Jesus is Lord; I am not.
Jesus has a mission; I seek first the Kingdom.
Jesus’ calls me into service; I submit to his call.
These words are not new for the Christian. They are an ordinary part of what is taught in most churches. I would suggest that however ordinary it may be, we have a hard time hearing God call. Yet if we believe that Jesus guides us, then we also need to listen for the call of Christ in our life.
So how does Jesus call us into service?
In my mind there are at least three ways. The first way is dramatic and direct. God appears Moses in the burning bush. God visits with Isaiah. Jesus encounters Paul. Vision, words and powerful presence combine to give each an unmistakable call into service. Many would wish for this kind of direct revelation. I am not so sure. When I read the stories, I hear that each of these great leaders in the Kingdom also endured great suffering. Maybe the two are connected. Nonetheless, it is clear that sometimes Jesus calls us into service in such a direct and powerful way. There is only one response: to obey the call.
The second way is the way of the gentle push. The Scripture I like to use along this way of receiving a call is the Parable of the Talents. The Lord gives a person talents to use in Kingdom service. But as the person uses these gifts he or she discovers that God gives more. The talents that God increases are Christ’s gentle push into service for the Kingdom. I have known many people who start their service in small way (Short term missions) but as they engage in the service and see the need, their hearts are filled with the call to deeper longer service. It happens in the local church. A person starts helping in a ministry, and soon takes on increasing responsibilities because he or she becomes passionate in this work of service. Responding to the gentle push is a way of listening to the voice of Jesus.
The third way is the way of the Samaritan. A person might say “I was just passing along, when I saw … I stopped… I served.” Of course we never just pass along. Jesus guides us by intentional placing us along certain paths where we will see. And in seeing we are faced with a choice, “do I follow the call of the Kingdom, or am I just too busy to stop and serve…?”
I don’t believe we need to pay that much attention to the first way. If Jesus comes that dramatically, it does not require discernment. The challenge is to obey.
The second way requires more discernment. Elders can be of particular help by ensuring that people can engage in a way of discovering and focusing their giftedness. Historically, we have used various “discover your gifts” programs. More than anything, people need a combination of encouragement and opportunity to engage in service. Elders can provide an invaluable service to the members by creating space for people to serve.
The third way also requires attention. We don’t have to look for our neighbour. We need to practice neighbourliness. Recently a farm in our community had a major fire. Many people poured into the farmyard to lend a hand. They practiced being a neighbour. Too often we hesitate, say we are too busy, or are afraid of the cost. Scripture invites us to take up the challenge and bless our neighbours. We need in other words to be eager to do good. God calls us to such goodness.
Elders can help form such attitudes of the heart in the congregation so that the way of the Samaritan becomes the culture of the congregation.
You can expect to hear from Jesus. He does call. The question is: are you listening?