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Called or sent?

Should we primarily think of ourselves as “called” or “sent” in ministry? The language we choose to use can make huge difference in how we perceive ourselves. 

The Bible talks about us being called - but perhaps not so much to a specific place or ministry...its more about our identity and its implications. We're called to belong to Jesus Christ (Rom 1:6), to an eternal hope and inheritance (1 Tim 6:12; Heb 9:15; Eph 1:18) - and consequentially we are called to be holy (Rom 1:7; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Cor 1:2), serve one another in love (Gal 5:13) and suffer for Jesus sake (2 Pet 2:21) live a life worthy of this calling. (Eph 4:1)

However, the Bible also talks about being sent - to a place or for a task. Moses was sent to Egypt (Ex 3:10), Isaiah and Jeremiah were sent to prophecy to God's people (Isa 6, Jer 1). Jesus instructs his disciples to pray that more workers will be sent (Matt 9:38) and later sends them into the world (Matt 20:18-20).

So what difference does it make? Is this just a question of semantics? Being called seems to imply that you're someone special compared to everyone else - a chosen one..."I have a special calling." Sometimes I find myself slipping into that mentality. Our world tells us to strive for greatness - and so much of the aspiration in the music scene is to achieve recognition and glory. This mindset so easily bleeds into our ministry - we can be driven by the ambitions of our world...just dressed up in respectable church clothing - called to greatness...for the Kingdom's sake, of course! For me, its not so much seeking the limelight...but if I do something that I think is worthy or significant and it goes unrecognized, then that's a different matter!

However, as Paul introduces himself to the Romans, he refers to himself as a slave or servant of Christ - that's definitely not putting tickets on yourself! As a slave or servant, you are sent to do your masters business, not pursue your own dreams and ambitions. The recognition or glory never goes to you, but to your master. You cannot demand to be respected or place yourself on a pedal stool over anyone. There isn’t any task that’s beneath you. There’s no room for rock stars and guitar heros. Just servants.

Even as I think about this, my ego is taking a pounding. Even though its good enough for Jesus (Phil 2) and no servant is greater than his master (Jn 13:16), there’s a part of me that still feels I deserve more than this (more than what Christ has already done for me?!). But I have to remember that this is God’s upside down kingdom - whoever wants to gain his life will loose it.

But it is also liberating - it places the Sovereign God back in the drivers seat. My “success” does not rely on my talents, persistence, good ideas or ambition. Success for me is faithfully trusting and following Jesus as he sends me - to whatever ends and whatever results he desires.

Expanded from points raised in a lecture with Stuart Coulton - 5/2/2010