Losing Your Life to Christ and The Call

What an amazing day at Exploration. I spent most of the day facilitating a workshop entitled: “Living in a Fishbowl: Being a Young Adult in Ministry” which was a panel discussion on any questions the participants might have about ministry. It was a great time and was such a blessing to hear the questions that were asked. The questions revealed that many are really wrestling with a call from God and in what capacity that call may be lived out in their lives.

If I were to give any theme to my day of conversations, questions, and experiences it has been this: “Where is God calling me?”

We started off Exploration by talking about our call to ministry that extends to everyone in their baptism and today was narrowing that down to wrestling with and responding to what specific avenue each individual is called to walk down. From some of the conversations I had there seemed to be a struggle within some individuals around ordained vs. lay ministry. One individual shared with me that from that individual’s perspective it seemed like ordained ministry was being communicated the most important ministry. So I wanted to reflect in this space on that subject.

First, lets name something for what it is. Often when anyone seems to have a serious response to their baptismal call, individuals in the church want to encourage that individual to explore and consider ordained ministry. This can often lead to a sense that “ordained” ministry is the only “real” ministry, but I would argue that those individuals aren’t saying that ordained ministry is superior but rather trying to make sure individuals consider that God may be calling them to ordained ministry.

You see I think this comes from a very real thing: ordained ministry can be scary for many people and often individuals never think they are “gifted enough” or “qualified” for ordained ministry or that ordained ministry is even a possibility for them. Often if it isn’t named or encouraged people will hear that call from God and think it can’t be toward ordained ministry. I think many people feel the call of God upon their life but the natural reaction is to think it is everywhere but ordained ministry.

But you see God does call people to ordained ministry and the church wants to be faithful to that call and help people listen and respond. I am reminded of the call of Samuel. Samuel would not have understood his call in the way he did if he didn’t have Eli helping him and naming for him the call God was putting on his life.

For those of you reading this who are attending Exploration, I want you to hear this: God is calling you. It may be to ordained ministry or it may be to lay ministry, but either way God is calling you. That is the journey of discernment. You have to open your life to the possibilities God may be calling you to and listen. The reason for an event like Exploration is to help everyone understand that they are called but to specifically create space where people can see the possibilities that God is calling them to lead the church in ordained ministry. It is not that it is better but rather that it is a reality for some.

In the end though, the challenge is for the church to really understand its call to celebrate and teach the call upon everyone in their baptism. I was struck during Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr.’s sermon with the way he framed discipleship. I purposefully use discipleship because I believe he pointed to the reality of the “call” upon all of us as Christians who are re-made in Christ. Bishop Hayes talked about losing our life to Christ in order to find it. At that point I was struck with this thought which I tweeted: “Here is what I know: If the 700+ gathered here lose their life to Christ it won’t matter if it is ordained or lay.”

That is the truth. The future of the church depends on those gathered in Christ’s name truly surrendering their lives and losing it to Christ. When that begins to happen en masse we will see the Church live into the great blessing Christ has called it to be.

Will you lose your life to Christ and live out that new life in Christ in whatever capacity God may have gifted and called you to live it out?

Exploration Profile #3

Name: Lindsey Baynham

Age: 24

Location: Newport News, Virginia

Stage in Life: 3rd year M.Div Student at Duke Divinity School

What brought you to Exploration?: I am representing Duke Divinity and was asked to be a small group leader. So I am just hanging out at the table sharing my experience and facilitating conversation for people exploring a call to ministry.

Who was or is most influential in your sense of call?: It has definitely been through relationships. Through former pastors and my home pastor now kind of showed me that women could serve as pastors.

What excites you the most about the church and serving Christ? What we are seeing right here. Young people feeling a sense of call and just wanting to be involved in growing the church and serving Christ.

What scares you the most about the church and serving Christ? Being young and being taken seriously as we enter into leadership in whatever form it presents itself.

What do you see as the greatest strength of the church? Our diversity. I think people bring different things to the table and when we are able to just listen and talk with one another that is where we see the growth and when we see Christ.

What do you see as the greatest challenge to the church? We have to start thinking outside the box. We have to remain faithful to our tradition and where we came from but we also need to look forward at how we can be brining forth the Kingdom of God.


Exploration Profile #2

Name: Brittney Stephan

Age: 18

Location: Huntington, Indiana

Stage in Life: Freshman at Butler University

What brought you to Exploration?: I came here with a group from the Indiana Conference. I was emailed and asked if I wanted to come along and share about my journey and learn more about The United Methodist Church and what it has to offer.

Who was or is most influential in your sense of call?: One of the most influential people in my call has been my pastor Marty. She (Marty) has been there for me every step of the way and served as my candidacy mentor and so we have grown close along the way.

What excites you the most about the church and serving Christ? Just the atmosphere to come together as the Body of Christ and to serve God with all of our gifts and talents.

What scares you the most about the church and serving Christ? Probably the fact that it is in decline and I am very aware that the church in general is in decline.

What do you see as the greatest strength of the church? I would say it is fellowship and coming together knowing you have a community to support you.

What do you see as the greatest challenge to the church? The age process and how there are fewer young adults in the ministry paths and how that might effect the church and its ability to reach out to present and future generations.


Exploration Profile #1

As part of my blogging for Exploration, I wanted to interview random participants and ask them a few questions.  Here is the first interview of the weekend.

Name:  Thomas Bannister

Age:  18

Location:  Shelbyville, Tennessee

Stage in Life:  High School Senior

What brought you to Exploration?:  I told my preacher that I was interested in going into ministry and so that started the conversation and he told me it would be a good idea to come check this out.

Who was or is most influential in your sense of call?:  I wouldn’t say that it was one person but a bunch of people.  They didn’t tell me directly but they were like “hey this is probably what you need to do with your life.”

What excites you the most about the church and serving Christ?  To be honest, just going out and helping people.

What scares you the most about the church and serving Christ?  That the church might not be open to all these people that have been cast out by everyone else but we still need to reach.

What do you see as the greatest strength of the church?  The people, because church is always a community to me. Not one building. Not one guy standing in the pulpit. So that is its greatest asset that it is more than one person.

What do you see as the greatest challenge to the church?  To be 100% honest, the church itself because there are so many different denominations and sometimes people will look down on you because you aren’t a member of their denomination.  And I think that really impedes our ability to reach out to the lost and our ability to reach out to God.  Just some of the hypocrisy the church has.


Remember Your Baptism….

How many of you remember your baptism? Many of us as United Methodist might not be able to “remember” our baptism in the form of “recollection” because many of us were baptized as infants.  However, I am not one of those United Methodists who were baptized as infants because I didn’t become United Methodist until I was a teenager and the faith tradition my family came from “dedicated” infants.  So when we are told to remember our baptism, I can remember it clearly because I was in 7th grade.  I can remember Rev. Donald Baker pouring the water over my head at Faith Community Reformed Church and I can remember the feeling of overwhelming awe.

There was a great video to begin worship here at Exploration where a woman shared coming to terms with “remembering” her baptism after being told in school to “Remember the Alamo” and struggling with how to remember something she didn’t witness.  Her teach said something to the effect that she is to remember as to remind herself of the experience.  It is different than recollection of some stored memory but rather the practice of remember the reality that did happen.

In baptism God acts upon us and makes us a new creation, but with that act of creation God also calls us into ministry.  Everyone gathered here this weekend was called into ministry through their baptism.  That means that no matter how that call takes shape (ordained ministry or lay ministry) we are all called as followers of Christ.  I was struck by the way that Rev. Adam Hamilton framed our call as Christians:  “As Christians we are called to be the light of the world….so go punch holes of light in the darkness.”  That brings our call down into something manageable.  In all our walks of life we are called to bear light to the world around is.  Can you imagine what the world would be like if every Christian approached every interaction by asking, “How can I punch a hole of light into the darkness that may be present in this situation?”

My hope is that everyone who reads this recognizes that the call has already been placed upon you.  It is not something in the future, but something that happened in the past with ramifications in the present and future.  You were called in your baptism.  You already are in ministry and here this weekend the exploration for everyone is really this: to which context of life are you called to live out that calling.

My God’s whisper tickle your ear and soften your heart to gain clarity for the amazing things God can do through you.  In the words of Adam Hamilton, “Dream God Sized Dreams!”