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Friday, 27 September 2013

Connections and Calling

This is a really tough one. I think it lies at the heart both of our own personal growth and the functioning of an effective, growing church community. How do you figure out when and/or whether to disconnect in order to follow what you believe is a God-given calling? Which comes first - connection or calling? Should we ever sacrifice our calling in order to hold on to our connections? Or do we sacrifice connections in order to pursue a calling?

This is such a biggy! I have seen examples of people becoming frustrated and unfulfilled in their callings in order to maintain a connection that they should have moved on from. There were others who have missed out on callings because they didn't value connections that were part of God's means of helping them fulfill their calling, but they got impatient with the process. And I have seen the emphasis on 'covenant' connections used as a way of locking people out of their calling. And I've seen communities made dysfunctional by people focusing only on their own calling, and failing to value their connections.

This is such a minefield, and I still have not worked out a way through it in my own understanding (though I submit that it is better to be honest about this than to think you have it all worked out and then brazenly set out across the minefield). But let me suggest a few tentative steps from things I've learned from observation and experience, as someone who has been involved in Christian community for nearly 30 years and as a leader for 20 of those years. Hopefully I won't set off any explosions:

  1. Even when we have a strong sense of personal call (not all do), we must start by recognising that the mission of God involves us in building relationships and communities so we have got to make this connection thing work!
  2. We can also therefore believe that if we stay sensitive to the Spirit, there will be for each of us a place where we have vital connections and flourish in our calling. Ultimately both are necessary and available; we should not have to sacrifice one for the other.
  3. But there is a journey to that place that may involve disconnections along the way; so we must stay sensitive to the Spirit's leading, listen to his voice and learn his ways. 
  4. We must always pursue our calling but put great value on our connections so we do not leave them lightly.
  5. We should recognise that the pain and frustration that sometimes arises from following a calling in the context of connections and community is often part of the process the Spirit uses to form us and shape us. Sometimes the desire to disconnect is carnal. Sometimes it is the stirrings of the Spirit. We have to stay close and open to Him to know which it is.
  6. Let's not use the Holy Spirit as a cover for our own independence.
  7. Let's talk openly and honestly with those we are connected with about our calling and what we think the Spirit is doing in the process. Let people challenge our thinking but don't be intimidated away from the Spirit's call. 
There are more things that could be said about each of these points; and more points that could be made.But that's enough to think about. Feel free to suggest some of your own.

4 comments:

  1. Oh my word Trevor, such wisdom and such wrestling at the same time. I think we should simplify everything. God doesn't make it complicated.

    Leave connections that are holding one back, and make connections that propel you into all that God has for you.

    I like what Bob Jones said one time " the good is the enemy of the best".

    Deane

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    1. Thanks for the feed-back, Deane. Not sure whether it is a complement or a criticism! Criticism is totally valid by the way - I welcome anything that helps clarify my thoughts. Are you suggesting that it's not really a minefield as I imagine, or are you ready to skip happily across the minefield!?
      My suggestion is that it isn't always easy to be clear when something is holding you back (as opposed to being just a frustration as part of our formation) and when it is propelling you forward (as opposed to self-justifying independence). Doesn't this require some 'wrestling' if we genuinely value both calling and connection?

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  2. It is of course a compliment and a comment (not a criticism).

    I am suggesting that the choice is relatively simple - some connections hold you back and some assist you to achieve what God has called you into. I am asuming that you are talking about loyalties and relationships with people and churches that you value and to which you have attachments, but which don't want to go the same direction. I have certainly seen and experienced that. We left our church two years ago. It was painful, but we were also incredibly frustrated there and knew that what we felt we were called to was not what they were building. To stay would not have resolved our frustration, it wouldhave only increased. We have never looked back, even if this has been a difficult and at times lonely step to take. But God has honoured that step.

    As Kris Vallotan said - like Abraham sometimes we don't know where we are going, We only know where I cannot stay.

    Deane

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Deane. Good, thought-provoking stuff.

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