Some people may have only one calling in life. For instance, a young pastor just out of seminary receives a call to a church and serves there until God calls him home. But we’d be foolish to think that everyone is the same way. The fact of the matter is God may give us a new calling at any time. That’s why it’s always important to be attentive to Him. In my own experience I’ve worked with every age group of the church, from bed babies to senior adults, in a variety of ministries. And every time I worked with a new group, I remember the same question coming to mind, “Lord, what can I do?” That question has always been answered, “It’s not what you can or will do. It’s what I will do.” Over the years I’ve learned to stop asking that question. I’m going to get the same answer and it’s always the right answer.
The reason I bring this up is we can get comfortable in a ministry area. Or we can get comfortable in a ministry position. But if we remain there past the time God has called us to move on, we’re limiting ourselves, we’re preventing someone else from moving in and growing, we’re limiting what the group we’re currently ministering to can receive, and we’re taking away from the ministry we’re being called to. How’s that for reasons to move on? I’ve learned this because most folks that see me work with children remark about how easily I handle children’s ministry. Children’s ministry is a comfort area for me in a lot of ways. It’s where I started in ministry. It’s where God has called me to serve most often. And it’s an area where I certainly have a passion for. But if I stay in children’s ministry when I hear God saying, “Go there,” then I’m not obeying. That’s sin. And as I just pointed out, that sin has a greater impact than on just me. That’s why I find myself ministering to junior high youth right now. It’s where God wants me to be. Junior high youth represent a completely different challenge than children, than senior adults, than a single adult ministry. There’s a lot that is different. There are two things that aren’t, though. Those are the fact that my Lord and my God is at work in the lives of the youth and that I experience great joy when I see what He is doing in this ministry. Those are the same two constants in every ministry He has called me to serve in. And those are the same two constants in every ministry He is calling you to serve in.
But don’t take my word for it that God could change our calling over time. There are examples from Scripture where folks have had a change in calling. Paul is a great example. Upon his conversion, he immediately began serving as an apologist and evangelist. We might say that’s not very different from a missionary, and we’d be right. But the fact exists that this is how he started.
But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ. When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, but their plot became known to Saul They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.
When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death.
– Acts 9:22-29, NASB
But Paul didn’t stay in this role. He eventually went back to Tarsus (the disciples sent him back there to protect him). But then there came a need for his ability to teach and grow a church.
The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. – Acts 11:22-26, NASB
Barnabas saw the church plant in Antioch was growing and it needed sound teaching. So he went and found a sound teacher: Paul. This is a different role than an apologist and an evangelist. Helping to shepherd a church means nurturing the people inside. It’s not just about revealing truth. It’s about growing hearts for God. So here we clearly see a different calling for Paul. And then, of course, Paul turns missionary in response to the next calling in his life. But what’s interesting about Paul’s missionary work is it combined both of his previous callings. He served as an evangelist and apologist, arguing with the Jews over Jesus being the Christ and revealing the truth to the Gentiles, but also several times he was responsible for starting a church plant and nurturing it. So even within the calling of missionary, Paul’s specific calling at any point of time certainly was changing. He responded accordingly, serving in whatever capacity God called Him to do. We need to be the same way, too.
This isn’t a clarion call for you to drop what you’re doing right now and seek after something else. Rather, it’s a reminder that we must always be listening to God for His direction and His guidance. Just because we’re comfortable somewhere doesn’t mean we’re intended to stay there. We could be. But we just as easily could be moved on to something else. Make sure that where you are serving is where God wants you to be right now. If it’s not, plan the move to where you need to be and carry it out. Work with others in your ministry and over your ministry. And make the transition. If you are where you are supposed to be, take joy in the ministry you are in. Other ministries may be more glamorous, more visible, less stressful, less demanding, or a whole host of other things that may make them seem more appealing. But the fact of the matter is you are where God wants you to be. And there can be no better place than that. Just be attentive and stay attentive. We want to be where God wants us. And the only way we can do that is by always listening to Him.