Did you know that for many Christians, the reality that they are “CALLED” by God is not even on their radar screen?
And that “calling” is not just for people in ministry, but for ALL OF US?
AND that we have multiple callingS, and that they change throughout our lives?
AND that is is pretty impossible for people to live a “vibrant faith in Jesus Christ” when they don’t think about that through the lens of “calling.”
Welcome to the C3 or Creating a Culture of Calling Initiative. At Vibrant Faith we are knee-deep in this amazing work–funded by the Lilly Endowment. We have twenty-four churches and six coaches from eight different denominations–all working to create and nurture cultures of calling in churches over the next three years. We gathered these communities from all across the country a couple of weeks ago. I asked Dr. Wen Reagan from Duke Divinity School and our C3 Chronicler to share a bit about what he learned from these churches, AND about the God who is always calling.
So Wen, what did you see and hear at the C3 Conference?
Wow, so much! The churches clearly came ready to learn, discover, work, and connect with others. I was immediately amazed by the diversity of passions and gifts that had gathered at the conference. We had AME churches thinking through the idea of calling in their congregants’ work lives, Catholic parishes experimenting with rooting their youth catechesis work in the idea of calling, Lutheran churches working through how to translate the idea of calling so that it made sense for their youth groups. And many more. Much of our initial time was spent learning from our guest speakers, Dr. Kathleen Cahalan and Dr. Roland Martinson, who oriented us to a theological perspective on the concept of calling across all seasons of life. And then each church got to work, discussing the current culture of calling in their communities while starting to dream, imagine, and plan for how they might grow those cultures.
What did you learn from these churches?
Wrapping our minds around a robust theology of calling across all seasons of life is hard. And then taking steps to developing those insights and convictions into a practiced culture of calling in a community is even more challenging. I learned that this worthy challenge–cultivating a robust intergenerational sense of calling–is a struggle for all faith communities, regardless of denomination, disposition, location, or size. Yet these churches arrived at C3 up to the task, willing to ask hard questions, and more importantly, to listen to the hopes, dreams, and struggles of each other. And I was reminded that just as each calling is deeply contextualized for each person, each culture of calling is built in a different way. Yes, there is scaffolding that is useful for everyone–resources, theological insights, and broad dispositions. But there is no one-size-fits-all culture-building tool. Each church understood that its own culture of calling would be incarnated in its own unique context.
So why all of this fuss about calling?
C3 is rooted in the conviction that understanding and living into our callings from God is fundamental to how we perceive and live in the world. We are not the first movers, nor the captains of our souls. We were not created to live for ourselves and for own devices. Instead, we are called by the One who is wise, loving, and good, the God who anchors all of creation and our purpose. When our lives are rooted in discerning and living in the world via our callings from God, we live as we were created to–in response to a loving Creator.
Our callings are manifold, and they are both shared and unique. As Christians—broken people called out of a broken world by the Triune God—we share in several core callings. We are first called through God’s creation of us as human beings, called from the dust to life, and called into existence in the image of God. Reflecting the relational nature of our Triune God, we are called forth for relationship with others and for the good work of building our world. Yet each of us has become a new creation, individually called by the Holy Spirit through the baptism of Jesus, a baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection.
Called to Christ, we are found in Christ, so that we are called into the eternal life of the Triune God—the God who is love itself, love woven in the relationship within the Three-in-One.
And just as we are in Christ, Christ is in us, as we are called to be his people and his body here on Earth. Yet we are not called to all be the same. The Holy Spirit calls us as the diverse people we are, for we make up a diverse body of Christ, where one is a hand, another a foot. And the Holy Spirit calls us through this body, through one another—the relationships and communities of the people of God. The Spirit calls us to be Christ in and to the world, to serve others and to work for the thriving of the world that God loves. And just as God calls us to nourish our own bodies and those bodies in our world, God also calls us to nourish His body, equipping God’s church to continue to bear witness to Christ in the world.
We’d love it if our calling to create a calling culture inspired your church too! Let us know how we can help. firstname.lastname@example.org