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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Pursuing the Will of God Through the Church

Well, after a great Christmas in both Maine and Pennsylvania, Rachel and I are back in Littleton, surrounded by the freshly-fallen snow of two recent blizzards. Our poor little car was buried deep, and I, without a snow-shovel, had to unearth most of it with a cookie tray. But overall, we’re happy to be back. It’s hard to say another round of goodbyes to our families, but at the same time it’s nice to be out here among our Colorado friends again. Rachel went back to work at the alternative high school today, and I’m about to plunge back into classes for a hectic two-week intersession class.

One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about since coming to seminary is the future—where God will call us and what sort of ministry we should be pursuing. This is, of course, the common struggle of most Christians our age, and as a whole we probably make the process much more stressful than it needs to be.

A few years ago I gave up the frantic chase to discover God’s special plan for my life and settled into a more patient pace. To constantly be harrying God to reveal his specific purposes for one’s life is to generate a negative view of God—that of a harsh and distant master who teasingly watches his servants stumble around in the darkness. Rather, it seems to me that when God does have a specific task for someone to follow, he makes it dramatically evident. There is no guessing, no wrestling with shadowy unknowns. God’s special plans were always made clear in Scripture through such means as dreams, visions, angelic visitations, and the like. For most of us, I expect, this isn’t the norm. Instead, I’ve come to a place of trying to make the best decisions possible and to trust that God is working through my actions, empowering me with wisdom as I choose my course.

But the decision is still difficult when it comes to career choices. Most days I would ecstatically welcome an angelic visitation telling me what to do. Pastoral ministry is an exciting prospect, but I worry that some of the tasks involved will be extraordinarily difficult for me, especially as an introvert. I could just as easily see myself as a missionary to Muslims, a linguist, a teacher of church history, or even an author. More often than I’d like to admit, I’m dissatisfied enough with my current track that I seriously consider pursuing one of these other alternatives.

But recently a thought occurred to me—I’m pursuing these things in a very individualistic way. The problem in that is that the basic social unit in the Kingdom of God is not the individual, but the church. And for those who are called into ministry, the New Testament often paints a picture of the church calling and appointing those men and women into service. It’s rare, if ever, that such ministers are shown pressing themselves into service because they think they have the gifts to do the work well.

I don’t fully know how this could be worked out practically, but I’m now considering a new angle on this old question of where I’m headed. Rather than setting up my own plans, I should be open first and foremost to the call of God through the church. It will be the gifts and skills that the church recognizes and calls me to use that will form the framework for my future service. Looking back from this vantage-point, I can clearly see already that the church has been incredibly formative in calling me towards preaching, writing, and missionary service. How these things will combine in the future I don’t yet know in full. But I’m excited to walk this journey in and among the people of God, and to be used wherever the Body of Christ calls me to serve.

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