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When Your Calling Seems Delayed

In just over two weeks I will have the privilege of unofficially becoming the Location Pastor at Living Hope Church in Maryville, Missouri.  This is a big transition for me, not just because of the responsibility to oversee a church, but because pastoring and church-planting have been callings that I have persistently pursued for the past five years.

Beginnings

While doing an internship in 2008 with Living Hope in Saint Joseph, Missouri, I had the opportunity to go to Brighton, England for the Newfrontiers “Together On a Mission” Conference.  At that conference God began to clarify a call in my life to plant churches, preach the Bible and make disciples.  I told the pastor who invited me to the conference.  He responded by telling me that I would have to wait and see. 

Set-Backs

As soon as I returned to Maryville, I began to diligently seek God for more clarification.  It was now the fall of 2008.  The Living Hope yellow lightMaryville location had been launched just under 1 year prior and was in desperate need of on site leadership.  From what I could tell, God was calling me to pastor that church plant.  I again told the pastor.  He told me that I wasn’t at that time the guy for the job.

Shortly after my conversation with the pastor he named another guy my age as the Location Pastor of Living Hope Maryville.  This was frustrating to say the least.  I prayerfully waited in submission to his leadership for several years.  That guy eventually became the Lead Pastor of Living Hope as a whole.  I went to him in the summer of 2012 and told him that God was calling me to be the Location Pastor in Maryville.  Without hesitation he told me that I wasn’t the guy.  This was again a bit disappointing.

Opportunity

As frustrating as it was to be told no so many times, I knew that I had to keep moving forward.  God had called me.  Who was I to give up when it seemed unclear? By that time, I had been prayerfully seeking Jesus, studying the Bible’s qualifications for pastors, reading books and articles about church-planting and asking church-planters and pastors to mentor me.  In addition I more intentionally saw to reach the lost, to make disciples and to grow the church. I even prayerfully wrote out a detailed vision, mission and distinctives for what God was calling me to as a pastor.  I didn’t know when I would get the opportunity to pastor, but when it came I wasn’t going to miss it for lack of preparation. 

Finally, in January 2013, I went to the pastors of Living Hope Church and emphasized with passion what God had called me to.  This time, they were open to discussing it.  As they began to see God’s calling for me, they took note of the way God had been preparing me and they observed my obsession for Jesus and disciple-making.  This began more than 5 months of dialogue.  Now, more than 5 years from the initial calling I’m stepping into the beginnings of what that looks like during this season of my life. It wasn’t easy, but here are the three biggest things I’ve learned.

1. God wants you to get where God wants you to go more than you want to get where God wants you to go. Ephesians 1:11 says that God’s people are “predestined according to the purpose of God who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”  This verse is specifically referring to salvation and election, but it applies to calling as well.  God has chosen you for the calling he has for you.  He will be faithful to make sure that you reach that calling, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

2. The time to prepare is now. In 1 Samuel 17, a young shepherd boy name David defeats a giant warrior named Goliath.  Prior to his battle, David spent his time fighting lions and bears to protect his father’s sheep.  He was prepared to fight Goliath because he had diligently fulfilled his daily responsibilities beforehand.  He didn’t wait to prepare until he had a military position.  He received a military position because he was prepared.  In the same way, don’t wait until it looks like you’re going to reach your calling to prepare.  Begin to prepare for your calling now.  Read books, pray, study the calling God has for you.  Identify the convictions, character and skills necessary to fulfill your calling and begin developing them now. Find a mentor who can help you through the preparation journey.

3. Focus on Jesus. When it comes down to it, a calling is ultimately about obedience to Jesus.  God has called you by Jesus, through Jesus and for Jesus.  You were called so that Jesus could do a work in you and through you and Jesus will always do his work in you before he does his work through you.  Don’t let a delayed fulfillment of God’s calling cause you to take your eyes off of what’s most important.  As Hebrews 12:1-2 commends, “let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” May a delayed fulfillment of your calling lead you to a deeper appreciate of, faith in and love for Jesus, the perfector of your faith.

What has God taught you about calling?

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