A strong sense of calling! Is it the missing ingredient in today’s leadership?
Over the years, I have come to a few conclusions about leadership. As a leader and a leader developer, I am always thinking about various aspects of leadership: What characteristics make a good leader? What are the some of the best practices of good leaders?
One of the aspects of leadership that, in my opinion, is often missing, overlooked or not considered important, is a sense of “Calling.” At times I’ve gotten pushback when suggesting that a leader needs to be called into leadership. Some feel I’m advocating a sort of Pauline experience” that is not normative; Moses and the burning bush.
I devoted an entire chapter in my book “Leaders Who Last” to calling. If you were interested in pastoral ministry during the days of Charles Spurgeon and wanted to attend his college, you did not get in until Spurgeon himself had a conversation with you and was convinced that you were “called.”
Calling has to do with the God of the universe speaking into your life and circumstances, expressing his will and desire for you. Suffice it to say that every Christian should serve the Lord by functioning in the body of Christ. At the same time, I believe that those who are serving in major leadership roles should have a strong sense of calling on their life (however that call is ascertained and experienced.) There is too much at stake to simply fill a slot or assume a responsibility based on feeling, desire, or ambition.
Here are three aspects of “calling that I have been thinking about lately:
1. What are you called to do?
As a leader we need to spend time discovering our spiritual gifts. This can be accomplished through an inventory, by responding to questions. It can also be ascertained through feedback from those who know you well, along with your own evaluative experience. Additionally, ask yourself what are you passionate about and care deeply about. What keeps you up at night, or gets you up in the morning? Gifts, passion, burdens can very well point to what the Lord is calling you to do.
2. Where are you called to do it?
The world is a big place, and you can’t be everywhere. Do you have a particular burden for a certain part of world? Do you seem to have an unusual interest in one country over another? Some, from early on, are drawn to Asia or Latin America or Africa. Others are even more specific and have a strong interest in a specific country but are not quite sure why. Jim and Elizabeth Elliot would be an example of this. Hudson Taylor and his interest in China or William Cary and his feeling drawn to India would be two more such examples.
The Holy Spirit could be placing an interest for a geographic region on your heart and that might be his calling for you.
3. With whom and for whom are you called to do it?
What you may be called to do and where can then be followed by what kinds of people you feel called to invest in. Mother Teresa was called to the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India. Here we have a country and people type. Some have a burden for parents, for successful business people, for the homeless, for unwed mothers. You get the idea.
When you think, pray and discern what, where and whom, it can get pretty exciting. Personally, I feel called to work with aspiring and emerging leaders. My purpose statement, born out of my calling, is: “To equip and empower the next generation of leaders in local churches by coaching, writing and teaching.” I don’t have a geographic aspect to my calling other than I want it lived out in local churches.
I would like to see the concept of calling revived so that it receives some fresh and creative attention. It could very well be the missing link in God-anointed ministry. Calling can help you stay the course when you are tempted to quit. It can anchor you in the grace and empowering of the Holy Spirit as you persist and don’t give up. (I Timothy 4:16)
As stated above, all Christians are called to serve (Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4); but, in another sense, there is the need also for a new generation of visionary leaders who are clearly called by God to lead the charge in a powerful new way.