God Is Still Calling
Last week several colleagues and I made a quick trip to gather and be present for the installation of a friend who had been called to be a Conference Minister. The night before the service, while we were out to dinner, the conversation turned to our journeys into ministry.
For some of us, an early knowing and awareness of God’s Spirit led us into leadership in the Church at a very young age. For some, it was a slow tapping of the Spirit on their lives which eventually felt like knocking that they could no longer ignore. As we shared our call stories, I realized once again that although each person's story is unique, there were common threads woven in the tapestry of how God calls forth leaders in the Church.
First, there is a need. Then comes the nudging of the Spirit in choosing the kind of leaders needed for the situation. Others will then name and confirm the person’s gifts for ministry and leadership. And finally, the person God is calling must say YES to allowing the Spirit of God to work in and through them for the good of the people of God.
Consider the call stories of leaders in the Bible.
There are dramatic calls. Think of Moses, who had been tending sheep for forty years in the desert. God sends him a burning bush with the charge to remember Moses is standing on the holy ground of God’s people, and Moses is the one God has chosen to lead the people out of slavery. Doubting he can be the One who will speak for God, he tries to argue that his brother Aaron is better suited. For a while, Moses argues and wrestles, but God prevails, and Moses leads the Hebrew people out of Egypt.
There are internal calls. When Samuel was a child, his mother vowed Samuel’s life would be consecrated to God. Samuel’s mother brought him to Eli, the temple priest, when he was of the right age to be raised by Eli. One night while sleeping in the sanctuary and watching the temple lamp, Samuel hears God calling him. As Samuel continues to hear his name being whispered in the night, Eli confirms it is God who is speaking to Samuel. Samuel says yes to a life of Godly service and leadership.
There are risky calls. In the book of Esther, we read about the story's namesake. A Jewish Queen who, when nudged by her uncle Mordecai to use her position to protect the Jewish people, risks her reputation and life to save her people. In Mordecai’s words, “Perhaps it for such a time as this you were chosen to be King,” she hears the call of God to no longer be silent but to boldly act for the salvation of God’s people.
And there are direct calls. When John the Baptist asserts that the true Messiah has come, two of John’s followers immediately start to follow Jesus. Then, Andrew goes to his brother, Peter, and invites Peter to become a disciple.
Recently, there have been many conversations about where the pastors, teachers, and leaders of the present and future churches are. We talk about it with such scarcity as if the Spirit of God is no longer moving, as if God is no longer looking to ordinary people to equip them to lead the people of God in extraordinary ways. This is not the case. However, I do wonder if we have stopped listening and paying attention.
The Church’s pastors, teachers, and leaders are all around us. They are in our pews, communities, families, and maybe even ourselves. These are the ones God needs. God’s Spirit is still calling, nudging, pushing, and pulling.
But are we listening?
Are we paying attention?
Or are we tuning out the possibilities of the one who could serve because we are stuck singing the tunes of “what was” instead of “what could be”? Or are we looking past those in whom God has planted the seeds of “here I am” because we do not trust God can and will equip all kinds of people, even those we do not think “look” or “sound” like the leaders we knew in the past? Are we standing in the way of gifts we have not named or confirmed for ministry in others or even ourselves? Are there those who do not yet have the confidence to say “Yes, send me” because they have not been offered the encouragement, nurture, and nudging they need from those they love and respect?
Beloved, the Spirit of God is still calling. May we turn our ears, hearts, and lives to listening and paying attention.
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister