CHARLES WELSEY wrote these words: ‘To serve the present age, my calling to fulfil, O may it all my powers engage to do my Master’s will!’ (SASB 472, verse 2).
Great words – yet sometimes difficult to live up to.
Why do some officers feel unfulfilled? Why does this lack of fulfillment sometimes lead to resignation? Could it be they have lost their sense of ‘calling’? If so, how might they get it back?
Scripture is filled with spectacular examples of God calling individuals to full-time service: think of Abraham, Moses, David, Samuel, the 12 disciples and Paul. For many of us, however, our calling probably came from a sense (inspired by the Holy Spirit) that officership was God’s plan for our life.
My call to ministry took place at a Territorial Bible and Leadership Institute when I was 14 years old. I had seen a play entitled Portrait of a Prophet, about the life of Samuel Logan Brengle, and at the end I sensed God’s voice saying, ‘This is what I want for you.’ To which I responded, ‘All that I am is yours, to do your will.’ From that point I never looked back.
However, it’s not enough just to ‘hear a call’ – there also needs to be confirmation that the message is from God and not some personal notion. Our candidates process is helpful, but Scripture can also point us in the right direction. As I read 1 Timothy 3, four aspects come to mind that can assist here: passion, competency, outcomes and confirmation.
We’ve probably all heard testimonies that began, ‘I believe God called me to be an officer, but it’s the last thing in the world I would ever want to do.’ This may be said because people don’t feel capable or worthy, because they think this type of ministry is beneath their potential, or perhaps because they lack positive role models to inspire them to consider such a commitment.
Whatever the case, those who lack passion for ministry yet choose it for their life’s work are likely to be miserable, and may not last long.
1 Timothy 3:1 says, ‘Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone
sets his heart on being an overseer desires a noble task.’ Here the word ‘overseer’ is speaking of a church official. Some translations use the word ‘bishop’; in our context we would use the word ‘officer’. Interestingly, the word ‘desire’ here is the same as that for ‘passion’.
It’s not enough just to ‘hear a call’. We also need confirmation that the message is from God
We could rewrite this verse to say: ‘Here is an irrefutable saying that you can count on regarding God’s calling on your life: if you eagerly seek by setting your heart on being an officer, your passion for this ministry is an excellent and noble task.’
You might like to reflect on the following:
• What about ministry excites you?
• If you have lost the excitement, what would it take to get it back?
• What does it take to be a positive role model that will inspire others to think about the possibility of officership?
In addition to having the ‘want to’, taking up a calling requires meeting certain criteria. 1 Timothy 3 points out some necessary abilities and attributes. Verse 2 speaks about character: ‘Now the overseer is to be above reproach.’ It also mentions self-control, respectability and being hospitable. Then there is the ability to teach. Other Scriptures would extend this to include tasks such
as preaching, counseling and pastoral care. Verse 4 mentions the importance of being able ‘to manage’. Specifically it is talking about the family, however other readings point to the importance of managing and leading one’s flock. ‘But wait!’ you say. What about the disciples Jesus called? They did not seem all that competent when they started. This is true. They were, however, ready and willing to be trained. Verse 6 amplifies this thought when it says: ‘He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgement as the devil.’
Competency to serve is an important step in being able to fulfill one’s calling. The book TransforMissional Coaching, by Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl, poses some helpful questions for reflection here:
• What leadership gifts or abilities do you need to develop to fulfill your calling or current assignment?
• How would you describe your current abilities in this area?
• What options do you have to develop your leadership?
• What will you do to develop your leadership?
Another indicator of one’s calling is outcomes. A scriptural term often used is ‘fruitful’. In other words, are you making a difference?
Demonstration of one’s effectiveness is important. Verse 10 reads: ‘They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.’ Is there ever an end to being tested and having to produce? Not for those who are called.
One of the more troubling passages regarding the lack of positive outcomes is found in the parable Jesus told in Luke 13:6-9: ‘A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.’
‘So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”
Affirmation is a key ingredient for one’s calling “Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”
My prayer is, ‘Lord keep me in tune with your plans as I take part in building your Kingdom.’
• How and when has your call to ministry been assured by circumstances or results?
One of the great joys in my life is to watch my grandsons grow up. One of them, William, had been working on a task for a few months. After successfully completing it he ran into the living room where I was busy reading a book. He pulled on my sleeve and in a loud voice said, ‘Grandpa, Grandpa!’ After finally getting my attention he cried out, ‘I DID IT!’
Affirmation is not only important for children, it is a key ingredient for one’s calling. As a candidate you received recommendations to enter the training college from local officers, your corps officers, divisional leaders, the Territorial Candidates Board and ultimately the territorial commander. This process continues throughout officer service. With regard to our calling, the statement we are each looking for is: ‘We believe you can do it!’
1 Timothy 3 is once again helpful. Verse 7 tells us we ‘must also have a good reputation’, and verse 8 says we are able to be ‘worthy of respect’.
• How and when has your call to ministry been affirmed by your leaders and from those to whom you minister?
FINALLY, what can we do to keep our calling fresh – to ‘serve the present age, my calling to fulfil’, as Wesley wrote? 2 Timothy 1:6 says: ‘For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God.’
Several helpful thoughts come from this verse:
• Remind yourself of your initial calling and where it has brought you.
• ‘Fan into flame’ your passion, abilities, fruitfulness and constructive interaction with those you serve, serve with, and who serve you.
• Continually acknowledge that your calling is a ‘gift from God’.
Remember – if God has called you, he is able to see you through!
Article taken from The Officer, May 2010
and written by Paul Fleeman, Principal
CFOT Central Territory