As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received…Ephesians 4:1
This is just the opening verse to a section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church that addresses the importance of unity in the body of Christ. For us to truly walk in unity as followers of Jesus, we need to understand and live out verse 1. What do I mean?
This past Tuesday (March 15th), I attended the annual sectional council for my section in the state of Michigan. During sectional council, we elect our sectional presbyter and secretary, hear reports from our leaders, updates from missionaries, and enjoy a great dinner. After all of the business, we get the privilege of worshiping and hearing from God. For many of the pastors there, we are often on the other side, doing our best to articulate the gospel and share the good news of Jesus with others. For me, and I’m sure a few others, I’m also leading worship on Sunday mornings. I’m rarely on the other side, joining with the people. There was something about not having to lead anything and being able to simply lose myself in God’s presence and be ministered to for once. It was very refreshing and very needed.
Our district leader ministered to us on the importance of unity and challenged us as leaders to preserve the unity of the Spirit, even when others may try to force their own agenda on the body of believers. He shared many of his own challenges and victories, and lessons the Lord has taught him through his many years of pastoral leadership. Although all of this was great and was very needed, there is one aspect of sectional council that always ministers to me the most: the commissioning service. This is the part of the evening when men and women who have met the requirements for a particular level of ministry license, are celebrated and commissioned. Every time I sit through one of these I become emotional. I’m excited for those individuals, but it also causes me to remember my own commissioning and the call of God on my life.
On April 29th, 2003, my senior year at North Central University, I received my License to Preach, the second highest credential in the Assemblies of God. I was commissioned during the Minnesota District Council as great men and women of God prayed over my wife and I. It was a very surreal experience. Five years later, in May of 2008, I received my Certificate of Ordination, the highest credential. I once again was presented along with the other candidates, this time at the Michigan District Council, in front of friends and family. It was a high honor for me to be commissioned as one who had a life-long call to the ministry of the gospel. Eight years later, it still brings tears to my eyes.
I mention all this simply to say that we all have a calling. We all have a role in the kingdom of God. Whether that calling puts us in front of people, behind the scenes, or on the front lines, it is a high calling. Every role is important to the spread of the kingdom. When you’re involved in ministry on a regular basis, it can be easy to forget this sometimes. You get wrapped up in the work of the ministry, the burden of responsibility, the desire to see people set free, and it can wear you out. It’s times like Sectional Council that help me to remember why I’m called and challenge me to do as Paul urged the Ephesians: to live a life worthy of the calling (I) have received. I know that I’m not a pastor because I’m holier than others, or more favored by God, but simply because it is my calling. I’m also learning, however, that I must walk boldly and confidently in that calling. A pastor is called to shepherd the people and prepare them for the work of the gospel. My calling is not to one specific group in my church, but to everyone. From the youngest child in our nursery to our oldest member (almost 90), my calling is to shepherd them. Others will come to me with ideas, encouragement, and even complaints, but when all is said and done, the responsibility falls to me to lead. It doesn’t fall to me to DO everything, but it does fall to me to LEAD everyone. I want to live a life worthy of that calling.
I’m not perfect and certainly I am not always right. I must remain humble enough to admit when I miss the mark, but also must lead confidently and boldly, believing that God will lead and guide me every step of the way. It’s easy as a leader to carry more of the burden than you should and to evaluate yourself and your calling the wrong way. God reminded me of this just recently. During my prayer time, I was asking God to help me walk more boldly and confidently as a leader, and to not be afraid to step out in faith. As I walked the sanctuary, He simply reminded me of all the things he has done in the almost 5 years since He called me and my family to this place. Our attendance has doubled, our yearly income has doubled, we are in a new building with room to expand, our church advanced to autonomous status, and much more. It wasn’t a “look what Kevin has done” moment, but a “look what God has done” moment. Even as I’ve learned how to be a lead pastor, God has done some phenomenal things. There is no reason NOT to live a life worthy of the calling he has given me. I now think to myself, how much more might He do when I walk boldly in the Spirit and trust Him for bigger God-sized dreams?
I hope this is not coming across as self-righteous or arrogant, because it is certainly not my intention. My purpose in giving you my story is to encourage you that you have been called by God, and those whom God calls, God equips. We give him what little we have, and He turns it in to so much more. So walk worthy of the calling you have received. If you say “I don’t know what my calling is,” then take it to God. I believe we all share the call to love others as God loves us. How does God love us? He sent His Son, Jesus, who gave Himself on the cross, then raised from the dead and gave us the Holy Spirit, who equips us and enables us to carry out this calling. No matter what you do, or where God takes you, love others as He has loved you. If you do that, you will never be outside of the will of God. That’s what it means to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Grace and Peace,