Monday, September 28, 2009

Why Are You Here? Part Two

Ever ask yourself "Why am I planting a church?" You probably ask that especially after a hard day. But it is a good question to ask oneself. As a church planting strategist, this is a question I ask potential church planters. I am amazed at the answers I get to this question and also amazed at the number of potential trainers will use the term "called of God" to describe what is sometimes a whim or personal dream.

It is amazing what we define as "the call of God." Like many words in our language, the word call has come to mean different things. In most cases, when we refer to the Will of God with reference to vocation, career or jobs we commonly use the term call. If we were to ask people to define the term call, many would describe it as inner leading or a sense of conviction that God is designating a particular direction.

However, the above described definition is not true to the original biblical meaning. The definition also does not portray a true picture of the Call of God upon the life of His people or His church.

Biblically, the meaning of call has several meanings or levels. First we must understand that call is not to a place or a task. Rather it is God calling us to Him. God calls each of us to a relationship with Him. It has been the desire of God since creation to fill the world with His people and have a relationship with them.

With this purpose in mind, God provides a call to come into a loving relationship with Him. In the New Testament this call of God is synonymous with salvation. The call is to repentance, salvation and sanctification. This is referred to as our “primary call” (Matthew 9:13, Romans 8:28-30).

Specific calls, as described in the Bible, to a place, such as Abraham’s call to Canaan or Paul’s Macedonian call, are rare and not the norm. In those cases when God called one of His servants to a particular place or area of service is because of their relationship to God that God led them to a particular place of service. Out of their obedience to God, they were willing to accept His will.

Many of my Baptist brothers and sisters would say that their idea of calling can be traced back to the New Testament and the call of Christ to the disciples, Paul, and others to a specific task or ministry. However, for earlier Baptists calling was thought to be to a relationship to God and salvation in Him.

Baptist thinking on this can be traced to Christian convictions during the time of the Reformation when Martin Luther makes the distinction between sacred and secular. Luther defined “good works” as being chosen by God and “comprehended within the bounds of a particular calling.” John Calvin would later expand upon Luther’s thinking. He used the term call (vocation in the French language) in two senses: the primary call, a call to God from God; the secondary call to a particular work or occupation. The purpose of work according to John Calvin was to glorify God and be a service to Him and mankind. Calvin exalted the common and refused to give preference to a particular religious vocation, which he viewed as giving esteem above others. According to Calvin all work was to be a service to God.

William Perkins, a Puritan preacher and writer in Elizabethan England, refined the concept of calling further by distinguishing between the general call and a particular call. The general call was common to all Christians. The particular call was to a specific person because of his or her character and gifts.

According to Perkins, work would be defined as vocation or career, a life task or general direction. Within this "vocation," even numerous "jobs" should form a pattern, a continuity that contributes to our broader vocation or our particular calling. Perkins even outlined a series of rules to govern our choice of a vocation, declaring that in our personal calling we must:

1. Have a particular calling.
2. Choose an honest and lawful calling.
3. Base our call on public need rather than the desire for personal gain.
4. Stay in it once chosen.
5. Avoid covetousness in our calling.
6. Be diligent in our calling.
7. Fit it into the framework of the general calling.

Dr. Os Guinness agrees with Perkins that calling means much more than something exclusively spiritual, like guidance, but rather it is the expression of our personalities, the exercise of our gifts, all that we are, everywhere we go, and everything that we do is seen as a response to the Lord and is done as part of our calling to Him. Guinness believes that in scripture, calling is primarily to someone, in this case, God. It is not to somewhere; and is not to something, or a task. Where we go and what we do is our secondary calling. This secondary calling is an outworking or result of our primary calling, which is to God.

Oswald Chambers states the same thought in So Send I You. According to Chambers “The call of God is the call according to the nature of God; where we go in obedience to that call depends entirely on the providential circumstance which God engineers. The call of God is not to any particular service, although my interpretation of the call may be; the call to service is the echo of my identification with God.” As we grow in that relationship God leads or calls us to various ministry opportunities.

I have said all of this to say that where we go and what we do as followers of Christ should be as a result of our growing relationship with God and our identification with His heart. Our call to planting a church, pastoring or any other endeavor must be in line with God's mission and His endeavor. It is not because we think it is cool or because it is the next step on the ladder to where we want to be or that it will bring me recognition. IT IS LIVING THE HEART RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD!.

Next time you feel that maybe God is calling you to something, instead of looking at what you think the plus or minuses of that endeavor. Ask yourself, "Is this where I am in my relationship with God and is this heart beating through my heart?"

Why are you here? To be the living incarnate heart and relationship of God through Jesus Christ! Anything more is really less!


  1. great post. I also like "The Call" by Os Guinness. Have you read it? A buddy of mine gave it to me...

  2. Ah, Lewis, when I first looked at this post, I thought, this is too long. But I read on anyway and am so glad I did. During this time in my life, I've wondered if God really wanted me to continue in writing.

    After I read, "Is this where I am in my relationship...." I received an answer. Yes. Many of the "call-outs" for articles request triumph over trial stories. Boy do we have a boat load. I want God to use all this "stuff" for His glory.

    Thanks dear friend. God bless.