First a word of thanks to Aaron Armstrong for the opportunity to write a guest post here for him.
And now on to the subject at hand.
Being called is an interesting concept when it comes to the current church. Having recently spent a considerable amount of time in a fairly traditional Presbyterian church, I’ve found that they have a nearly formal way for determining calling. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a process of their tradition, but it is definitely more exacting than the tradition I was raised in. And I can say I prefer it better.
Since coming into reform theology (not even knowing that’s what it was until it was far too late), I came to understand that one of the most critical factors is one of proof. Not necessarily dismissing or destroying or denying the power of personal experience, the reformers seek to look harshly at what is within the Bible and decide based upon what information is at hand what is truly there and not add to it based upon such experience for fear of exalting tradition above the scripture and end up in sola ecclesia.
As I was raised, the primary qualifier for a person going into the ministry was an ability to passionately communicate and enough wit about them to play the political church game so as not to get eviscerated by people more cunning than they. So you ended up with guys that were often referred to as ‘cunning’ or ‘crafty’ or ‘shrewd’ who dealt in clichés, platitudes and ‘nuggets’. They could be engaging, emotional, entertaining and even at times a little heavy handed. But nowhere was anyone examining them for their calling.
It is this examination of calling, this reformed ‘burden of proof’, that I find so refreshing. It does not rely on something that can be easily faked. It does not simply look for the best and brightest who can work a crowd. No, it asks for some serious evidence towards the strength of calling. Do they match the biblical standard of an elder? Would those they have submitted themselves to also say they are called? Is the passion they show for preaching and teaching sourced in their passion for the word and for the God of the word or is it for their own time on the platform? Have they given up everything? Have they spent enough blood, sweat and tears to not be easily dissuaded?
What a disservice we do to people to encourage them towards something they can do but in no way should do. Why is it wrong to tell someone, “You aren’t called to do this”? Is it that their feelings mean more than what will ultimately destroy them? As pastors and denominational and network leaders, we must be able to take someone aside and say, “This may be your desire but your desire may be wrong.” And if we’re wrong? Well, God Himself will show that out. As a pastor friend of mine once said, “We serve a sovereign God and if it’s His desire, there is nothing you or I could do to stand in His way.” And I hold to His sovereignty like a the mast of a ship in a hurricane. If I am truly called, nothing will stop that. And if I am not, my leaning upon His will serves to guide me away from it.
All of this I respect in both my denominational brothers and within my own network of Acts 29. We must reject a person’s rhetorical skill and begin to taste the fruits of their life’s passion. We must engage them, unflinching, with the same force, in love, that their enemy will engage them in hate. We must not weaken or dampen the power of the call.