Every Christian has the same calling, and every Christian has a unique calling. Wait, what? Every Christian is called by God to orient their life around three central commands in Scripture. In that sense, our calling is the same. Yet our individual obedience will have diverse expression. In this way, our calling is unique.
We orchestrate our lives around a big story that we trust in. The habits and decisions of our daily life are expressions of living that story.
In the last couple years, I’ve discovered this “same calling, unique calling” principle. Without grounding calling in sameness we have no real starting point for our life’s work. Without a sense of uniqueness we live in the agony of jealousy, guilt, and comparison. I have bloodied my face against this brick wall. Maybe my pain can save you some time. Here’s how the “same calling, unique calling” principle has played out for me.
1. Be Creative
Like so many people, I used to say, “I’m not creative.” I didn’t realize I was calling God a liar.
Most of us are familiar with the doctrine of imago dei (i.e., humans were created in the image of God). We share common ground with God, have capacity to relate to God, and are designed to overflow with the goodness of God. But creativity is also a key part of this shared likeness.
God command us to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion” over creation (Gen 1:28-29). He encourages us to “make something out of what I have made, create something out of what I have created.”
During the Olympics this summer we will witness the world’s greatest kinesthetic creativity. Gymnasts will prepare jaw-dropping routines. Top sprinters will run nearly thirty miles per hour. With the bodies God has given them these athletes have made something. They are creative. But probably in a way that doesn’t fit most people’s definition.
My wife recently shared a valuable Albert Einstein quote with me: “Everyone is a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” You are creative. But if you aren’t musical or artistic and you judge yourself by those standards, you will live your whole life believing “I’m not creative.” What a lie.
You are created in the image of God. You have been created to create so you must “create to live,” as my friend Daniel Mogg puts it. You are infused with the creative life of the Holy Spirit—the same Spirit that brought order out of the uninhabitable land in the beginning. So be creative because you are.
2. Mature in Love
About five years ago, I had a nervous breakdown. I’m not prone to anxiety attacks and things of that nature, but I am certain my experience lands in that category.
I was speaking at a summer camp, and all I wanted to do was go hide in my room and cry. I felt fearful of the people around me. What brought these feelings on?
Looking back, it seems clear that demonic forces were screaming lies about me that I began to truly believe. But before these demons spoke them to me, so did a well-intentioned mentor in my life.
At the time, I was a youth and college pastor. The lead pastor was receiving some feedback that, although I made myself available to others, I wasn’t as approachable as I should be. I took this advice to heart. I remember one week where I set up seventeen one-on-one appointments with others to connect. Yet even with these efforts, many folks felt that my relational performance was deficient.
“On Sunday mornings I’d like you to go around shake hands, kiss babies, and schmooze,” he explained. “You mean like a politician?” I asked. “Exactly!”
I came to dread the schmoozing times between services. I became fearful of others. Why? A lie began to grow in my heart. “I’m not good at relationships.” Months later at the summer camp that seed bore fruit and the enemy was throwing it in my face.
Perhaps, like me you’ve come to believe something similarly harmful about your capacity to relate to others. “If people get to know me they won’t really like me.” “I wish I was an extrovert like her.” “I’m bad at connecting with people.”
It took several years to wean myself off the poisonous lies I’d been sipping. He replaced those lies with the truth about me in Christ. Here’s the truth about you and me: By God’s grace, I’m good at relationships. I can mature in love as I respond to the love God has shown me through Christ. I may never be that great at the politician thing, but I thrive in one-on-one conversations and smaller settings. I love others best in these contexts. But if you ask me to schmooze somewhere, I’ll just shoot myself in the kneecap so I can escape.
When it comes to relationships, what elements of your personality does God desire to rescue you from? What elements of your personality does God want to redeem so that his life can shine through you? His plan is to do both of these things in your life. His calling for each of us is to mature in love, but that maturity will manifest uniquely based off your personality and your context.
3. Multiply Disciples
About five years ago, I was exposed to the missional community movement. Both the theological vision and the reproducibility resonated deeply with me. However, I struggled deeply to connect the teachings with my own life. So many of the missional exhortations I heard started with “connecting with your neighbors.” That was pretty hard for me. I don’t live in a neighborhood. I live at a Camp and Conference Center. The lake is surrounded with million dollar homes—almost all of which are gated/barricaded. I invited some folks over one time, but while I was broiling steaks, my son ran into the corner of our kitchen counter at a dead sprint. It was a pretty bad injury, so I canceled the dinner, and it was never rescheduled.
I started to try to reach out to my co-workers. But then I remembered that I lead a one-year discipleship college. Everyone around me is already aspiring to follow Jesus. Uh-oh. I started to feel intense guilt about my perceived failure to make disciples. But God used a conversation with a coach to yank me out of those doldrums.
“I feel like I’m not making disciples—not fulfilling the Great Commission. I don’t know how to reach people outside the faith.”
“How would you define discipleship?”
“It starts before conversion as people begin to follow Jesus. The journey continues when people trust in Jesus then reorient every area of their life under his leadership.”
“So you don’t feel like you’re doing that with the discipleship school?”
There it was. That moment set me free. Somehow I’d come to see all the neighborhood missional stuff as the sexy thing to do. But none of that was possible for me in my context. And I felt horrible about it. Somehow I’d come to devalue people who were already Christians to the point where I didn’t even consider that to be legitimate discipleship work. I saw my current ministry as less than what others were doing.
Since then, God has opened countless doors to for me to connect with people outside the faith and to share Christ. Most of it has happened at my gym. But what if I were still beating my head against a wall trying to do neighborhood mission stuff in my context? It doesn’t make any sense.
Jesus has called you to make disciples. That means you help people see how good Jesus is so they can be reconciled to the Father and filled with the Spirit. You teach them to lovingly obey Jesus’ teaching. Making disciples is our calling, yet it expresses itself uniquely in each of our lives. Peter reminds us that God’s grace is “varied” based off our individual gifts (1 Pt 4:10).
If you’re a fish, get out of that tree. Adapt your rhythms, relationships, and/or context so that you can truly live out God’s calling on your life. Be creative, mature in love, and make disciples.
Dr. Sean Post leads a one-year discipleship experience for young adults called Adelphia. He has authored three books. His great joys in life are spending time with his wife and three kids, eating great food, and CrossFit.