Calling. I’ve heard this term way too often in the last few years. I didn’t become a Christian until my teenage years, but I’ve heard this term used to excuse just about a million different choices. In the church it is used as an excuse not to go, not to leave home, not to marry someone, not to take a risk, not to be discipled. It may have honourable purposes in our minds at times, but overall it picks apart what Jesus has actually spoken to the individual. The term “calling” implies that missions is not actually for everyone, that it is for the select, few who hear directly from God. The term calling begs the question: aren’t we all called? But then again, called to what? Surely we are not all called to building orphanages in Africa, but we must all be called to the great commission. So what does that look like on a daily basis for us, to all be called to a missional life?
This week I sat down with an old friend, Pete Sampey. Pete and I did our DTS together, so it really is an honour to not only be here on staff together but to be able to pick his brain on some of these themes we’re talking about. Pete didn’t begin his Christian walk until his later adult life, and yet here he is, at 48 years of age, living in a missions community after a very successful life in the business world.
“’It changed my life’ is a cliché statement, but it really did,” is what he said when I asked him about his personal DTS experience. “I was really shaken, shaken that actually it would be virtually impossible to go back to the life I was living prior to coming to do a DTS. There was a real challenge for me: how do I then walk out this life that I’ve been given knowing what I know now?” So what did Pete and Karen do? Well they came back to YWAM Harpenden as staff, which was again something that they never really intended on.
“Many of the people that were close to us were saying those great words ‘oh, you’ll know when the Lord calls you, you’ll know.’ And actually, until the last few years I’ve realized that most of the time you don’t.”
In the end, DTS was a journey Pete and Karen didn’t want to forget about. In 2013 they returned to YWAM Harpenden to grow in discipling others and walk alongside others in meeting God and taking His word to the nations. They are currently set to lead our upcoming April 2015 DTS, with an outreach to Uganda. They took their passion and turned it into a call.
It would be really easy to read this and think, ‘well that’s great for them, but not for me,’ so I asked Pete how he sees the job of the missionary, is it just a job for those with adventure in their bones? “I think you can be a hugely powerful missionary in any walk of life, in any sphere of society, in any role or any position that society would have you in. I think it’s about an attitude, an attitude of sacrifice,” he said to me. “And you know, are you willing to walk barefoot, are you willing to put all of the things that you want in your life to one side for the benefit of the gospel? That’s what I see the role of the missionary is.”
And what about this idea of calling? Is this “walking barefoot, risking ourselves for the gospel” simply another call for the crazy, the young, the dreadlocked? “I think it is a call. But I think as much as it is a call, I believe we’re all called. I think it’s a decision to be obedient and I think that’s the biggest challenge for all of us.”
The fact is that we are all called. We are all called to a missional life, to a life devoted to Christ, whether that’s signing up for a six months school and going on an outreach to Uganda or whether that is simply serving in your local soup kitchen and picking up rubbish in your park; we are called to the greater truth of chasing after Jesus. The question is not: are you called to a missional life, the question is: how are you going to live out the missional calling that we all have? Is the primary focus in our lives to obtain the house, the stability, the nice things, or is the primary focus Jesus, in whatever ways that looks like in your life?
What happens when someone views missions, not as a job title, but as a way of life? When you view it as an attitude of sacrifice and obedience to the one who created you missions can look completely different. Missions is not taking the world and making it yours, it is not shoving your thoughts and beliefs down people’s throats, it is the crazy notion that love has so transformed your life that you have to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Missions is altering the lack we see in the world with love. The call of the missionary is for everyone, it is the commission of the human soul.
Often when you think of missions certain imagines come to mind. I know for myself, images of building wells and orphanages under the African sun pop up immediately. Also skirts, very long, heavy skirts. As it turns out this is missions, but the interesting thing is that it’s only one form of missions. If missions truly is “to go out into all the world and preach the gospel,” then we have to actually go out into all the world; all the world: such as orphanages, but also hospitals, café’s, businesses, media, the list could go on forever. Yet, very rarely do we hear stories of people taking the love of Jesus into their everyday lives as “missions.” And that’s what this blog series is about, bringing a new perspective to this idea of missions, and what it truly means to live missionally focused lives.
Photo: Karen Sampey