Chosen to Succeed: A Homily for Vocational Ministers

Shared at The Gate Community on 11/18/18

Many times in this sanctuary we have acknowledged pastoral leaders, ministerial entrepreneurs, and trailblazing missionaries, recognizing their call to churches, organizations, and nations. But until last year, seldom have we, as a local body, celebrated the ministry giftings in vocational leaders and those appointed to corporate frontlines.

For many of us in this room, there’s been a convergence of conviction in recent years centered on the idea that fivefold ministry gifts aren’t exclusive to those with fivefold ministry callings. For instance, like vocational ministers, a CPA with God-given financial skills, a physician, and a businessperson known for quality service can function in pastoral, evangelical, and apostolic anointings.

The question is: Are we helping them make connection between original design and occupation…between sacred and secular offices?

While many answers could be said, the truth is we, at The Gate, believe works of the Spirit are manifold and that there are infinite functional ministries saints can be called to. As such, it is also our belief anyone who is saved and aligned with Christ has difference-making, culture shaking potential as part of their appointed skill and spiritual gift mix…

…which brings us to today where it is with great pleasure we celebrate these individuals who have fulfilled their Commission U course requirements as part of Messenger Fellowship’s initiative to equip and empower marketplace ministers.

For those unaware of what Commission U is all about, in short, it’s more than a credentialing course, more than a biweekly small group, more than a quest for frame-able accomplishment; rather, it’s a pathway for disciple-making believers to discover and apply their spiritual gifts in worldly systems…a training ground for men and women of faith to mature their reach in fallen settings.

Scripturally, the word ‘commission’ is used several times. In Genesis, we find Joseph being commissioned by Pharaoh as the vizier of Egypt. In Numbers, we find Eleazar the priest and Joshua being commissioned in front of large assemblies. In Timothy, we find Timothy being commissioned by Paul to commit to his calling. And in the Gospels, the disciples are commissioned by Jesus to make disciples of all nations.

While these cases may seem random, the point is in each of them God appointed his chosen to succeed. And it’s for this reason we are gathered here: to charge these ambassadors not only to go and make disciples of all nations, but occupational arenas as well, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey not only what they’ve chosen to follow, but what they’re continuously choosing to learn and abide in.

So to our graduates, we employ you to build upon the insight you’ve inherited and to see the Scriptures as God-breathed in what you put your hands to.

As 2 Timothy 3:16-172 Timothy 3:16-17 says…

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth [knowing] all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

And to all of us, understand we carry a priestly, Immanuel’ (God with us) identity embodying the incarnate… with ignitable Kingdom influence wherever we walk…wherever we work.

On this note, we consecrate this moment by commissioning our Commission U graduates.

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Photo creds: Lydia Ingegneri

Begin Again

I’m feeling dry in mid-July as I take to a familiar scene…

…where Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo are, once again…

…deep in nightscape dialogue.

Like them, it’s been a year where nocturnal serenity has frequented my cul-de-sac of vulnerability.

Perhaps this is why I’m watching this, I think to myself.

After all, it’s not every day you catch a cinematic glimpse of what you and God do once the kids go down.

Walk and talk.

Walk and talk.

The perfect end to an imperfect day.

But this time…things are different. For once, I’m inside and idle, content in a still of a different kind.

Riding the rarity, I dive in, the laughs and prose all working towards this one moment…

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…sealed by a mic drop for the soul.

And yet, this story, in more ways than one, is just beginning.

For as credits roll, I approach the screen…

…to shelve a case of what was seen…

…only to balk and wonder why.

Why don’t I want to leave this moment, I wonder.

Perhaps it’s a sequence, a song, an emotional call. Perhaps the answer is ‘none at all’.

Either way, I’m at peace. Let it go, let it rest. Sometimes, walking away is best.

Flash-forward to mid-August and I’m cleaning again…the aura of Pledge, a fitting calm.

Then suddenly, it hits me

…what struck me that night was not the scene, but the title itself

…slowly marinating into the stubborn caverns of my disbelief.

Two words…we need, but take for granted; two words…preached, yet breached and slanted.

Two words…an answer once hoped for; two words…a truth igniting my core.

Two words for two months…and likely beyond. Now comes the part I ‘yes’ and respond.

And so it goes…there’s nothing God can’t use to find us and whisper the sweet reminder…

…that sometimes, to go forward, we must go back and…

begin again.

Roll credits.

Photo creds: 7-Themes, Pinterest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kingdom Carriers: The Reason We Exist (Part 2)

Part 1: Kingdom Agents: The Reason We Exist

So a few weeks back, I’m chillin’ in my humble abode, perusing a couple bivocational pastoral forums when I notice an intriguing update…

I work for UPS and have not taken a salary in the year and a half since I’ve been at my current church. They do provide a parsonage though. I have really been struggling with being bivo[cational]. Outside of my secular job I never feel I’m able to give enough or do enough for my ministry or my family. My job doesn’t build relationships because I’m all way in a different office and on different routes with no real interactions. It really is money only and I hate that. My dream would be to have a job [where] I can truly make money, not a get rich quick gimmick, and that gives flexibility when needed. Actually I’ve always dreamed of opening a coffee and sandwich shop. I have a dream to write but can never get enough time to make much progress. I just have been dealing a lot lately with not being enough, or not achieving enough, in any part of my life. It feels like the duck floating in the water. Things look smooth on the surface but underneath I’m fight what seems to be a losing fight right now. And I don’t know how to fix it or what to do.”

Now, before I continue, understand I’m normally not one to share anonymous posts; however, with this one, I can’t help but resonate given there are people like this all around us…

…questioning their purpose…

…making ends meet…

…all the while desperate to dream in light of their surroundings.

Accordingly, how we engage the chaos in a way that merges ‘hope of glory‘ and ‘hope of freedom‘ within our influence is worth discussion.

My thought is: whether you consider yourself vocational, bivocational, or multi-occupational, regardless of what you’re sacrificing, you desire to lay a foundation of life that pierces the mundane doldrums of an ego-driven culture.

Unfortunately, our desire to build upon this foundation is often offset by discouragement and disorientation. For example, some people know their identity as ‘loved by God’, but feel rudderless in a dead-end situation while for others, they have the ideal situation, but have no idea of who they are and what they’re truly called to.

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To compound matters, there is dissonance as people who see themselves as a collection of acquired skills and experiences collide with those who view their passions and assignments as functions of their uniqueness. Granted, we live in a fallen world of mixed perspectives where you are what you do outside of what you believe; hence, the tension many believers encounter when they take a servant mentality into the marketplace.

But for the dire dreamer determined to stay up on the down side of life, sometimes acknowledging the fact it’s not supposed to be easy isn’t enough. At some point, we must accept the fact people are not only looking for momentary motivation, but long-term resources and willing availability.

Not to suggest we downplay our readiness in giving answers for the hope we have. I’m just sayin’ if all we’re doing is pointing people, like the UPS man, in the right direction, can we honestly say we’re doing all we can to help? In counseling them to find the tools and direction they’re looking for?

And hear me: I’m not sayin’ we fix all the peoples…all the situations…and make floating ducks feel like power trucks.  I get there are times when all we can do is stand and point people in the way they’re to go.

However, if we see ourselves as Kingdom agents/ambassadors, then we should expect to receive appointed assignments where the only way to reach out is to create room…

…which leads me to why I’m writing this…

…so that we all can be more attuned in extending Jehovah-Jireh hope to the UPS man’s of the world…

…in conveying the promises of God who will not only provide, but get us to the other side…both in trust and in faith.

Perhaps you’re not a fan of who you are or where you’re at right now. Maybe you feel an awkward divide between you and who you wish to pour into1.

If so, I encourage you: stand strong, know you’re loved2, and invite God into the voids you sense. Remember you have what it takes to fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:11-16)…and by not quitting, you ultimately help others do the same.

As to how we do that?

Well, let’s just say…

that is why we exist.

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Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Or who you wish could pour into you
  2. And never alone
Cover photo creds: benzinga.com

 

 

Visions of Vocation (Part 1)

So lately, I’ve been thinking…

…in my quest to resource the church on marketplace ministry, have I been wrong in using the term, ‘bivocational’?

Have I been misleading people through a lack of definition, context…

…or even worse, discouraging people implying the expression as elite?

If so, please know…

  1. My intent is to encourage people where they’re at as opposed to elevating where I’m at.
  2. My goal is to inspire anyone and everyone to run their race to the fullest.
  3. If I’ve given any evidence to the contrary, I sincerely apologize.

Having said that, permit me to press the ‘reset’ button and clean house…

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Going back to our founding in 2014, no question, Lyssah and I were stirred by lessons learned as we balanced jobs in church and out. A quick jaunt to our ‘about’ page confirms this as its composition datestamps a time when our vision, mission, and target audience were finding their niche.

But somewhere during the writing of, ‘The Bottom Line’ in 2016, the tent pegs of what I had thought about ‘bivocational ministry’ began to expand. Suddenly, I saw how ‘bivocational’ in a bifunctional and spiritual gifting context could apply to anyone. As such, by the time I completed the e-book, my thinking had changed so dramatically, what started as a tool for a minority was now a resource for a majority.

Flash-forward to today and the evolution of thought, heart, and content change is still tough to gauge on the outside looking in; hence, why I wanted to take this minute to inform you while we believe occupation and vocation are related, they are not the same thing.

For example, as a youth pastor, what came first: my job or my calling?

If you answered the latter, you’d be correct.

Before I was alive to have an occupation1, God had a specific vocation or klḗsisover my life the same way he had a vocation (i.e. calling) over your life.

2 Timothy 1:8-9 (ESV) confirms this…

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.

The problem is we often think of ‘calling’ as this one great thing we’re supposed to do whether it’s writing a New York best seller or rising as a top executive at a fortune 500 company; however, when we consider how “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:38), we find God gives us more than one calling.

Take Jesus for example: as a child, he was a faithful student; as a teenager, he was a faithful carpenter (with special guest temple cameos); and by thirty, he was a faithful minister.

Now, we can nit-pick whether ‘student’ and ‘carpenter’ are vocations or occupations. Personally, if you used this model to suggest God designated various occupations to prepare His Son for his ultimate vocation (i.e. Matthew 28:19) – “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit“), I wouldn’t disagree.

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Whatever the case, my thoughts are…

  1. At each season in Jesus’ life, God was preparing him for his rabbinical destiny.
  2. While there may be seasons we don’t like what we do, God is always preparing us for what we’re meant to do (a truth that exists today just as much as it exists tomorrow).
  3. Therefore, even if our occupations (what we do) and vocations (what we’re meant to do) don’t seem to line up, we can rest in the common denominator of reflecting Jesus.

In essence, while pastors and ministers are multi-occupational in the sense their time is occupied with multiple responsibilities, given we’re all called to ordained vocations3, it makes no sense to promote one “ational” above the other and accordingly, be offended, trip over semantics, or fear political incorrectness.

After all, if we see “bivocational” as God giving us multiple skills and avenues to be salt and light, then divisive misinterpretations (i.e. clergy is on one level, laity is on another) waste away.

As a wise man recently told me…

Every believer has several vocations (rooted in bearing and restoring the image of God) and many occupations. A pastor or minister working 2-3 jobs is no less ordained than one fully supported.”

To this, I 100% agree.

Bottom line: Whether you refer yourself as bivocational and/or multi-occupational, at the end of the day, a) one is not better than the other and b) on a lifetime scale, we are all bivocational and multi-occupational. Remember being bivocational isn’t about having an occupational ministry outlet, but understanding what you’re meant to do (and more importantly, meant to be) regardless of what you do/want to do. It’s knowing no matter how you’re getting paid, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27) always resides in you.

Selah.

Stay tuned next time when I’ll dive into a recent forum post from a bivocational colleague that testifies to why His Girl Fryday exists.

In the meantime, in all you say and do, remember what and who you’re meant for.

Peace…

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. Hebrew translation – Avodah
  2. Vocation in Greek: klḗsis– “to call, summon”) – a calling or invitation into something, specifically receiving God’s gift of salvation – with all His blessings that go with it (Romans 11:29; Ephesians 4:4; 2 Peter 1:10).
  3. And all bear multiple responsibilities

Ephesians 4:1 conveys this…

* NAS: in a manner worthy of the calling with which
* KJV: worthy of the vocation wherewith
* INT: to walk of the calling in which you were called

Cover photo creds: Medium

🐑 3 Ways to Hear God at Work 🐑

As Kingdom agents, we carry unique responsibility.

From leading in humility to serving with authority1, no question our purpose thrives as we help others find theirs.

Yet, while these efforts often demand a lion-like attitude…

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You’d probably think I was nuts…baa none.

*Crickets*

Granted, this is partly true (just ask my wife); however, in all seriousness, if we truly desire to impact people, then we must seek to hear the Lord with all our hearts in all modes of life (Matthew 11:15). As the Psalmist declares, God not only wants to talk to us like a father, but lead us like the master shepherd he is…regardless of where we’re at.

That said, here are three steps we, as sheep-ishleaders, can take to better hear God at work…

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1. Trust the Shepherd

Scripture: John 10:3-4; 14-15 (ESV) – “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Imagine you’re a supervisor delegating tasks in hope to achieve an important outcome. How would you manage? Obviously, you wouldn’t assign work outside your team’s ability or understanding. Rather you’d ensure they were properly trained, equipped to execute, and clearly communicated to.

Unfortunately, when it comes to God, we often think we have to ‘know’ our way to what he’s trying to say…as if he’s a detached boss speaking over our heads in hope we’ll one day figure it out.

But truth is: when we recognize the Lord as shepherd (Psalm 23:1) in whom we lack nothing, we can rest assured he will be faithful to awaken our ears to hear (Isaiah 50:4-5) as opposed to just leading through circumstance.

John 10:3 captures this beautifully…

The sheep hear his voice…”

No effort, no striving. Just listening in hope to follow. Listening in hope to follow…

                                                     …the epitome of stillness in motion (as well as call being rooted in listening and obeying, not skill and power; more on this in a future post).

Continuing into v. 4, we see how God, as shepherd, not only shows the sheep where to go, but goes before and calls them by name. Accordingly, the flock is at peace trusting the shepherd’s voice knowing the emphasis is not on their following, but his ability to lead.

Scripture: John 10:27 (ESV) – “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

Scripture: Isaiah 30:21 (ESV) – “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

Bottom line: Hearing God speak at work starts with trusting him at all times. Even when God works in mysterious ways (Romans 11:25-36), he’ll still speak in ones we can understand, trust, and obey.

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2)   Follow the Leader

Scripture: Psalm 23:1-6 (ESV) – “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

For many of us, we have no problem telling God, “Where you go, I’ll go, where you stay, I’ll stay, when you move, I’ll move, I will follow”; sadly, when it comes to, “what you do, I’ll do, what you say, I’ll say, what you love, I’ll love…”, we’re far more hesitant.

Why it that?

For starters, while it’s easy to trust God in green pastures and quiet waters, it’s harder to trust him in the darkest valleys surrounded by enemies. David captures this vividly in Psalm 13…

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him, lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

Of course, if there’s ever a time to ask the Holy Spirit to light up our eyes declaring, “I yield myself in this moment of decision, wanting only that which will glorify Jesus”, it’s when we work3. After all, one could say there’s hardly a place more consumingthan where we’re employed.

Yet, even when we feel lost within our corporate flocks, even when we think the daily grind is more like a daily distraction, note what the Lord, our shepherd, does on our behalf…

  • He guides us along the right paths for his name’s sake… (v. 3)
  • He establishes our steps by preparing tables (Note: if he can do this in the presence of our enemies, he can surely do it in the presence of our leaders, supervisors, bosses, etc.), anointing our heads, filling our cups… (v. 5)
  • As we follow him, his goodness and love follows. (v. 6)

In essence, not only is God faithful to illuminate our hearts to trust, but also our strength to follow…both as our front/rear guard (Isaiah 52:12) and through the ‘bellwether’ leaders he puts in our path.

Bottom line: Trusting God’s leading means trusting his will in those he entrusts.

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3)   Still Your Soul

Scripture Psalm 100:3 (ESV) – “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”

For many, 9-5 silence can be hard to come by. Phone calls, conference meetings, appointments, trainings…no doubt, the quest to quiet our souls is far from easy.

Thankfully, where there’s a will, there’s a still…where we can allow the Spirit to convict our hearts as we worship and focus on God.

Take my case for example…

As a TDOT Finance employee, I work inside a moatless cubicle providing travel, departmental budget, and federal grant reporting support to a network of over 2,000 people. One could say I bring an umbrella to work even on dry days given when it rains, it pours!

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Still (pun intended), even on days when I’m drowning in what I can’t control or tempted to wallow in what I can’t understand, that gentle whisper5 reminds me of the invitation with my name on it…calling me to enter in his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise (Psalm 100:4)…helping me die to my own reasons, feelings, and false hopes.

And before you to know it…my peace is secure with the shepherd…my domain nothing more than the daddy’s lap6 where I inquire what he insists and longs me to resist7

…where I am his and he is mine…

…my dependence complete in perfect love.

Bottom line: Don’t just draw near to God; soak in his impressions8. Remember the goal is to be close to hear, not hear to be close. Even in silence, God’s guidance is always perfect, his heart always felt, his ways always clear.

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Stay tuned next time for a sequel post on how we can test, apply, and share our guidance and impressions.

‘Til then, don’t stop baaa-lievin’…

Selaaah. 

Footnotes

  1. Diakonia
  2. As opposed to ‘sheepish’
  3. Marketplace, day job/place of employment/occupation
  4. Assuming one or more apply: competing voices, compromised ethics, and crazy/unpredictable workloads
  5. Inner voice could sound/look like a mental image, word picture, impression (whether visual or Scripture), word, peace/dispeace, surprising idea you normally wouldn’t have thought of (usually discovered through prayer), a sentence on the screen of your mind like the typing on a computer screen
  6. #staynotstray, #herdistheWord
  7. Be it vanity, mediocrity, fear of man, fear/anxiety, resentment, our past, etc.
  8. Tip: Consider bringing a notepad/writing utensil to record what the Spirit is telling you; if you have the privacy, you can also record your thoughts memo style on your phone

Cover photo creds: Biblical Research Reports