What’s your call?

What’s your calling? Maybe you’ve never thought about that. Maybe you think a calling is only for clergy and religious figures. Well, everyone has a calling.

My role as a pastor is pretty simple when it comes down to it. But it’s also very misunderstood.

My call is to make disciples. That’s it. It’s really that simple.

Here’s what my call is not – My call is not to make members. It’s some of what I do, but it’s not the primary thing. Membership does not equal automatic discipleship. Members can be disciples for sure and it’s wonderful when they are. It’s a true blessing. But being a church members doesn’t guarantee discipleship. There’s plenty of folks out there who are members of churches who have no interest in being disciples for a variety of reasons. Perfectly nice people. That’s not to rank people or put people down – it’s to recognize a reality in the church. Dave Daubert, who works with ELCA congregations on redevelopment, has this wonderful stat that goes something like this – take the average ELCA congregation. 1/3 of the people are functioning atheists. They don’t believe the theology. They aren’t there for the faith. They are there for some other reason – a spouse, habit, social interaction, whatever. 1/3 stopped growing in faith when they were confirmed. No desire to grow any more. Confirmation meant a check box that was completed. And 1/3 are either growing in faith and learning and trying to be disciples, or are doing their best to live it out.

Here’s some other things I’m not called to – to make Americans, or patriots. Not called to make Democrats or Republicans (or any other partisan political party for that matter). Not called to get you rich or make you happy. Not called to help you get or stay physically fit. Not called to cure whatever illness you have – physical or mental. Not called to be a customer service agent or run a club. Not called to preserve an institution (yes, you read that right). Not called to many things that I chose not to list here.

I’m called to make disciples. This means I don’t know a whole lot of things. I just don’t. There’s plenty that I’m not called to.

This also means that the expectations that society and churches have for pastors – often unspoken are unsustainable and sometimes unhealthy for the pastor and the congregation as a whole.

Pastors are often seen in congregations to be expert theologians, preachers, HR managers, finance specialists, fundraisers, good with numbers, good with people, marketers, evangelists, social media experts, tech specialists, volunteer coordinators, managers, supervisors, executives, laborers, visionaries, detail people, networkers, thinkers, educators, listeners, youth directors, senior care folks, marriage counselors, job counselors, non-profit executives, social ministry experts, writers, relationship counselors, addiction counselors, experts in the -isms of our day, historians, experts in conflict resolution, change agents, maintainers of the status quo, unites, prophets, motivators, and more.

Here’s what I know – I’m not that. There are certainly things on that list that I’m good at – maybe a few that I’m gifted at. But plenty on that list that I am not gifted in nor good at, nor enjoy. In fact, there isn’t a pastor out there who fits that description. And there shouldn’t be either. Because then a pastor is doing it all for the people. That’s not the call of a pastor, or anyone else. We’re called to make disciples – which means to empower the people to do these things. To figure out what you all are gifted in and to align that gift with what the mission of the church is about. Everyone wins when that happens.

The practical application of this is that there are times when pastors, myself included, will preach and proclaim and do things that will conflict with what it means to be a member, or American, or Democrat/Republican, or riches, or health, or happiness, or any number of other things. We look at the world through the lens of discipleship. That is our calling. And while people may be upset that pastors are not trying to make members, or Americans, or Democrats/Republicans, etc. Please know that pastors are just as upset that folks are placing other things as the primary focus that shapes their lives. That’s a painful truth that pastors will rarely, if ever, share with non-pastors.

What’s your calling? And what is not?

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