“I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness”
“American society does not talk much about calling anymore. it is more likely to think in terms of career. Yet, for many people a career becomes the altar on which they sacrifice their lives. A calling, which is something I do for God, is replaced by a career, which threatens to become my god. A career is something I choose for myself; a calling is something I receive. A career is something I do for myself; a calling is something I do for God. A career promises status, money or power; a calling generally promises difficulty and even some suffering — and the opportunity to be used by God.”
This morning I spent some time reflecting on the theme of “calling” with several of my colleagues on InterVarsity staff. This seems particularly appropriate considering that the past four months have really been a time of looking back on my own calling into ministry with InterVarsity and my upcoming transition to pastoral ministry with Trinity Lutheran Church.
In December I celebrated 6 years on staff with IV. As a part of that, I felt that it was appropriate to take some time reflecting on those years in ministry as well as looking ahead toward what God might have for me in the future. But before I could begin, I had to answer a nagging question: “Is it wrong for me to even enter into a time of discernment?” You see, I have always told people that God called me into this ministry with InterVarsity. As such, I would never leave this ministry unless it was clear that God was releasing me to do so. In fact, my very first post on this website was dedicated to highlighting this very conviction.
So, I took a retreat day in January to sort through this question with God. One of the things that He made clear during that time was, “The calling which I gave to you still remains. However, I am changing the scope.” You see, God called me to staff work during my InterVarsity chapter’s winter retreat during my senior year of college. What was interesting about that initial calling was that it was a general call to ministry. Working with InterVarsity did not come until later. What God was saying was that InterVarsity has been a place of formation and growth for me, but that it was not the ultimate call which he had given me. The ultimate call was to serve in full-time ministry by constantly introducing people to Jesus Christ through preaching, teaching, discipleship, and witness. His calling was to help people know Jesus and experience freedom that a relationship with him brings. InterVarsity has been one part of that calling, but not the whole story.
Shortly after that retreat I attended InterVarsity’s Ambition conference in Tampa, FL. That conference proved to be catalytic for me. The goal of Ambition was to help staff workers press into their calling to plant new ministries on campuses where there is currently no ministry taking place. However, as I went through the conference, it was as if God was tugging on my sleeve the entire time.
One tug came from a conversation with Brian Sanders, the lead pastor of The Underground, the church that was hosting the conference. Brian was a former InterVarsity staff worker who felt a calling to plant a church that would create and grow missional communities throughout the city of Tampa. During that conversation I asked Brian why he felt called to start his church when he so clearly loved InterVarsity and the ministry he was doing with students. His response: “I felt like God was saying that the calling he had for me was still the same, but that he was broadening the scope.”
The second big tug came on the final night of the conference. As we were praying together as a staff team, one staff worker leaned over to me and said, “I feel like the Holy Spirit is telling me to tell you that you are released and that you would know what that means.” I finally knew what the tugs meant. It was clear that God was calling me to continue to plant ministries, but with something beyond InterVarsity.
In the following weeks I had several amazing conversations with leaders at my home church, Trinity Lutheran, in which I learned that our church was very much moving in the direction of becoming a more missional community. Specifically we want to reach people who would never walk through the doors of our church, either because of bad past experiences or because they feel they could never be a part of a church community due to mistakes they have made. This is what God has been moving me toward. I realized that I am going from helping plant witnessing communities at colleges and universities to planting witnessing communities throughout the western suburbs.
So, that is why I am moving from InterVarsity into pastoral ministry. Let me be clear, I love InterVarsity. I have been a part of this ministry for 10 years, first as a student and now as a staff worker. I still think that college ministry is one of the most strategic missions fields in the world. However, it is also clear that God is calling me into a new ministry field with the local church and I am thrilled to be a part of the work that he is doing, ministering to people before and beyond their college years. It is my hope to always stay connected to InterVarsity and to continue to have paths that intersect with this great organization. But it is also my hope to see the church in the ‘burbs really embrace its counter-cultural calling to be ambassadors for Christ in the world. And it is my prayer that both on campus and in the communities that I will now serve, Christ would be glorified as Lord and Savior:) I invite you to pray that prayer with me and may we serve Jesus wherever he takes us.