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:
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- We must always pursue our calling but put great value on our connections so we do not leave them lightly.
- 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.
- Let's not use the Holy Spirit as a cover for our own independence.
- 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.