I wanted to revisit the idea of calling and fulfillment. Why does God call us so much earlier than when we begin to live out the calling in our life? It seems to lead to a lot of frustration from the gotta-have-it-now generation. I get the feeling through my own experiences and through conversations with numbers of young leaders that if we don’t see accomplishment early on, we are missing or unfulfilling God’s calling in our life. Remember how many years between Paul’s calling and Paul’s sending took place.
Let me postulate that God calls us early in our life to give us direction. He starts to point the arrow of our life down the path he wants us to take. He knows that we a full life time to accomplish all he has planned for our life. God understands the 50-60 years ahead of a teenager when he calls them into ministry. In the calling, God just is beginning the process and development toward ministry and mission.
In my life, God called me out for ministry when I was a teenager, around 17 years old. In my heart, I always knew ministry was likely to happen in my life. I always resonated with things that talked about ministry. Even when I was in 5th and 6th grade studying Catechism at the private Lutheran school I attended, I argued with the pastor over doctrines and philosophy of ministry like baptism, women in ministry and the role of the clergy. Going into the middle school years, my parents asked me if I still wanted to attend a private school or move to the public school. I jumped at the idea of a public school, so that I could be a light in the world. In a Christian school, everyone gets to hear about Jesus, but not so in the public schools. But I didn’t receive clarity to my calling until the summer before my senior year, a few years before losing my eyesight.
I pursued ministry opportunities, but I lived out a Thai proverb which literally says, “standing on the edge of two boats.” I tried to do ministry at the same time as follow my passion for sports. I wanted to be a sports writer or broadcaster like the guys on the Score in Chicago. I stood on the edge of two boats as I pursued a career in sports journalism and a role in ministry. I wrote for the sports section at the Northwest Herald , the local paper while working with the youth ministry at my local church. I didn’t go anywhere quickly, since I didn’t dedicate my life to one direction.
However, all of my juggling of dreams and goals came to a halt when I lost my eyesight at the age of 20. God catapulted me into maturity as I decided to take one path and that to ministry and fulfilling the calling on my life. As I lost physical sight, I gained focus for my life. I started moving in the direction of full-time ministry with one little stop on the way. I was the blind-intern for the Kevin Matthews Show, my favorite wacky radio show in Chicago. During that time, God sent a divine contact into my path. I asked what I needed to do to pursue radio and ministry. This veteran of Christian rock radio asked me what was my calling. I said, to be a pastor. He told me to be a pastor first, and after that I could pursue radio. I took that conversation to heart and jumped in with both feet in my pursuit toward ministry.
I still wanted to avoid Bible College as I didn’t want to move away and not come back to a place I loved and wanted to impact. I wanted to be discipled in the local church. My pastor, Ted Olbrich thought it better that I go to Bible College. I still count him as one of the most significant people in pushing me toward where I am today. He told me I would limit my future potential if I didn’t go to Bible College. Other pastors like to see the discipline of finishing something before recruiting you to work with them. As I look back, I see this advice as from God as my pastor hired people without Bible College training and in fact didn’t attend a Bible College or seminary himself. He directly gave me the advice I needed at that time to move forward. Now I get to intersect him occasionally as he leads a dynamic mission effort in Cambodia. I think of him as my neighbor while I live in Bangkok.
At 33 years-old, I see my life progressing more and more toward the calling God placed on me. As I look back, the calling became clearer through the perspective of wisdom and experience. I see the years between calling and action as character shaping through training (both Bible College and other). God tested me in a variety of ways with some passing and others retesting. I grew in experience with the more opportunities to lead ministry beginning with leading a Jr. High ministry while at Bible College.
God worked on me in relational skills and leadership skills thorough the different ministry opportunities I had. Timing is everything, and now I look forward to seeing some of the big dreams put in my heart by God come to fruition as we begin a church plant in Bangkok.