Alasdair Macleod, Secretary of the Theological Forum, discusses the role that the national ministries of the Church have in leading God’s people to discover and fulfil their individual callings.
In the last couple of years, we have all been forced to think a little more about the calling of the Church of Scotland. What are we for as a Church? What are we called to do by God? For the Theological Forum, these questions have been matters of discussion and reflection, and the Forum presented a report on this subject to the General Assembly in May.
The report asserts that we are all called to become like Christ. Jesus himself said, in Matthew 11: 29-30, ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ This learning to become like Christ is the best thing for us, and God’s will.
But this calling to be like Jesus is fulfilled through diverse individual callings. We each have a calling from God, and one task of our lives as Christians is to discover and fulfil our own individual calling. It may be a calling to a clearly defined formal role; more often, it will be a calling to a general avenue of service and witness.
It is an intriguing thought – what is your calling? It may not be an easy question to answer. Callings take time to become apparent, as experiences accumulate, gifts develop and opportunities occur. Some people, however, including many readers of this article, have already found their callings in serving in one of the national ministries of the Church.
For you, then, the question may be, can you now help other people to discover their calling? This is a central task of Christian ministry to the people of God.
Helping people to discern a calling involves helping them to discern their spiritual gifts, which equip them to fulfil their calling. Paul offers guidance on this point in 1 Corinthians 12: 4-7: ‘Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.’
The gifts are diverse, and therefore the callings are diverse. But God the caller is the same, and Christ the example is the same. The callings are therefore harmonious, aimed at fulfilling the same end, so that, as the report states, ‘by worshipping, loving, serving and witnessing like him the Kingdom might be manifested, disciples made, and the world changed.’
Ministers therefore are to disciple the people of God by helping them to identify and develop their spiritual gifts. This will often involve opening up new areas of activity and ministry in a congregational setting, with encouragement to individuals to step up and volunteer their time and energies, even in tasks that may push them outside their own comfort zones. Inevitably, some volunteers may prove ill-suited to certain tasks, and some activities may fail. But where callings are being faithfully sought, they will be found.
The Church of Scotland has agreed to produce more specific resources in the near future to help individuals to identify, develop and deploy their gifts, ‘so that all may serve and witness in every walk of life, and the Church can better fulfil its calling to Scotland.’ These will assist ministers who are working with church members and helping them to discern their gifts and their callings.
Ultimately, a true calling from God is found where a particular need is observed, consistent with the calling of the church, where the spiritual gift to address it is discerned by individual and church alike, and where an opportunity is genuinely available for the task to be undertaken. Where need, gift and opportunity providentially coincide, there assuredly is God’s call to act!