As you've likely noticed if you've been following this blog, I've been wrestling with and even re-understanding what it means to live out my calling to proclaim the message of Jesus and what a Christian community looks like. I've been working through two very helpful books, Missional Renaissance and Practicing Greatness both by Reggie McNeal.
In one section of Practicing Greatness, McNeal challenges spiritual leaders to identify their calling in life, anchor their lives within that calling and to then be flexible in how they flesh-out that calling. Here's a quote from the chapter entitled "The Discipline of Mission."
"Too many spiritual leaders have locked their call into one particular way of being expressed or pursued. For instance, 'I am called to be a pastor,' is a phrase I hear frequently when leaders are discussing with me their next chapter of life. Then they too often proceed to tell me exactly what kind of church they feel called to and where they want it to be located. I don't easily question a sense of God's call on their life, but reducing it to a preferred place of employment and a particular job description seems somehow to reduce the spiritual depth of genuine call.
I have seen too many leaders on the ropes financially and spiritually due to a shallow understanding of call. They don't know what else to do if God doesn't provide them a way of 'doing ministry' that fits their template....
The call to pastor contains a spiritual dynamism that transcends a vocational career path. Pastoring is a call that can be expressed in many ways, - from leading local congregations to serving as a pastoral counselor to chaplaining military personnel or prison inmates to leading a house church to pastoring pastors. This pastoring may either be paid or volunteer; it may be a career or a bivocational pursuit. The leader with this call is expressing a life mission that is oriented around and arising out of his or her person. How it gets expressed may change over time or depending upon circumstances. The call does not hing on having the title 'pastor' or drawing a salary from a local congregation.
The point of all of this is that I coach spiritual leaders to treat their call more fluently than most of them are inclined to do. They confuse the content of the call with the context of the call and how God might choose for them to live out the call in their lives. They need to be more flexible in this regard will be increasingly important for leaders as the expression of spirituality in North America moves beyond institutional settings into the street and marketplace. The desire to serve people in spiritual leadership will make the same transition. It already is. Each week I run into people who once pursued their call in the church but are now working in some aspect of community or business leadership as a way to express their call to ministry.
Spiritual leaders need to distill the core, the essence, of their call from God. Some key questions might help provide some clues:
1) What people or cause do you feel drawn to?
2) What do you want to help people do or achieve or experience?
3) How do you want to help people?
4) What message do you want to deliver?
5) How do you intend to serve or have an impact on the world?
6) Why did you say yest to God to begin with?
Answers to these questions should help the leader understand more clearly his call and life mission."