Rethinking “Calling” is Essential to Creating Discipleship Culture in Churches of Christ

Part of our awkward relationship with discipleship and discipling movements has to do with our rejection of the idea of calling. If you grew up as I did, in Churches of Christ, you probably didn’t grow up with a positive view of the idea of calling.

I remember sitting in grad school in my mid 20s when someone in a class talked about God calling them into ministry. I was skeptical. I believed God wanted me to be there but I didn’t, at that time, view it as a divine calling.

The more I looked at what the Bible has to say about this the more convinced I became that God does, indeed, call people in various ways and on various levels.

First, I believe God is calling the whole world to put their faith in Jesus. This isn’t Limited Atonement. The offer is open to all who would believe.

Second, I believe God can call you for his purposes and the very first calling in this category is the call to be a disciple of Jesus.

See, when we read Jesus calling his first disciples in Matthew 4 we treat it very much like Jesus telling them in Acts 1 that they will be his “witnesses” and we treat all of that like we do the Great Commission in Matthew 28. How do we treat these the same? By saying those instructions were for them, not for us. That calling was for them, not for us. Those labels were for them, not for us.

Why did we reject the idea of calling?

I believe we did so on two grounds. First we didn’t ever want to look or sound like other groups. We felt other groups overused and abused certain words and we avoided those terms at all cost. Second, we rejected the idea of calling on theological grounds. We didn’t want to sound like we were promoting Calvinism or pre-destination. Calling seemed to come with that baggage. Instead of doing solid exgetical (interpretation) work on the verses involved we rejected the idea outright and, if you were like me, were very uncomfortable when you heard other people talk about God calling them to things.

I have come to believe that all of those things are for us as well. I have also come to believe that our neglect on these teachings has resulted in our neglect of discipleship. He called them, not us. They are disciples, not us. We are Christians, not disciples. That allows us to be nominal (noun) rather than action (verb – to follow).

This theological and philosophical move in our fellowship has resulted in laziness. It has resulted in complacency. What is more, and I will dive into this more in a future post, it has resulted in us rejecting in practice the very doctrine we hold to in theory, the priesthood of all believers from 1 Peter 2:9.

So what does the Bible teach on calling? The verses may shock you because the idea of calling in the New Testament is universal of all Christians – not just those who literally followed Jesus on this earth. We know that because we find this being taught to people in the New Testament letters who never met or followed Jesus physically.

This teaching is also something that we need to be certain of rather than reject. It couldn’t be more opposite than the view I grew up with if we are going to take these verses seriously.

Here are some of the verses we need to consider. When we follow these verses we will more fully enter into the discipleship process, identity and relationship.

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters make every effort to confirm your calling and election.” – 2 Peter 1:10

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.” – 1 Peter 1:21

“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” – Eph 4:1

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” – 2 Thess 1:11

“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.” – Hebrews 3:1

Calling is biblical. How can we realize our identity as disciples if we reject calling? Thoughts? What has your experience been with this term?

What would happen if we put ourselves in Matthew 4 and realized that Jesus was calling us as well? How might that change our lives? Our ministry? Our identity?

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