Do you remember a time when you felt God calling you to a specific type of work or ministry? I do! It happened about 20 years ago and, whilst that calling has expanded and developed over time, it has not fundamentally changed. At the start of 2021, I feel it would be good for all of us, as individuals and organisations, to revisit the calling that we feel we are pursuing into the new year. And with this in mind, I would like to share some thoughts on calling. When thinking about calling as a Christian, I like to think in terms of missional calling, that is, the calling on all Christians to be active participants in God’s holistic mission. Chris Wright, in his books The Mission of God (2006) and The Mission of God’s People (2010) helps us to understand our missional calling in three ways.
Firstly, missional calling is about being called to be the people of God. In the Old Testament, this call was given to Israel, for them to be set apart from the other nations, witnessing to the nature of God, in a loving, worship-full relationship and living according to God’s commands. In the New Testament, where there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28), the call to be the people of God is given to the Church, the ekklesia, the called out or summoned ones:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).
The people of God are those who have experienced God’s grace and are “called to live in response to that grace, with lives that represent God to the world and that show the difference between the holinessof the living God, seen especially in the face of Jesus Christ, and the degraded ugliness and impotence of the false gods that surround us” (Wright, 2010:127).
Secondly, missional calling is a calling to ethical living by walking in the way of the Lord. God told Abraham that he and his descendants should “keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice” (Gen 18:19) and this theme, of an ethical and compassionate calling given to the people of God, is a major theme in the Old Testament and continues centrally in the New Testament in the ministry and teachings of Jesus and the writings of the apostles. It is the way of compassion, righteousness and justice arising from God’s love for the world and refers to both the imitation of God (seeking to be holy as he is holy) and following him as guide and example, obeying instructions given by him. The way of the Lord that we follow is worked out in relationship between God and God’s people, worked out in the direct experiences of life. Walking in the way of the Lord is the active following of Christ. It is about seeking to live out of an ethic of a kingdom which has a king. It is a call to obediently follow the God who is at once King and Father.
Thirdly, missional calling is a calling to be a blessing to all people. Chris Wright suggests that Christian calling is well expressed by the word blessing. He describes blessing as a “richly life-affirming word” (2010: 68) present throughout the Bible. Being the people of God and walking in his ways, so that God’s mission of extending his blessing to all people takes place, summarises the missional calling on all Christians. Indeed, as Wright observes, the very motivation for God’s people to live by God’s law is to bless the nations, thus, making mission and ethics inseparable.
Within this threefold understanding of our general missional calling, we also often receive a specific calling that fits with who God created each one of us to be, and the contexts and places in which we find ourselves to be living. I pray for each one of you that as you take time individually and organisationally to consider both the general and specific calling you have received, that you will again hear the Lord saying, with great love and excitement, “Come! Follow me!”
International Coordinator, Micah Global