The United Methodist Ministry Exploration day question sits before me: “Who influenced you in discerning your call to ministry?
As I do anytime I try to answer a call related question, I have flashbacks.
My memory goes back to the Baptist church of my youth. I am called on to give my testimony before the group. There was a problem: my testimony was lousy.
Any good testimony we heard would detail how we lived before in our sin, wayward, and lost, then we found Jesus and we were saved. But I grew up in the church, always attended worship. I was the leader of the youth group, eventually I became president of my InterVarsity group in college, and even became a professional in ministry. I didn’t have a wayward time. The best I could come up with was stealing a slingshot from a guy in my Cub Scout troop. I never strayed from the fold.
I never had that single moment when I turned to follow Christ. I can remember pieces of a lifelong series of small, almost daily moments when I am invited to reaffirm my desire to live and walk in God’s grace.
Discerning my call to ministry follows the same lines.
I don’t have that One Person who led me to my calling. I have lots of people whom God has used to provide the threads that reaffirm first of all the invitation to follow God with my life and then to support ministry as part of the fabric of my life.
There are those people who gave me the opportunity to lead youth group and InterVarsity meetings. There are those people who planted the idea of going to seminary when I thought being the pastor of a church was the last thing I wanted to do. I can remember a couple college and seminary professors who offered affirmation as I was learning and exploring who I was in the large scheme of God’s will.
The people who hear me preach and teach and then share how I made them think and consider what God’s grace was doing in their lives have continued to affirm my ongoing call to ministry when I have wanted to give up. Even those people who were disappointed in how I was not the minister they expected me to be have helped me clarify, affirm, and reorient the forms of my call.
I see my call as a process of moving deeper and more richly into living God’s Way in my life.
It is a process. Maybe this is why answering the question is a challenge for me. Does the question assume that we are being called to an identity as Pastor, Minister, or Chaplain? If that is true, then the call is once and always, set in stone. Once we accept our calling then we are able to live the entitlements of that role and status.
One lesson I continue learning is that following Christ is not static. It isn’t about privilege, authority, and control. If being a disciple is not about those things, then neither is ministry.
To follow Christ is to be dynamic and alive. God invites us to live more fully in the Divine Presence in each moment as each moment comes. We cannot rest secure in how we responded in the past and we can’t always be waiting for something that might come in a future moment.
God comes to us right here and right now and that is the best gift that we can be given. The best I can ever say in my life is that God is calling me now to the shape of my ministry.
I am still listening to the invitation to love God’s own self with every part of me: my family life, my hobbies, my writing, my learning, my ministry, and especially my driving down the street going to the store.
I am still exploring what it means to not orient my reality around myself. How can I continue to love everyone I meet with the fullest of love that God holds me in right now?
How about this question: Who helps me unfold and explore God’s invitation to live and minister?
My answer: each person who God brings into my life.