How do I know I'm called?
1. to cry out in a loud voice; shout.
2. to command or request to come; to summon.
3. to ask or invite to come.
4. to communicate, or try to communicate, by telephone.
5. to rouse from sleep, as by a call; to waken.
6. to read over (a roll or a list) in a loud voice.
7. to convoke or convene.
8. to announce authoritatively, to proclaim.
9. to order into effect, to establish.
10. to schedule: “to call a rehearsal”
11. to summon by or as if by a divine command
12. to summon to an office, duty, etc.
13. to cause to come, bring
14. to bring under consideration or discussion
15. to attract or lure (birds or animals) by imitating characteristic sounds
16. to direct or attract (attention)
17. to name or address (someone): “his parents called him Jim”
18. to designate as something specified: “he called me a hypocrite”
19. to think of as something specified; to consider; estimate: “I call that hogwash.”
20. to demand of someone that they fulfill a promise, furnish evidence: “called his bluff”
21. to criticize adversely, express disapproval of, censure (often by “calling out”)
22. to demand payment or fulfillment of (a loan)
23. to demand presentation of (bonds) for redemption
24. to forecast correctly
25. sports: to pronounce a judgement, to put an end to a contest
26. pool: to name the ball one intends to drive into a particular pocket
27. computers: to transfer control of to a procedure or subroutine
28. cards: to demand, to demand the display of a hand, to equal a bet made
One of the more common statements I hear is: “Thank goodness I’m not called.”
Less commonly: “I think I might be called–but how can I be sure?”
A frequent argument: “You don’t need a special calling to be in missions” (and this largely because we passionately want more workers and we’re afraid people using the “calling” ideas an excuse)
We’ve discussed the idea of sentness before (“Can I be a missionary?”). I believe we are all, based on Matthew 28, commanded to “go to the nations” (some translate as “as you are going to the nations”–so whether promise or command, it applies), be a witness, make disciples, teach them to obey, and baptize them.
This command applies to everyone – young or old, rich or poor, male or female, ordained and not ordained, believer 5 minutes or 50 years. You do not need a calling to obey this command, any more than you need a calling to obey the commands to love God and love your neighbor.
So you don’t need a calling to be a cross-cultural witness and disciple-maker, and you can get good at it.
But we’ve also discussed the role/gifting of the apostolic, and the need to be sent/called.
The Bible doesn’t talk about a “calling” in the sense of “there is one occupational path for your life, and if you miss it, you’ve messed up.” However, it does in several passages say God wants to guide and reveal. So if you’re asking for the assurance that God is calling you into the apostolic role – that he has shaped you for “sentness” – here are some ways others have found it:
1. You will have some kind of personal conviction/compulsion. Sometimes, this conviction arises out of a supernatural revelation (vision, voice, sign, etc); other times, it may be little more than an unshakeable internal sense. God promises to reveal make his will known, and I believe if you earnestly seek him, you will find him. Further, rest assured (and you can even test it)–such a conviction will stand the test of time. There may be instances of questioning (I’ve had them myself), but it will consistently reassert itself.
2. You will have a personal desire. Even believers sometimes have difficulty responding to what they perceive as a hard calling (“Lord, please don’t send me to Africa!”). But that said, God shapes us as gifts to the Body of Christ. If you have no desire to act in the apostolic role (not just a conflicted desire), that’s a large red flag.
3. You will be inspired by this inner conviction to undertake work in response to it. It might be the decision to apply to an agency and see what happens. It might be as simple as a short-term trip, or a visit to a local cross-cultural market. The point is, if the conviction doesn’t lead to action, one has to question the conviction. The actions, in the beginning, may be full of fear and trembling. They may be “small wins.” Where you “end up” in life may be totally different from where you thought your gifting was leading. God doesn’t call us necessarily to one specific destination, but rather to be the gift he has made us to be to the Body and the World.
4. Your calling will be confirmed by others in the church. The community will also bear witness to God’s call on your life, and validate it.
It seems simple, and it usually is.
What do you do if you have any or all of those items? Being called doesn’t mean you pack your bags and head to the mission field tomorrow. It’s just the first step on a very long journey. Instead of worrying too much about what the “next step” specifically is, the best “next step” is to surround yourself with several counselors who will help you figure out each “next step” over the long run. (An old African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”) Wise elders in your church should help you. Some of your peers may be helpful as well. You can also call and talk with mission agencies (like Beyond) who will help you process what the next steps are, even if you aren’t ready to apply (or at any rate, they should). And you can always email me.