Why do we sometimes find this reality of the spiritual journey disconcerting? (Once the congregation writes the story of God’s calling and vision, it is time to “write” the rest of the story. You see the written story is not the end, only the beginning).
While the terms spirituality and religion can both refer to the search for God, an increasing number of people have come to see the two as separate entities, religion being just one way in which humans can experience spirituality. Cultural historian, William Irwin Thompson states, "Religion is not identical with spirituality; rather religion is the form spirituality takes in civilization.
Those who speak of spirituality outside of religion often define themselves as SBNR or "spiritual but not religious" and generally believe in the existence of many different "spiritual paths" - emphasizing the importance of finding one's own individual path to spirituality. According to one poll, some 24±4% of the United States population identifies itself as spiritual but not religious. One might say then, that a key difference is that religion is a type of formal external search, while spirituality is defined as a search within oneself.
We may sometimes find the reality of the spiritual journey disconcerting because spirituality is a very personal and individual thing. We may not all agree on what our spiritual journey for the church is.
God’s calling and vision only become clearer and in focus as the congregation lives into its current understanding of God’s call.
Why is this so? What are its implications for the congregation?
1. GOD'S MAIN CALL IS FIRST TO A RESTORED RELATIONSHIP AND THEN TO CLOSE FELLOWSHIP WITH HIM:
* Only by accepting and receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior will you ever be reconciled to God and be able to have a personal relationship with Him.
"I (Jesus) am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."- John 14:6
" to all who received Jesus, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."
- John 1:12
* Eternal life and being a Christian is not just about accepting Jesus as your Lord & Savior, then waiting around to go to heaven where you will live forever. It is about a relationship with God, and getting to know Him , and serving Him and obeying Him because you love Him.
"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent"
- John 17:3
" I have called you friends." - John 15:15
" You are my friends if you do what I command." - John 15:14
"God's call is for you to be His loyal friend, for whatever purpose He has for your life."
- Oswald Chambers "My Utmost For His Highest"
"God, who has called you into fellowship ("koinania") with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."
- I Cor. 1:9
("koinania" fellowship- "the fullest possible fellowship & partnership with God, and with others in the church. Intimate fellowship with God and His son Jesus produces this type of fellowship and unity in a church. Only God can produce this genuine koinania fellowship, love, and unity.") (Henry Blackaby)
2. GOD HAS A SPECIAL & UNIQUE PURPOSE AND CALLING FOR YOUR LIFE:
" For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11
Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has special plans for our lives, plans to bless us and prosper us; The next two verses spell out the necessary conditions for us to receive the benefit of His plans, "Then when you call upon Me and come and pray to Me, I will hear you. When you search for Me, You will find Me; if you seek Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:12-13)
" God will instruct him in the way chosen for him." - Psalm 25:12
" You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." - I Peter 2:9
" For we are God's workmanship ("valuable masterpiece"), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." - Ephesians 2:10
3. GOD PLACES A DESIRE AND A PASSION IN OUR HEARTS TO DO THE THINGS HE CALLS US TO DO:
" For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." - Philippians 2:13
(You will have a love & joy & passion for doing the things God has created you for & calls you to do)
4. GOD GIVES SPIRITUAL GIFTS TO EQUIP YOU FOR YOUR CALLING:
List of Spiritual Gifts: exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, prophecy, service, administration, apostle, discernment, faith, healing, helps, knowledge, miracles, teaching, wisdom, evangelism, hospitality, martyrdom, missionarySpiritual Gifts Evaluation Tool http://www.kodachrome.org/spiritgift/
5. GOD'S PRESENCE & POWER WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU WHEN HE CALLS YOU:
"Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." - Acts 13:2
The Greek word for called means that God "called them unto Himself", first to a love relationship with God, and next to where His presence and His power would be at work. We only need to respond in faith and obedience, and God will provide the power and whatever else is needed to get the job done. Moses being called to help lead God's people out of Egypt is another good example of God's call and how God provided everything (see Exodus 3 & 4).
6. THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT GOD CALLS ALL CHRISTIANS TO DO:
"Come follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." - Matthew 4:19
"Then Jesus came to them and said “All authority in heaven and on earth have been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” - Matthew 28:18-20
You are not truly following Jesus unless you are being a fisher of men and an active witness for Jesus Christ, telling the lost about Him and sharing His plan of salvation with them. He also wants the church to teach and help others become fully devoted and passionate disciples (learners and followers) of Jesus Christ, so they will be fruitful witnesses and servants of His.
As God left us all guidelines on how to answer his call- and the fact that He WILL call- these guidelines can be very challenging to live up to in today’s world. But living into these callings would help us discern the direction for our church to take. I believe that the implications for the congregation are to not deny our talents and our gifts but yet to use them as we see the direction of our church unfolding and help be a part of the future of WHBC. I think it has a lot to do with our own talents and gifts and working together to keep our congregation balanced.
Do you see the journey of living into God’s calling and vision as a time of continuing discernment for WHBC? Why or why not?
It could be challenging to feel that we have to live up to God’s calling, recognize our talents and them put them to use for God. We have to put aside our own agenda’s and listen to God. We have to rely on God which is often very difficult. We have to learn the difference between living into God’s calling and make sure we are not living into our own calling which would not be as God intends for our church as a whole.
Paul talks about doing his best “to reach what is ahead.” What is Paul reaching for?
I believe that Paul is reaching for God, for God’s vision for his life and for God’s direction. I believe that Paul is reaching for the will of Christ to be what drives him, not his own will.
What did you learn from Paul about how we are to serve God and live into his call?
I believe it is a lesson on being a child of God. Letting go and letting God. I believe it is a lesson to allow God to use us and empower us with gifts that He sees fit to give us and work through us for His vision to be reached. “We are to run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above.”
With God we can do anything. I believe that God really wants us to know this first hand- and thus things we may need to do at WHBC may require us to fully rely on Him. Some of us may not truly be ready/able to do that and I believe that God will test us and try us and through Him His glory will prevail.
Why is making these values and behaviors come alive and real in the life of the congregation the keys to a congregation’s ability to successfully live into God’s calling and vision?
I think it is because we are always skeptical of fully relying on God. And when we do not completely give over to Him and we try to do things on our own or our own way it always leads to complications and we interfere with God’s true direction. Therefore never really getting there. It always remains just out of reach. I believe that living the values and behaviors are the key to successfully live into God’s calling and vision for our church because we should be looking to God for direction and then securely knowing that He is in control and we are able to do His work for our church and our congregation and our world around us.
Which of these do you see most lived out today in the life and ministry of the congregation? Which ones need attention?
In our congregation I mostly see passion and faith. There is a little courage, but too much discouragement. There is not enough permission giving or empowerment and even if people are aware of their gifts I don’t think they truly use them…
Praying Out Loud for each other and for the congregation:
Lord I pray for the faith and courage necessary for the congregation to live boldly into the life and ministry that God desires.
I pray for the congregation to affirm and embrace an attitude of permission giving and empowerment where members are allowed and encouraged to live and serve God out of their gifts and passions.
Trust, gifts, passion, permission giving, empowerment, courage and faith
Which do you need to make more real and alive in your own life and ministry?
I have a lot of passion, just not enough follow through. I tend to take on too much at a time instead of focusing on one thing all the way through.
I know my gifts- what I think are my gifts, but I also know I have never used them all- I should try using them all to see where I may fit best.
I trust, but not always! HA!- I’m sure this is true for many people.
I don’t feel I am in a position of permission giving, I feel I am in a position of having to ask permission.
I don’t feel empowered about anything here at church, I only feel like people ask me to handle or participate in tasks that other people don’t necessarily want to do but these things still have to get done.
I have courage, and I use it- until I am discouraged then I tend to let it alone. Maybe I need to take a firmer stand?
I have a ton of faith, and rely on that quite a bit for all the things mentioned above.