Calling is complicated. Or is it? If we look to biblical examples it is clear that the Prophets in the Old Testament had some powerful calling experiences. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah all had moments where the Lord spoke directly to them through awe-inspiring visions, giving clear commands and instructions. However, if we look at the New Testament we don’t see these same kind of throne room moments. More commonly we see a Jewish construction worker asking fishermen and tax-collectors to follow him. He does not give them grandiose visions of awe and woe. Instead, he extends a clear and simple invitation to follow, instructs them, and then entrusts them with the Holy Spirit. If we are followers, then we have been called, if we are called, then we are entrusted with the same Holy Spirit, and the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) also applies to us.
As a person who has lived overseas for a few years now, I often hear people say they do not feel a specific call to come overseas, so they will simply stay where they are. Usually this means that they will stay in their college town or near their home town, find a spouse, have children, build a career and let the wheels of their lives drift gently into the rut of familial and cultural expectations. Meanwhile they never asked the question am I called to stay? Are you called to your hometown? Are you called to that relationship? Are you called to your school, major, job, city, state or country? Is it calling that is directing your life, or comfort and circumstance?
A common excuse that I hear for not going overseas is “if everyone goes then there wouldn’t be anyone left to do the work here.” True, but I’m not saying everyone should go. But you could. Or you and five others could. Or you and twenty more could. There is a line between no one and everyone that is greater than those who have already been sent.
What would the Apostle Paul have done if he had had access to airplanes, smart phones and all the unreached people groups of the world had already been mapped out?
I have grown to greatly dislike the ‘m’ word, and wish it could be removed from the vernacular of the Church. It allows us to scapegoat our responsibility to the “special” people. We allow the myth of the sacred-secular gap to disqualify us. Meanwhile, there are entire people groups in the world that are in spiritual drought and starving for the gospel. We must see past ourselves. We must take steps into discomfort. We must acknowledge that ‘I’ am responsible. Instead, we tell ourselves that “someone else” will go, so I can stay. The collective action problem and the status-quo bias have led us to apathy and inaction. The Great Commission will not be fulfilled by the traditional “missionary” but by Christian people with marketable skills who will be able to go to closed and hard to reach places. May we see the day when missionary is synonymous with Christian.
There is too much need in the world to play it safe. Too many young people are moving passively through life from school into careers without taking ownership of self, family and community. We cannot take a back seat in life and wait for things to happen and for doors to open. We must create opportunities, and make doors where there were none. All owners of our church need to be challenged to start new works. Parents, urge your children toward the dangers of costly grace, and away from the dangers of a passive faith. Young people especially should lead out following the example of our elders.
Charles Spurgeon calls out young men specifically in his book Lectures to my Students;
“The dangers incident to missions ought not to keep any true man back, even if they were very great, but they are now reduced to a minimum [this was more than 100 years ago]. There are hundreds of places where the cross of Christ is unknown, to which we can go without risk. Who will go? The men ought to go who are young brethren of good abilities who have not yet taken upon themselves family cares.”
He continues later to say,
“Look at the Moravians! How every man and woman becomes a missionary, and how much they do in consequence. Let us catch their spirit. Is it a right spirit? Then it is right for us to have it. It is not enough for us to say, “those Moravians are very wonderful people!” We ought to be wonderful people too. Christ did not purchase the Moravians any more than he purchased us; they are under no more obligation to make sacrifices than we are.”
If you are a disciple, you have been called. If you have been called, then you are accountable to the Great Commission. The Moravians were not special people. They were people who simply leaned into the calling of the Christian, and the calling of the Church. The question is not whether you will have a throne-room calling experience; he has said, “come, follow me.” The question now is, how will you respond?