The temptations of using your “calling” as an excuse
Kevin Yi | JULY 10, 2019 | 3 MIN READ
When is the last time you heard an appeal at your church to serve a particular group of people? Maybe during the spring, you’ve heard appeals to serve at children’s VBS. Or in the winter to serve the homeless. Or in the fall to consider becoming a youth teacher or small group leader.
How many of us have heard this type of appeal to serve somewhere in the church and we’ve thought to ourselves, “Oh, I’m not gifted in that area” or “I’m not called to those people”? We have to be really careful about this kind of thinking.
While it’s certainly legitimate to say no to a request to serve for various reasons, using “calling” as an excuse not to serve is a dangerous attitude to have. We are essentially avoiding the serving and loving of the people in our church at the expense of our perceived identity, and we are putting ourselves over and beyond God’s call for us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
For many church people, “calling” is not narrowly defined as a particular job or profession, but it’s often looked at as a way to talk about destiny. So because my calling is my destiny, anything that gets in the way of that is looked at negatively.
But if you look at the Bible, the people that God called were all people who thought that their lives were supposed to go another way. Their destinies were uprooted when God called them.
Abraham was happily living with his family when God called him to pack up and leave. Moses had run away from Egypt and was comfortable as a shepherd, having a wife and 2 children. Then he happened upon a burning bush at the ripe old age of 80. David was a shepherd boy until the prophet Samuel came and anointed him as king. Mary was an engaged woman who became pregnant with the son of God. Paul was a persecutor of Christians before God turned his life around and he became persecuted for Christ. None of these people had their lives go the way they thought they would. God has a habit of taking people who could never imagine themselves where God would eventually have their lives land, not for their glory, but for his.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The author of Hebrews is pointing to how we need to understand Biblical community. Our church community does not exist to help us reach our destiny. We are not called to use our people for our glory, but rather to serve people for God’s glory. Rather than using the idea of “calling” and “gifts” to make excuses for why we can’t serve a subset of our church members, we should be exhorting one another to take chances and to learn about other people at our church. But even more than this, we learn most about ourselves when we’re tasked with loving people who are unlike us.
Jean Vanier was the founder of L’Arche International, a community of over 150 communes dedicated to taking care of people with disabilities. Though he very recently passed away, he spent the latter part of his life dedicated to providing love and community to those that society had forgotten. One of the most remarkable things about Vanier is what he has to say about community:
“Community is the place where we discover our own fragilities, wounds, and inability to love, where our limitations, our fears, and our egoism are revealed to us. We cannot get away from the negative in ourselves. We have to face it. So community life brings a painful revelation of our limitations, weaknesses, and darkness, and the unexpected discovery of the monsters within us.” (From Way of the Dragon, Way of the Lamb by Kyle Strobel and Jamie Goggin)
Could this be why it’s easier to simply use “calling” and “gifting” as an excuse not to serve those who we don’t understand or who appear to be difficult to us? The truth is, serving those in “tough” communities will draw out our limitations and weaknesses in ways that will actually cause us to come before the Lord in desperate need of his help. This is why the Lord brings us to such places. Because when we’re weak, he is strong, and when we’re able to serve and minister effectively, we know that it was not by our strength, but by his own, and for his glory.
I learned this lesson recently when I filled in to lead the elementary program at our church for a few nights during a season of special worship services. I had always avoided working with young children because I never felt “called” to this particular group, but I really had no choice this time. I felt way over my head the entire hour and a half program… but I also appreciated every moment of working with these young children. I needed an extra measure of patience, understanding, and compassion, and the Holy Spirit never failed to deliver to my soul exactly what I needed. In my weakness, I saw the Lord’s strength.
So the next time you’re asked to serve or participate with a ministry or group of people you’re not comfortable with, rather than leaning on the idea that you’re not “gifted” or “called” to serve with these people, think of it as an opportunity to draw closer to the Lord. Rather than being afraid of our limitations, weaknesses, and sinful tendencies, what if we leaned into them and asked the Lord for help? As he unearths those ugly things from our heart, we will also be trained on what it looks like to trust in the Lord in all circumstances, and his grace will cause us to praise and glorify his name.
Kevin Yi is the youth and education pastor at Church Everyday in Los Angeles, CA and has been serving the middle school and high school students for over 15 years. He is a bi-vocational pastor and has been in the animation industry for over 10 years. He is the founder of truthmattersministries.com. He and his wife Tracy are celebrating eleven years of marriage together and have three children: Caden, Isabella, and Ian. He is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity at Talbot Theological Seminary.