Callings from God leave us with so many questions. Namely starting with how do I know what my calling is?
Well, I want to start with a generalization to calling. We are all called to Jesus in discipleship. Part of discipleship means we are to serve: serve the church, God, and our neighbors. Yet, the Bible gives narrative examples of calling which lays out more of a particular purpose of life for God. Hmmm, do these examples mean that all of us should have a calling to a specific place, people, or task? Maybe not, or maybe. But God does call us all to himself, and at times he calls us to a season of something as he did with Paul seen below. He does call some if not all to a particular thing. Let’s unpack some of the callings through scripture before unpacking my own story.
Here are some of my favorite narratives. We see the narrative of Samuel hearing a voice calling him. He mistakes that voice for the priest in another room of the temple. After the third time, finally Samuel learned to hear the voice of God and step into his calling to lead God’s people.
In another setting, Moses met God by a burning bush. Perhaps, one might say, he was really missing the subtle calling impressed on his heart. David’s calling came through a prophet. A prophet who wasn’t sure who he was going to enlist as the next king of Israel, yet finally, the youngest boy, huffing and puffing as he ran in from the sheep pen, becomes the new leader for the nation of God.
Then we have the calling of Paul with this strange vision in Acts 16. Paul sees the Macedonian man calling him to his region to preach the gospel. This calling gives the understanding of temporal and specific callings. I am not sure if we all have a specific calling such as this or not…but I expect that God has special designs for all of our life.
Living in a country full of spirit worship, appeasement and mystical practices, we are not surprised by new experiences in the spiritual realm. As Pentecostals, we expect spiritual encounters, or encounters of a third kind. Last month, we a story that has yet to escape me as I still think about what we experienced, and more than that…one of the children from the slum community that we minister to.
The church went to a youth camp in the north of Thailand. This young teenager lives in one of the slum communities that the church reaches out to. She knows we are Christian and love her and her family with the love of Jesus as we are telling his story in the process of helping her with school, health care and sanitation. Yet she still claims allegiance to Buddhism as her family is Buddhist. However, as the young people prayed, she met God in a powerful way, falling to her back. As the worship music continued to play, she remained on her back, overwhelmed by the presence of God. She laid in the back of the room for some time as we prayed for her again. When she finally sat up, tranquility washed over her face and body. The church came around her wanting to explain this experience she had knowing she wasn’t sure what happened. Stunned and taken back by this experience with God caused a curiosity in her to grow, and she kept pressing in to know this God that she encountered.
God broke through the strongholds, barriers and darkness that had previously prevented this girl from knowing him…now, it is up to her, the same as it is to anyone when they encounter Jesus. Will she follow him, or reject him…we keep giving her chances to be near him, so she can learn to follow him more and more. But the decision remains hers.
What happens when you encounter God? What strongholds, walls or barriers does he have to breakthrough to meet you? Or did he have to come through to meet you? Share your experience, or thoughts regarding the spiritual realm.
I’m taking a contextualization class in three weeks. In preparing for this class, I have been doing lots of reading on this highly debated topic. How far is too far for “contextualizing the gospel”?
However, I am still pondering this question. Should we have an African church, a Chinese church, a Thai church, a Latin American church, or even an American church? When we speak like this, it’s almost as if the church’s are in tension with each other.
When I read the New Testament, I find simply the church. Paul wrote the church in Galatia, the church that met in Colossae, the church in Ephesus. Revelation spoke of the church in Laodicea among the other six cities. I get the sense we have turned the church upside down looking to culture as our guide rather than first being an extension of God’s family. We often let culture shape the church rather than the church shape culture.
As a missionary with five years of service in Thailand, I am far from saying I have all the answers. More to the point, I have more questions than clear understandings. I wonder what are the universal indicators that the church exists. I see Paul establishing a church wherever he went with certain unchanging particulars, a DNA of sorts. They each had faith, love, and hope as part of their essence.
How does the church exist in a setting without being defined by its location? At the same time, how does the church become local in its setting? There will always be subtle differences from place to place as how the church functions. The church will look different in language, dress and style, but when does this cross the line from contextualization to compromise?