Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle… to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together… by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. – 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, 9
These introductory verses to Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth got me thinking about the different ways we–and by “we” I mean Christians in America–use the word calling. It seems to me that more often than not, calling becomes a spiritual way of saying preference. ”I’m called to lead the ______ ministry” can easily (and in many cases correctly) be reworded as “I’d prefer to lead the ______ ministry.”
I’ve also noticed that calling is used in the negative more often than the positive. ”Oh, I’m not called to ______” or “Sign ups for ______? That’s not really my calling” are both pretty normal ways to say “no” in the Christian community.
Here’s the thing. I’ve been reading my bible a bit and aside from Paul saying he’s called to be an apostle (which is a big deal) I can’t really find any examples for these type of blanket callings over people’s lives. It seems to me that the Holy Spirit provides gifting for a specific area of ministry and He often leads people to be involved in one way or another, but we don’t really read about people being called and dedicated to one specific ministry to the exclusion of all others.
What we do see is what’s described to the Corinthians here: they are called to be saints and called to be in fellowship with one another. That calling carries with it a whole range of exhortations and commandments to love one another, care for the poor, pray together, worship together, teach the word, etc.
Anyway, maybe I’m off-base, maybe this is just a pet peeve or just an annoying little bit of Christianese, but I’m going to stop throwing around the word so flippantly.
Instead, I say we focus on what we are called to be: the church.