This past month, the Church Planter Collective has been exploring the call. We have thought practically, biblically, theologically, educationally, and anecdotally about the call. As we wind down this conversation, I want to leave us with four words.
The call of God is a command of God. It is not a request. God’s call is not part of a list of options. It is not one of several institutional recruitment letters offering admission. It is not an offer of employment that will entice with its benefits package. It is not even the call of a parent to dinner where a plea of “5 more minutes!” is part of the back and forth. To hear the call of God and not to follow is to disobey. The call of God is the command of God.
Yet the call of God is also an invitation. Not to follow the call of God is not simply to disobey, but to miss out; to lose an opportunity. The call of God never results strictly in comfort. It is a mixture of sacrifice and blessing. It is real sacrifice. To live in Portland is not to live in Peoria. To live in Brockville is not to live in Binghamton. To befriend new people in a new city is to strain friendships in previous ones. Yet the blessings are real, as well. Events we would never have experienced get put into motion with an acceptance of the invitation. Our children are raised with certain values and opportunities and experiences that otherwise would not have been. The call of God is the invitation of God.
The invitation of God is most clearly seen in its offer of companionship. My Wesley Seminary colleague Dr. John Drury emphasizes that the call of Jesus to the disciples is not first a call to do something, but a call to be with him. Mark 3 records that Jesus calls the disciples to himself so that they might be with him. The flow of the text moves into what they will do, but it begins with where they will be. And they will be with Jesus. The call of God is a specific kind of invitation. It’s an invitation to companionship. It’s an invitation to be with Jesus because he desires to be with you. Yes, our roles will flow from this initial call to be with Jesus, but, as Drury notes, we so often drive right to the what of the call, right past the who.” The call of God is a call to companionship.
Finally, the call of God is an echoed call. Do you know that an echo is simply a sound being reflected back? Our calls are kinds of echoes. They are not original. The call of God is not original to you. It is not original to me. It was given to many before us. It was given to Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah. Israel was called. Most importantly, Jesus was called. The call of God to Jesus, the affirmation of God that Jesus is the beloved Son, creates the speech that we hear when we hear a call. Our calls are not echoes of our own voices; they are the ongoing reverberation of God’s call of Jesus. Just as God initially called Israel out of Egypt, so was this call reaffirmed in the call to Jesus. Our calls are reflected off the Son and received by his Spirit in us, witnessing to us that we are children, that we have mission under his. Our calls are under his call. They are echoes of a call that was heard and perfectly fulfilled by Jesus. The faithfulness of Jesus to his call means that our calls can be attempted in freedom, knowing that they are taken up in one, the only one, who was faithful to his call from beginning to end. We can live out our call in freedom. We can listen again if a call is misunderstood. We can perform the sacrifices and receive the blessings, living in the presence of Jesus because he was faithful to the call of God.