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Lesson 1 -- God's Call

The idea that God calls should be breathtaking.
That God calls means that He is active and vocal. He is interested and concerned.
He is personally involved in our lives. He wants to have a personal relationship with us.

The Universal Call
The Good News is that all are called to repentance, forgiveness, salvation, love,
fellowship, obedience and service. All are called to equal consecration and dedication
and stewardship.

The Apostle Paul's Emphasis
Paul never tired of reminding the members of his churches that they were called.
You see your calling, brothers. I Corinthians. 1:26.
Let every man abide in the same calling I Corinthians. 7:20.
You are called in one hope Ephesians . 4:4.
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus
Philippians 3:14.
Paul's prayer in II Thessalonians 1:11 was "that our God would count you worthy
of this calling."
Who has save us, and called us with a holy calling. II Timothy 1:9
God has the right to call because he created us. He sustains us.
He has made provision for our redemption. He has prepared for our eternal future.

However, there is also a unique personal call.
Mark 1:17 states: "Come after me and I will make you fishers of men."
This was a specific invitation, at a specific time, to a specific individual.
Mankind has not always understood that we are equally called to have a
personal relationship with our Creator.

God's Call
The idea that God calls should be breathtaking.
That God calls means that He is active and vocal.
He is interested and concerned. He is personally involved in our lives.
He wants to have a personal relationship with us.

The Universal Call
The Good News is that all are called to repentance, forgiveness, salvation, love,
fellowship, obedience and service.
All are called to equal consecration and dedication and stewardship.

The Apostle Paul's Emphasis
Paul never tired of reminding the members of his churches that they were called.
You see your calling, brothers. (I Cor. 1:26).
Let every man abide in the same calling (I Cor. 7:20).
You are called in one hope (Eph. 4:4).
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:14)
Paul's prayer in II Thessalonians 1:11 was "that our God would count you
worthy of this calling."
Who has save us, and called us with a holy calling. (II Timothy 1:9)
God has the right to call because he created us.
He sustains us.
He has made provision for our redemption.
He has prepared for our eternal future.
However, there is also a unique personal call.
Mark 1:17 states: "Come after me and I will make you fishers of men."
This was a specific invitation, at a specific time,to a specific individual.
The church has not always understood that we are equally called to have
a relationship with our Creator.

The Roman Catholic Church divided society into groups.
During the Middle ages, that period of intellectual darkness and obscurity
between the fifth and fifteenth centuries.
During these times there were four classes in society.

Clergy
At the top was clergy.
They had special rank and privilege.
The church controlled government.
They were the "called".
They prayed for the masses.
Through the administration of the sacraments they dispensed grace and salvation.

Nobility
Next to the clergy was the nobility.
They did the fighting and maintained law and order under the authority of the clergy.
They were the right arm of the clergy.
They were not over the clergy nor beside the clergy.
They were in service to the clergy. The church taught that God did not deal directly with them.

Peasants
After the nobility came the peasants.
These were the blue collar-working people.
They were usually a serf or freeman in the service of a nobleman.
They might be a member of a craft or guild.
It was taught that God never dealt with these individuals except through clergy.
They had no voice in the service and ministry of the church.
His significance was attributed to the service he gave to the classes above him.
If he fulfilled his function well,he might reach heaven after a long stay in purgatory.
God did not "call" the peasant.

Merchant Traders
This group was grudgingly recognized in the society of the Middle Ages.
Merchants and traders were often thought of as parasites.
Their status beyond the grave was a matter of doubt.
The church was convinced that this group had no direct "call" from God.

The Reformation
When the Reformation began in the 16th century the concept of
the priesthood of the believer was heralded.
Once again, all of mankind was seen as equal in God's sight.

Four basic Biblical principles were emphasized in this period.
1. The sinfulness of man--- all are sinners saved by grace.
This means we all stand equal before God.
None are righteous by his own action.
2. Christ died for all-the second biblical truth was that Christ died for all.
No one group had special consideration before God.
There was no class distinction.
3. Salvation by grace-Salvation does not come through sacraments, works,
or social position.
Salvation is a gift from God.
Our sins were paid for my Jesus' crucifixion.
We have eternal life as a result of His resurrection.
4. All are called -- All people have dealings with God.
All are called to know, to accept, to obey, to love, and to serve.

So, where does this leave those of us who are vocational ministers?
The reformers understood that there are differences in society.
There had to be those who lead and those who followed.
God ordained this for the good of society.
Individuals were called to positions of authority.
They were to serve in these various callings by order of Christ Jesus
as directed by the Holy Spirit.

Discussion Questions:
Discuss the idea that every person is called.
Discuss how societal classes effected pastoral caring during the Middle Ages.

How Does God Call?
Is the call to vocational ministry different from other calls to service?
Two dangers face the individual who wishes to seek God's will
in the area of lifework.

First, the person may be seeking God's approval for his own desires and plans.
Second, he or she may be unwilling to follow the plans and purposes of God.
When I first announced that God had called me to full-time vocational ministry,
my pastor said, "John, if you can be happy doing anything else go and do it."
I was offended.
It took years for me to realize that this wise pastor was saying,
"There must be a fire from God that leads the minister.
Without the assurance of God's involvement in the call, the individual
will not succeed.
He was correct.

In examining our call, we must accept the reality that if we can be happy
doing anything else we are not called to vocational ministry.
In determining our call to ministry, we should ask if it is persistent or occasional.
If it is occasional proceed slowly.
We should continue to listen for stronger desire on our part.
If it is persistent, be attentive.

Proceed with the realization that we are investigating divine territory.
The first step in being called to vocational service is to be willing
to answer God's call.

Prayer will play an indispensable part in discovering the Lord's will.
If a person believes that God has a plan and purpose for his or her life,
if he or she believes that God is eager to reveal that plan and purpose,
if he or she is ready and willing to hear and obey God's call,
then he or she will talk to God about this matter.

Second, knowledge of God's will shall come through honest, devoted,
consistent, intelligent Bible study and prayer.
It is valid to ask: "Am I intellectually up to the task?"
Vocational ministry requires never ending study.
If you do not enjoy reading and writing than you need to reexamine your call.
Have you learned to pray?
Is talking to God a natural part of your life?

Occasionally a person feels an urgent call to ministry, yet has little
experience in a worship community.
I have had dozens of men and women bring me resumes that show
no preparation for ministry.
They have a burning desire to serve but emotional zeal is not enough.
Will you pay the price to gain insight and knowledge?
How much are you willing to give up to serve the sick, the alienated,
the poor, the dying?
That is part of the call to pastoral ministry.

Am I competent to lead the community of faith?
Can I learn to communicate the message of Christ?
Do I have integrity?
Am I disciplined?
What are my motives?
Recognize the talents, skills, and abilities that God has given you.

Third, having examined self, then consult others concerning their perception
of your gifts for ministry.
If God has called you then others will recognize your gifts and ability to minister.
However, do not be parent or friend called.
Our service should be a result of a deep internal realization that God
wants us in vocational ministry.
We should have a sense of obligation.
We should want to shout: "Here am I send me."
The motivating force behind all ministries is a desire to please God.

Fourth, watch for open doors.
This does not mean that we sit back and do nothing.
Talk to those who are already in ministry.
Tell them of your desire to serve.
Write letters and send resumes.

Fifth, if preliminary interest proves positive, then inquire whether
this felt inward call can receive an outward confirmation by the church.
Now the focus shifts from my internal sense of call to other's deliberation.
The call to ministry requires not only a private, inward knowledge
that one is called by God.
It also requires the affirmation of the believing community.
It is the church that outwardly confers the office of ministry.
In order to exercise the power that is bestowed upon pastoral leadership
there must be a regulated procedure to evaluate and publicly affirm the call.

Assurance of call is a complicated issue.
Never forget that those of us who claim to be called to vocational ministry
are also claiming to speak for God.
We have made full circle.
That God calls is breathtaking.

Questions for consideration:
Discuss individual call to ministry?
How do you know you are called to vocational ministry?
How is that calling different from a general call to minister?