Right now our church has a member on a trip to South Africa and two others in the Dominican Republic. We go on a lot of overseas trips and trips in the U.S. The people who participate in and support these trips (usually to care for at-risk kids) are passionate about the call of God to love the ‘least of these’ (Mt. 25:40). Preparing for trips and going on trips ignites something in their hearts.
Many others in the church do not go on these trips. It is entirely possible that a few people might not want to hear about another mission trip. Enough already! Are these who are not as fired up about this type of ministry bad Christians? Not necessarily. Maybe God has created them in a way that other expressions of faith energize them.
Some get pumped up by worship. Some find their faith fueled by silent meditation. Some are easily excited by an open Bible, stacks of academic commentaries, and hours free for study. Others are ready to express Jesus’ love to senior adults and those who are disabled. Others still really want to do ministry to children – the children who are in the church.
The point is there are many forms of expression for the Christ-follower. I do not say this in terms of a ‘menu,’ as in, ‘find what you like best and do that.’ Calling is God’s initiative in our lives and every calling includes difficulties. Every calling will run up against walls of discouragement. Not a one is easy.
When you discover your calling (and you will have more than just one in your lifetime) you find yourself enthused by the notion of it. And when you are in the calling God has for you, the challenges, daunting though they may be, are no match for the passionate that burns within you. Depending on God, you’ll see the challenges as things to overcome as you live in the rhythm and joy God has prepared for you, doing whatever it is God has called you to do.
As a high school senior, I felt called to spread the news that following Jesus is more fun, adventurous and rewarding than alcohol and drug-induced partying. Under the influence of writers like Tony Campolo and Luke (as in The Gospel According to St. Luke), I wanted to scream from the top of my lungs, “The Kingdom of God is a Party.” For me it was not just a slogan. It was a calling that drove me to do a lot of things (some regrettable, but mostly good things).
As a young pastor, I was called to tell a small, urban, aging church that she mattered and that God had new work and new life for her. I at that point had never poured my life into anything like I did trying to revive and inspire that church. I admit as I write this that hubris made me think I could inspire a church. That is God’s job. But beneath my youthful and sometime foolish exuberance was genuine love for the people in that church. God put that love in me and God has put love in you too.
It may be tempting to say, “Well, Rob, you’re a pastor. Of course you’re supposed to love the church.” First, I’d respond with “Baloney! I have seen dedicated lay people as called to deep passion for the church as any clergy.” Second, the first call I mentioned – fun and happiness and excitement that comes in a life of following Jesus – is a call that came long before I ever thought about being a pastor. And since then, I have been called to parenthood (not a clergy-specific call). I have been called to orphan care (not a clergy-specific call). I have been called to study the synthesis of Christian faith and rational thought (while this may be ‘academic,’ it is certainly not clergy-specific).
All who want to follow Jesus are called; every one of us. You are called and unless you know what sets your heart on fire and live in ways that you burn for the gospel and for the Kingdom of God, your discipleship is asleep. Christians who mark time and live a sleepy, uninspired faith make Jesus puke (Rev. 3:16). Don’t make Jesus puke.
Through prayer, worship, Bible reading and conversations with other Christians, people who know and whom you trust, discover your passions and discover how to live them out. Find out what kingdom of God activity lights your fire and do it. Let your faith be a faith of action (or study or contemplation etc.). Being a Christ follower should be the most thrilling aspect of our lives. And it is when we live in our passions. Find your passion and live in it.