Sunday, June 17, 2007

Calling & Identity

Quick personal update:

Our current YWAM CDTS is just about over, with summer outreach to Australia & Western Samoa in less than two weeks. Wendy & I have also been asked to lead the Fall DTS in September, and last but not least, our two teenagers have contracted mononucleosis, which makes things instantly interesting as final exams approach in a few days.

And now on to "Calling & Identity":

In the Dark Ages commonly referred to as the 20th century, I used to use the following as a way of helping people choose to follow their dreams or passions:

”If money were no object, and success was guaranteed, what would you do?”

The objective was that whatever the respondents identified as “what they would do”, if money was no object and success was guaranteed, would be “obviously” what their true dreams and passion were. With the implication that they should therefore throw themselves into this passion/vision because it was clearly what they were meant to do.

I’m no longer 100% convinced that this was such a good idea. Partially, perhaps, but not 100%.

Part of the problem, I think, is that too many people – myself included – confuse a sense of “calling” with “that from which I receive a paycheque”. For example, if you view your “calling” as being a full-time, financially-compensated clergy-unit, and then the church down-sizes you, suddenly an identity crisis of biblical proportions hits you like a proverbial camel train.

For myself, I have always felt that my primary “calling” is to be an encourager. Remember those “Spiritual Gifts Analysis” worksheets? They were helpful in highlighting areas that you were already serving in, but not a good resource for identifying a heart passion, or as Len Sweet once observed, in hearing what’s on God’s heart for us.

When I first did a Spiritual Gifts Inventory, I was a fairly new Christian and still pretty cynical about life in general, not to mention my own fairly negative view of myself. But even with my less-than-optimistic approach to answering the questions, my final score (low though it was) offered the result of “Encouragement/Exhortation”.

And in the years since, I think it’s been pretty accurate to say that one of the things that is the most satisfying for me is to encourage and build up others; conversely, I often hear from others that I have a gift for encouragement. During my first year at Providence College, I had never even heard of “prophetic ministry” or “the gift of prophecy”. Having come from a theologically evangelical background (Associated Gospel Churches of Canada), our Spiritual Gifts inventories either didn’t include charismatic gifts, or had simply ignored them (since the tests were based on past performance).

But as a night watchman once a week at Providence College (student work duty), I had lots of free time between my rounds; there was nothing on TV that late at night, and doing homework at two in the morning – except in the final week of classes – wasn’t an option that appealed to me much.

So, I started writing encouragement notes to people, and sticking them into their mailboxes. Quite quickly, I discovered myself standing in front of the list of names and box numbers, searching for names that “stuck out” and then writing whatever came to mind for that person; sometimes it was a word of encouragement or appreciation, and often it was Scripture. Without ever thinking of myself as being “prophetic”, I was quietly learning, in my own manner, to hear the voice of God and to be an encourager.
It was also very interesting to note how many times people would come up to me, sometimes with tears in their eyes, to say thanks and “how did you know…”?
If I make “being a paid pastor” my “calling”, then I could lose my sense of calling and identity depending on whether or not I had a vocational financially-compensated placement in a pastoral role. And my calling and identity would be in the hands of whatever people held the power of hiring and firing.

However, if my calling and identity is that of an encourager, I can do that with or without a position, title, recognition, notoriety, or paycheque. And my calling and identity would be in the hands of Someone far greater.


  1. Once again bro you have spoken a timely word to me at a time and in regard to something the Lord is dealing deeply with me about concerning the direction of my life. I say, once again, because it seems that about once every six months or so, you hit the nail on the head...for me in a personal way. God bless you, ron

  2. I knew God was calling me to be an international play boy, thanks robby! :)