The Myth of Calling

What Are You Going to Do With Your LIfe? (B&H Books)

Excerpted From
What Are You Going to Do With Your Life?
By J.D. Greear

One sunny Sunday October morning two cars pulled into our church parking lot and five college students piled out. They parked in the fire lane. They sat on the third row from the back and slipped out right after the service. But they must have enjoyed themselves, because the next weekend 500 of them showed up.

Piling out of the same two cars, by the way.

Students bring a lot of great things to church—enthusiasm, optimism, evangelistic zeal—but money is not one of them. Our average weekly attendance in that season basically doubled, while average weekly giving went up only about $2.00.

One of my favorite memories of that season is of an usher coming to me between services with an offering bucket, and in it a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit from McDonald’s, from a college student. With a little note on it that read, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I unto you.”

But as the population of students at our weekend services began to swell, our leadership realized something about our future: while we might never be the wealthiest church, we would have a large pool of potential missionaries, a huge swath of people who wanted their lives to count and were eager to hear what God had to say.

We have put in front of them a vision that many find revolutionary—though it is arguably the most basic component of Christian discipleship. It is this:

Every follower of Jesus is called to leverage his or her life for the Great Commission.

One of the most destructive myths alive in the church today, I believe, is that only a few are called to the ministry.

Cheerios, Burning Bushes and the Call of God

Many Christians believe that “calling” is a sacred experience reserved for a select few conferred through a mystical manifestation. They assume that if God wants something significant from their lives, he’ll communicate it through some kind of burning bush, wet-fleece/dry-fleece dramatic sign. I call this the “Cheerios” method of discerning the will of God. If God has something significant for you, he’ll spell it out in your Cheerios. The little o’s will mysteriously form, “go to Nepal” or “be a pastor” or whatever.

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But here’s the truth: All Christians are called to ministry. Not necessarily to vocational ministry, but to leverage their lives for the Great Commission.

That call, you see, was included in the initial call to follow Jesus. “Follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fish for people” (Matt. 4:19). That means when you accepted Jesus, you accepted the call to mission.

As we said in chapter one, the question is no longer if you are called, only where and how.

To be fair, I have friends who point to a dramatic moment God used to call them into vocational ministry. It is also true that the Spirit of God will plant in the hearts of some a desire for vocational ministry—a desire to lead a church or devote their energies full-time into evangelistic mission. That desire, Paul says, is a good thing, and often the way God calls people into vocational ministry (1 Tim. 3:1). God put on Nehemiah’s heart, for example, an insatiable yearning to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and Nehemiah correctly interpreted those desires as the call of God (Neh 2:12).

But in the most basic sense, all Christians are called to the mission. All Christians are called to leverage their lives for the Great Commission. That’s what Jesus called you to when he called you to follow him.

That means you need to think about the mission of God when you choose where and how to pursue your career. You have to get a job somewhere, so why not get a job in a place where God is doing something strategic? A lot of factors go into where you pursue your career—where you can make the best money, where family lives, cool places to live, etc. And these are all well and good. But why shouldn’t the kingdom of God be the largest of those factors? Isn’t that what it means to be a follower of Jesus? To seek first God’s kingdom in all that you do?

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Lot, Abraham’s nephew, chose his career primarily based on money. It did not turn out well for Lot. Particularly Lot’s wife—things got pretty salty for her. It will not turn out well for you either if you make money the largest factor in where and how you pursue your career.

Here’s how I’d summarize pursuing the will of God in your career: “Whatever you’re good at, do it well to the glory of God, and do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.”

God didn’t make everyone good at preaching or pastoring, but he made you good at something—that might be architecture, education, law, medicine, business, or any number of other things. Whatever it is, do it well for the glory of God. But also do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.

Sure, God sometimes instructs people to walk away from their careers and pursue ministry, like he did with Peter (Luke 5:1–11). But more often than not he uses people in their careers. As the book of Acts indicates, God gave us our careers, in part, to be vehicles of gospel proclamation and gospel demonstration. For some, God calls them to leave their careers for the mission, for others, to leverage them. But either way, we’re all called to the mission.

How can we say we take the gospel seriously and not make its advance a major factor in how we pursue our careers?

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Excerpted from What Are You Going to Do With Your Life? by J.D. Greear. Copyright 2020 by J.D. Greear. Used by permission of B&H Publishing.