These thoughts were offered at Franklin United Methodist Church on Sunday, July 8, 2018. This message was based upon a reading from 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. This is the second of three messages in a series entitled “Called.”
I have developed a handout to accompany this teaching and, hopefully, further the discussion in your home or small group. You can download it here.
I was going into the 8th grade. I don’t recall why this summer was so different. I had never been to church camp before. Perhaps, this was the first year that church camp and sports camps and practices did not conflict. Perhaps, it was the first year my parents could afford to send me. I don’t recall why I ended up going to camp that summer, but it changed my life.
I don’t remember a whole-lot about the specifics of camp that week. Aside from my camp counselor who is now a friend and mentor, I don’t remember the names of any of the other campers. I can’t recall any of the games—minus the games of HORSE that I played regularly with my camp counselor—that were played nor the devotions that were said.
Camp that week culminated in a worship service in the outdoor tabernacle. It was emotional. At the end of the service, the last night of camp, we shared communion together. It was an altar call of sorts, the capstone moment of the week.
After receiving the elements, I knelt to pray and there responded to the call of faith. It was in that moment that I decided that this faith was my own, that Christ was my Savior and I would follow Christ. As I knelt there praying, my counselor came up behind me and laid his hand on my shoulder praying over me. It was as if, in that moment, through the hand of my camp counselor God was saying, “I hear you and I’m with you.” To say that that moment was a profoundly emotional and moving experience is an understatement. It continues to shape my life. In that moment, I responded to God’s first and primary call in my life: the call to follow God.
In the Bible, the word “call” is used most often to refer to God’s initiative to bring people to Christ and to participate in his redemptive work in the world… It is a call to a restored relationship with God and with other people and with the world around us. It encompasses all of a person’s being and doing.
Our first call is to follow Christ: “[God] desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4, New Revised Standard Version).
Have you responded to God’s call on your life? Can you recall the first time you responded to Christ’s call to follow him?
In what ways do you continue to respond to God’s call? Is it still as important, do you hear it as loudly as you did in the beginning?
It is only after we respond to God’s initial call to follow that we can respond to God’s continued call to use our gifts and talents in partnership with God to bring about the healing and redemption of the world.
Having responded to God’s call to follow, we are then called to so order our lives that we might live into and establish God’s purposes for the world.
The first call is to follow; the second, is to reorient our entire being such that, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17, New Revised Standard Version).
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, in an effort to help Christians reorient their lives according to the purposes of God, offered three rules to be used as a guide for daily living. These “General Rules” remain, some 275 years later, as part of our stated practice as Methodists today. The Rules are: do no harm, do good, and attend to the ordinances of God—attend corporate worship, read, discuss and contemplate God’s Word (and Scripture), take Holy Communion as often as you can, pray privately and pray with others, and fast. Following these rules would be evidence of one’s commitment to follow God’s way. Adherence to these simple rules would be visible fruit of one’s faith.
As, and only after, we respond to God’s call to follow and reorient our lives to God’s purpose, will God equip and call us to specific tasks and work.
“The distinctive work of [God’s Spirit] the Holy Spirit is to guide and empower people for the life and work to which God leads them. In the Old Testament, God gave people the skills needed for their work on occasion,, as we have seen with Bezalel and Oholiab in the building of the tabernacle. But now the Spirit routinely guides believers to particular work and gives them the skills they need (1 Corinthians 12:7-10). [The Spirit] provides guidance for both what kind of work people do and how to do that work.”
There are any number of ways in which one might discern the what and how of the work God is calling us to: perhaps, you have taken a spiritual gifts inventory (if not see below!) or taken a personality survey like the Myers Briggs. For what its worth, I’m an INFJ and my spiritual gifts (survey says!) are Administration and Teaching.
While these tests and surveys—and a host of other tools—are helpful, I believe that the best place for people’s gifts to be discovered and honed, the best place for us to explore and experiment with what God might be calling us to do is in the community of faith. As we live life together—as we break bread, hear and discuss God’s word, and pray together—we learn each other’s gifts and can empower one another to use them in the community and around the world for Christ’s sake.
I am called. You are called to follow Christ and use the gifts God has given you for Christ’s sake. We are called together.
If you are interested in how your faith can/should impact your work, check out the Theology of Work Project. They have a number of incredible resources for discernment, reflection, and devotion.
In sermon 50, “The Use of Money,” John Wesley gives his infamous stewardship advise: gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can. In the section on gaining all you can, Wesley talks about work that is complementary to one’s faith.
Here are a few different spiritual gifts inventories. All of these are FREE. You may want to try several of them to compare results.
- Spiritual Gifts Survey from Lifeway Christian Resources
- Here is an online page and survey from UMC.org.
- This is a survey I adapted for use in the local church. This is the most detailed, 200 questions. I’ve used this in the past with leadership and those discerning areas of the church to participate in. It has two downloads: 1) Discover Your Spiritual Gifts Booklet; 2) Scorecard/Worksheet.
 “The call to belong to Christ and participate in his redemptive work in the world,” Theology of Work, https://www.theologyofwork.org/key-topics/vocation-overview-article/types-of-gods-calling/the-call-to-belong-to-christ-and-participate-in-his-redemptive-work-in-the, accessed July 3, 2018. © 2014 by the Theology of Work Project, Inc.
 “God’s guidance to particular work,” Theology of Work, https://www.theologyofwork.org/key-topics/vocation-overview-article/types-of-gods-calling/gods-guidance-to-particular-work, accessed July 3, 2018. © 2014 by the Theology of Work Project, Inc.