MY CATALYTIC CONVERGENCE – #3 VOCATION
The Latin word “voca,” which means to call, is the root for the English word vocation. In Christianity, the term acknowledges that there is a divine purpose or calling in ours lives. We, as humans, do not merely exist. We have purpose. Early Church history teachers such as Origen and Augustine applied the notion of vocation to every Christian, even to every human being.
The Protestant Reformers reaffirmed this teaching. Everyone, no matter their occupation, was a proper object of divine call
“John Calvin used this lively sense of balance in his teachings on vocation. He saw the idea of vocation as having a double focus, one upon the earthly duty and the other upon the heavenly destiny. In this way, the common tasks of the Christian, as well as those roles more greatly honored in society, are held in new esteem.”
A. J. Conyers -Professor of Theology at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, in Waco, Texas.
I appreciate Calvin’s double focus. Grace adorns vocation. The exercise of one’s vocation releases God’s grace. This release of heavenly gifts is irrespective of human abilities or inabilities. Vocation underlies methodology. Delivering packages via A UPS truck is a methodology. The vocation of the UPS delivery driver is to serve. The driver releases grace on earth through this methodology.
I sensed a call to full-time vocational Christian ministry in the summer of 1968. Our Valley Baptist Youth Group attended a Youth for Christ Leadership conference at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. During the last evening of the meetings, the speaker ended his remarks by presenting us with an assignment. The speaker instructed us not to talk with anyone but God from the close of the meeting until breakfast the following day.
I went back to the dorm, and my roommates were absent for a time. I plopped my Bible on the bed, and it “randomly” opened to Acts chapter 9. Recorded there is Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. As I read this passage, a “knowing” came into me, a call to full-time vocational ministry. I interpreted this “knowing” as a call to the pastorate. I announced this call to my Youth Group companions at breakfast. I made it a point to share my experience with my Pastor after returning home. He listened carefully to my story and responded with this verse.
“But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62, NKJV)
After nine years of preparation, I stepped into full-time pastoral ministry in April of 1977. In the summer of 2000, I transitioned from Pastoral to Apostolic ministry. We incorporated our own ministry and named it EaglesRest Ministry. Ministry, especially in the past two decades, has necessitated frequent travel both regionally and internationally. The combined effects of aging and post-polio have made travel increasingly more uncomfortable and challenging. For example, in the past few years, accessibility issues need to be addressed when securing lodging while on the road. One size does not fit all the potential modifications a particular lodging establishment might make to provide an accessible room. I have also noticed increased discomfort in enduring road vibrations as a travel day wanes. Exiting certain vehicles challenges my rotator cuffs. At this point, future international travel is not realistic.
Orating for long periods is more of a challenge due to the dysphonia. In the past, I have been comfortable with preaching or teaching anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes at a time.
Another vocational challenge is the closure of doors to specific venues for ministry, especially among our regional network of relationships here in the Northwest. The need to isolate during the pandemic has also coincided with my mounting physical challenges. The doors closed with specific ministries for several reasons, change of church leadership, the closure of a church, and my inability to personally visit venues at a greater distance. In November 2020, while isolating in southern California during the pandemic and coping with my physical challenges, we received this notification from the eldership of our home church.
“We believe at this time we are to allow you to move out from under the designation of apostolic covering for Lakeview Ministries. Because of this it has been decided that the church will send a tithe to you just through the end of the year.”
Our first assignment in Lakeview was as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church. I served in that capacity from April 1977 through the end of 1984. After resigning from that post, I desired to move back to the warmer climbs of southern California. God had a different plan and led us to stay in Lakeview and plant a new church. This new work became known as Lakeview Ministries. The initial onset of Post Polio Syndrome began in the decade of the eighties. The symptoms became so pronounced that we left Lakeview in 1989 for the slightly warmer climate of the Grants Pass area. During our time in that area I served as the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Sema, Oregon
Two years later, God called us back to Lakeview. Part of that call was the promise, “The healing is in the going.” We moved back to Lakeview. Indeed, I returned healed of all the PPS symptoms I had been experiencing for a decade.
The first time we moved to Lakeview, we could only guess at the potential sacrifices we would be making for the sake of the ministry. The second time we moved back, we knew the nature of the sacrifices we would once again be making. It was a difficult decision, but the call was so overwhelmingly blatant. When I finally decided to move, I made a covenant with God. I would remain in Lakeview, whatever the cost until He released me. I interpreted the November 2020 notification from the eldership of our home church as that release.
Retiring from the call is not my desire. Even though this transition requires changes in geography, relationships, and methodology, the vocation remains the same. My call is to ministry, serving God, and serving humanity through my gifts. In this transition, I am doing more writing. This blog is one outlet for some of my prose. As well as being a ministry outlet writing is proving to be personally therapeutic in the transition. I sometimes ask myself, “Am I journaling or composing a blog?” Maybe it is a bit of both. After all, besides physical work-outs, spiritual and psychological exercise is also critical for health and wellbeing. I recently read an affirming article entitled The Power of a Strong Mindset by Dorie Clark.
Several consequential thoughts have reinforced my mindset as I process changes concerning my vocation.
This day was coming.
God intends this for good.
God works for the good.
God escorts us beyond our perceived limits.
God is in the process.
I will explain these thoughts further in Part 4.