Nine years ago I left full time pastoral ministry. What followed was six years of identity crisis. I would go to church, only to leave feeling lost and misplaced. I felt like I had no role and therefore no purpose. If I wasn’t a pastor…. then who was I? It was a long season of depression and isolation. Since then I have had numerous conversations with misplaced souls who perhaps weren’t in a pastoral role but were once worship leaders, Sunday School teachers, deacons and now have found themselves wondering the same, “Who AM I?”, “Where did my calling go?”
I can assure you, the call didn’t go anywhere.
This identity crisis seems to be on the rise among those who are suddenly finding themselves misplaced from what the institutional church defines as ministry. Those of us who grew up in the church in the past thirty years can remember well the days we would weep at the altar in our answer to God’s call to “go”. But what does that “call” look like when there seems to be no where that “fits”? This is where we need a greater understanding of calling on an individual level and corporately. An identity awakening is in our midst.
What does this awakening look like?
1. It is an awakening to who we are to “be” first verses what we “do”. I found pastoral church ministry very task driven. It was easy for an over-achiever like myself to be consumed in my role. I would hear sermons on being more of a “Mary” over a “Martha” and commit to get more “Mary” inside of me only to drown in to-do lists in the office that week. The message of “being” is common today, and thankfully is becoming encouraged and built into ministry leaders and volunteers. Before we “do” anything, we have a first love to cultivate.
2. A bit more recent is an awakening to the understanding of our identity as sons and daughters of God. Sons and daughters are not known by the Father for roles they play in the church, but who they are in His family. This revelation has rebirthed hope in orphaned hearts and the wounded. Those who have found themselves calloused have been renewed by a new understanding of their royal inheiritance. I am now invited to be about my Father’s business. It’s an honor and a privilege. When fulfilling that calling out of sonship-identity, it can flourish into something beautiful, rather than be filled with pressure to “become something”. We are no longer looking for Daddy’s approval, but start with the foundation of knowing we have His approval. This was where we were meant to begin.
3. Coming back to the church presently is a reminder of us being “living stones”; the idea of building God’s dream and abandoning our own. “Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you’ll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God” (1 Peter 2:5). Present day. Kingdom-minded disciples are moved by their part as being one of the stones God is using to build His dream – His dream of having a people to call His own. This revelation changes everything. The question is no longer, “What is my call?”, it is now, “What is God’s dream and what part did He plan for me to play?” I no longer invite Christ into my initiatives and programs, He invites me into His plan and purpose; the one He orchestrated before the foundation of the earth. His divinity and my humanity come into clarity through the lense of sonship. I abandon all for the sake of the call – including my visions of what that “calling” entails (especially if it ends up look like it’s all about me)
I remember wallowing in my room, feeling sorry for myself that God had passed me over. With no ministry or lay ministry opportunity in sight, I cried out to God, “Where is my call, God? Where is my reward?!” He replied, “I’m right here”.
When I think of these three awakenings, it calls us into something far greater than we have seen thus far in the local church. I believe the best is yet to come. He is stirring in His people an awareness of each and every member being a part of His divine plan on this earth. The idea that “every believer is a minister” is beginning to see feet to the common communication of the concept. How this will play out in the next ten years in the present day church will be interesting to see unravel. A further understanding of Christ’s headship and God’s divine dream will give foundation and guidance as we venture forward further into unchartered territory.
If you feel overlooked, or you have lost your “call”, rest assured. You’re calling is found in Him, and it is very much alive. It’s time for your awakening.