In our last blog, we defined 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. Sorting through your emotions and rationale as you seek out your calling can be difficult, and I’ve written more about that here (insert link to second blog on calling). Central to this whole definition, however, is the involvement of the local church. You’ve probably heard it said, “No man is an island.” The same is true in discerning one’s calling, and it is to our benefit when we submit to the spiritual leadership that God has placed over us in his institution of the local church.
On most days, my wife, Riley, functions as my de facto “fashion police.” I have become well versed, due to her leadership, in the difference between things that “match” and things that “go together.” Usually, this just means I’m wearing too much gray. Granted, I still have a long way to go, but if it weren’t for Riley’s input, I’d probably still be trying to wear sweatpants six days a week like when we first met. I assumed I knew what was best when it came to my wardrobe, but Riley has been gracious enough to gently correct my ongoing ignorance.
When it comes to thinking through tough decisions and God’s vocational calling on your life, I think the same principle applies. Who agrees? While we like to think that no one knows us better than ourselves, it is usually other people who know us that are best equipped to point out our blind spots. If you are currently living in biblical community, chances are the people around you can provide excellent insight into has God has gifted you and who he has created you to be. Calling is beneficial as a communal venture, and the affirmation of God’s appointed leaders in your church can only serve to encourage you as you step out in faith (Acts 13:2-3). Too often, I have seen people share that God was calling them to do something and then set out on their own when those in their church disagreed. The same Holy Spirit that exists in you exists in me, and as a God of unity, he desires the unified affirmation and edification of his church. What do you believe God is calling you to do, and who agrees?
I still remember the first time I shared with our lead pastor, Rob Wilton, about the growing burden in my heart for New York City. I hadn’t been able to flesh out my thoughts, I had no clue what the next step should be, and I was nervous about how Rob would respond. After I shared, the first thing Rob did was to say he always assumed I would plant a church one day. Immediately, I began to feel more at ease. I was clueless about what to do next, but Rob suggested I spend a month researching and praying for two other cities to see if New York would stay on my mind. I also thought it would be great to take a trip to explore the city soon, but Rob cautioned me about playing into my emotions too early when it would be at least 2 years (at that time) before we would move.
Every step along the way, I was thankful to have wiser and more experienced voices speaking into my family’s journey. At any point, I truly believe that if our pastoral team shared they did not believe this was God’s will, I would have hit the brakes. Given their discernment, I approached my calling to New York City in two phases: my ability and our location. In December of 2013, our pastoral team affirmed my competency to plant a church. Once the new year started, I began working on the second phase, finally making plans to take a trip to New York City. Our pastors reviewed our itinerary and prayed for my wife and I before we left. Shortly after returning, everyone agreed that God was moving us to invest our lives in this new city. Still a year out from moving and beginning this exciting journey, Riley and I already feel incredibly encouraged, and I give all of the credit to God’s gracious gift of community and the leadership he’s surrounded us with.
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.
Check out the rest of the posts in the “Calling” series: