I loved JD Greear‘s thoughts on calling as they are seeking to plant 1000 churches in 40 years. Below is the excerpt:
First, calling is not:
* Necessarily a Burning Bush/Damascus Road/Warm Fuzzy experience. We all want the Mark Driscoll, “God told me to marry Grace, plant churches, and train men” kind of experience, and that happens sometimes. But the “burning bush” experience is not how most of God’s servants are called–either in the Bible or in church history. Charles Spurgeon was clear he never got anything like that. I didn’t either. The only bushes that have ever spoke to me were the ones at Southpoint that have the music coming out of them.
* A special instruction to live missionally. Radical commitment to the Great Commission and radical sacrifice on its behalf are not the special assignment of a chosen few, but a mandate for all. Sometimes I think we have invented this whole language of calling to mask the fact that 90% of church-going Christians aren’t living missionally.
* An excuse to passively wait for God rather than actively pursue ministry. Most of God’s miracles in the Bible happened not because someone did what He told them to do, but because they saw an opportunity to advance the Kingdom of God and they asked God to help them.
Rather, calling is:
* A church-recognized combination of your God-given abilities, giftings and experiences with opportunities God gives you. Ability + Affinity + Need = Calling (usually speaking).
I really like that he emphasizes the communal, church-centric view of calling, as it highlights the difference of our tendency today toward an individualized “calling gnosticism” – an individual hears directly from God, without any confirmation from Scripture or community, and chases a calling to seminary or some institution outside their primary fellowship. My story of “calling” to vocational ministry happened because my church leaders recognized my giftings, and because I found a passion in ministry and there was an opportunity for it in our local body.
This definition of calling highlights two very important things: the church AND the individual. First the church must have a passion for helping people identify their abilities and gifts, and provide opportunities to exercise them in ministry. Secondly, the individual needs to have some requisite skill and a passion for the ministry, not simply a general inkling that they may want to do it.
That’s not to say God doesn’t operate in the directed calling of an individual, I just don’t think it is normative for believers. We know God’s calling through His Word, the community of believers, and the leading of the Holy Spirit.