A Balanced Approach to Discerning Your Calling

Photo from  Sepehr Ehsani

Photo from Sepehr Ehsani

“God has called me to ____________.” If you have been engaged in a church community, chances are you have heard someone say something like this before. But what does it mean? Unfortunately, it seems we often simply attach the word “calling” to whatever it is we plan on doing at a particular moment. This isn’t necessarily because we’re being intentionally dishonest. Instead, without a clearly defined understanding of what “calling” is, we risk doubting our obedience “like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).

Defining Calling

Stated simply, calling can be defined as God’s specific purpose for your life. Though this definition is not helpful in how we can discern God’s call, it is important for us to always remember the simplicity of the biblical narrative where men and women listened to God and did what he said. This should be our heart’s desire in pursuing our calling. Digging a little deeper, we could describe calling as the inclination and affirmation of the intersection of passion, opportunity, and peace towards a specific place for a specific function under the leadership of the local church.

Hitting the Sweet Spot

Let’s break this down. In my experience, people tend to see calling primarily in one of three ways. Some view God’s calling as whatever they are currently passionate about. Others consider calling as the opportunities before them, like opened and closed doors. Still others view calling in terms of the peace they feeling after praying about a particular option. While all of these relate to calling collectively, we run into trouble when we attempt to focus on one exclusively. When passion, opportunity, and peace come together, however, and if our primary calling to Christ is in check, we begin to move towards discerning our secondary, vocational calling.

My Story

Ever since I started journeying with Vintage Church in New Orleans when it launched during the fall of 2008, there was a thought in the back of my mind that God might one day call me to function as a lead pastor. Satan often uses the gifts God has given you as the means by which he tempts you, and I periodically struggled with impatience because of my drive to pioneer and see new works emerge for the kingdom of God. The more I learned about church planting under the mentoring of our lead pastor, Rob Wilton, the more passionate I became about being used to start a new work. During those years, though, there were no “open doors” for such an opportunity. God had me in a stage of learning and growth, and to go out on my own because I was simply passionate about church planting would have been unhealthy and dangerous both for my family as well as the unity of Vintage Church.

Once I was ordained as a pastor and began the second half of my seminary degree, however, my opportunities for ministry started to change. Still, without a specific place that God was calling me to, I knew I needed to be content in New Orleans as if it were permanent, which was incredibly freeing for Riley and me. When New York City entered our minds during the fall of 2013, our prayers and conversations centered upon a peace regarding God’s direction. Over our yearlong journey of confirming God’s calling on our lives to invest in the flourishing of New York City through planting a church in Manhattan, God progressively increased our passion for the city, our opportunities to move there, and our peace to go.

Yet, even with these encouraging signs, our calling was not completely affirmed. As we mentioned earlier in our definition, calling involves affirmation within the context of the local church, and it was our relational journey with the pastoral leadership at Vintage that ultimately affirmed this next step in our lives. In the next blog, we’ll look at this component of community and submission in discerning one’s call.

This blog was originally posted on Rob and Riley Russell’s personal website. You can go to www.robandriley.com to follow the Russell’s as they set out on this journey to plant a church in New York City.

Other posts in the “Calling” series: