Here are a few misunderstandings to the call of God that I find very helpful.
Most are adapted from Introducing World Missions, by Scott Moreau, Gary Corwin and Gary McGee. Published in 2004.
Misunderstanding 1: The Call is a Definite Event
Often God guides us into what He would have us do.
“Guidance” will happen throughout our life time.
Sometimes it is a vision or dream.
Sometimes it happens in a flash.
Sometimes it develops over time.
Consider the consequences of hearing a call to serve God with your life but not stopping to listen for how to live out the call (in what career, in which country…for how long?).
Misunderstanding 2: Paul’s Macedonian Call (Acts 16:9-10) Is a Model of the Missionary Call
On his second journey Paul had a vision in which a man appeared to him in a vision and asked him to come.
Though an important step of guidance for Paul, it focused the full-time call Paul already had.
This was not a call for Paul to become a missionary, he already was a missionary.
Misunderstanding 3: Calls to Missionary Service Always Come through Mystical Experiences
Reminds me of the hundred of college students waiting for a bolt of lightning from heaven to show them what to do with their lives.
The mystical border is seen as the determiner as to whether or not the call is valid.
This kind of call believe it or not is one of the easiest to manufacture or fake – even if we don’t try to do it, our minds do it.
When one sees everyone else around us called we don’t want to be left behind and our emotions get the better of us.
This type of experience can connect us to the desire we have for significance, and we may embark on a disastrous journey based on this misconception that this is the only and highest way. It’s not.
Misunderstanding 4: You Cannot Become a Successful Missionary without a “Call”
A memory of a dramatic experience is a powerful anchor but it can also be unhelpful if the expectations that experience created were slow to come by.
It is true that many missionaries served faithfully as they hung onto deeply felt biblical convictions of justice or mercy, or the motivation that people were lost without knowing Jesus.
There are in fact, many factors which determine the success of a missionary.
It is just as easy to imagine the failure of a person who feels called, moves to a new culture, and proceeds to live a miserable life simply on the basis of this feeling as it is to imagine the failure of a person who goes to a new culture to minister without a clue as to what God actually intended.
Misunderstanding 5: A Call Is the Best Test of Fitness for Missionary Service
In fact, a misguided sense of call may be the worst test of fitness for missionary service.
I have met many a young adult interested in missionary service, but openly hoping the placement be somewhere warm (without mosquitoes) with white sand beaches.
If someone is driven by guilt into a call or contrives a sense of calling but with poor motives – this will not stand the test of time.
God can transform misguided calls but things will fall apart without God’s transformation.
Better test: assessment of candidates understanding of God’s heart for the nations, his or her dependence on God, the ability to adapt to new settings, flexibility, and a sense of what can be accomplished in ministry (ie. Definition of church planting).
Misunderstanding 6: A Call to Full-time Christian Service is Given Only to Especially Gifted People
God will give everyone the equipping necessary to accomplish what he has called the person to do.
God is not limited to only most gifted or brightest, as is clearly seen by the apostles Peter and John, who are described as “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13).
Misunderstanding 7: A Call is Completely Irrelevant to Becoming a Missionary
It is true, God calls all Christians to be witnesses or ambassadors of him on this earth.
No one escapes the Great Commission and Great Commandment.
A sense of calling is EXTREMELY important.
A call is, however, only one piece in the larger picture of God’s guidance for a child of his towards fruitful service.
Misunderstanding 8 (BONUS one for free): A Call Involves only God and the One Who Is Called
College students ask about the best way to prepare for future service – I tell them to serve in their local church.
God has given his mission to the church. The church is our sending community.
We have mutual responsibilities toward each other.
Though some might argue that Paul went against the church’s wishes not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:7-14), the body usually confirmed God’s leading in almost every other case.
Barnabas introduced him to the church, easing their fears (9:26-28).
Barnabas later came to Tarsus and brought Paul to Antioch to help with the church there (11:19-26).
The church at Antioch confirmed God’s call on Paul prior to the first missionary journey (13:1-3).
Paul reported to the Jerusalem church after the second and third missionary journeys (18:22; 21:17-19).
After his third journey he followed the Jerusalem elders’ advice to take part in a Jewish ritual (21:20-26).
God gives every Christian the body of Christ as a resource to confirm his or her calling and leading.
If there is one thing I am learning is that God has a mission, he has invited the church to join him (not just me).
How have you allowed your community to speak into your life as you develop your sense of calling?