedly—until Saul’s army joins him in a huge victory (1 Samuel 14). Saul wanted a word; God sent a person.
  • When the Israelites are threatened under Persian rule, God sends Esther. She is “brought for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14), and she saves God’s people from annihilation. God’s answer is given through the Call of a person.

Good leaders are aware of structural needs, and they seek God for help with staffing, finances, people, and buildings. But obsession with known needs can distract us from—even blind us to—God’s new directions which may be outside our agendas.

God often answers our requests for help by sending people who see God’s direction outside our known needs, structure-oriented agendas, or even outside our missions:

  • The 12th century Church leaders were concerned with the Crusades, a Renaissance, rediscovery of Aristotle, and science. God sent them Francis of Assisi.  He brought return to simplicity, imitation of Christ, and care for the poor.

Pastoral leaders need to recognize God’s answers when he speaks on issues outside our known needs and missions. If we ignore God’s answers through the people he sends—myopically focused on our own issues—we become tortoises, overcome by structure.

God brings us people who bring us directions we never knew we needed.

We also need structure

Structure gives strength. An ideal marriage is an organic structure; each marriage is unique because of the unique qualities of each partner. It is demeaning to hear our spouse say, “I wish you could be more like Joe’s wife” or “Sally’s husband.” No, we want our spouse to be who God made them to be.

But I still take out the trash, manage the computers, and wash the dishes. I can’t say, “The dishes are not my Calling so I won’t do them.” They are part of my responsibility. They are part of the structure which we need if we don’t want to be spineless jellyfish.

A church (body, intentional community, etc.) has structural needs and as members we adopt structure-oriented-services, like setting up chairs, mixing the sound board, and teaching Sunday School.

However, structure-oriented-services of membership are not our Calling.

(By the way, it’s best when our structure-oriented-services line up with our abilities. If I did the cooking and my wife handled the computer network, we’d both die of ptomaine poisoning while we waited for a WebMD search to connect to the Internet.)

Needs and Character

How do we handle the myriad of needs we see in the world, and still walk in our Calling?

With balance. We neither ignore needs nor let needs dominate us.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus condemns the priest and Levite who walk past the beaten, dying man in the road. The priest and Levite were like men and women who refuse to do anything outside of their “Calling.” And they are wrong.

As we grow in Christ-like character, we grow in the Fruit of the Spirit of love, kindness, and goodness. This means we grow in providing care for the needy around us.

As long as we are not dominated by those needs. Thomas Merton wrote,

 To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is itself to succumb to the violence of our times. Frenzy…destroys the fruitfulness of our work. (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

A Christ-like character will care for needs AND will walk in Calling. The disciples once came to Jesus saying, “Everyone is looking for you [i.e. there are lots of needs].” Jesus responded, “Let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also, for that is why I came” (Mark 1:37-38). Jesus cared for the needs but never at the cost of his Calling.

A Calling Driven church (and person) will balance needs with Character and Calling.


What other questions, longings, or visions do you have for a Calling Driven church?


[See also, I long for a Calling Driven church]

* The best way I know to learn our calling is to participate in a Calling Exploration Experience retreat or an Online Calling Class, and reading, It’s Your Call.

© Copyright 2012, Beliefs of the Heart. All rights reserved.


One Response to The Calling Driven church – Putting Meat on the Bones

  1. I really like your conclusion, Dad: Character and Calling.

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