By Dr. Stan Norman

President, Williams Baptist University

[Perspective] Our calling

By Dr. Stan Norman

President, Williams Baptist University

One of the sobering realities confronting the Church in the twenty-first century is the decline of those called by God to serve vocationally in the local church. We are witnessing the unsettling reality that more and more churches are struggling to find God-called men to serve as pastors in local churches. We also see this decline in men and women called by God to serve vocationally in various local church ministries. Unfortunately, this need is real for Arkansas Baptists. I regularly get calls for recommendations from Arkansas churches seeking candidates to consider serving as their pastor or other staff positions. With each passing year, I have fewer candidates to recommend. We have more churches needing pastors and ministers than we have those called and prepared to serve. 

Many factors contribute to this shortage, but the most common reason I hear lately is that we no longer extend invitations for those called by God to respond to His leading. Additionally, many of our churches, and many local church pastors, no longer focus on encouraging and mentoring others to consider a call to vocational ministry. We invite people to respond to the saving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We extend invitations to respond to the Spirit’s leading to join our churches. But we no longer invite people to respond to the Spirit’s prompting to surrender to a call to ministry. 

J. Daryl Charles, in his book Our Secular Vocation: Rethinking the Church’s Calling to the Marketplace, defines calling as “a rational, willful response to perceived ultimate reality and divine direction.” Three important concepts are embedded in this definition. First, calling involves a response – an intentional action involving our minds and our will. Calling is more than an emotional response or sentimental feeling (although these may be involved). Calling requires that we thoughtfully exercise our will. Second, calling involves a “perceived reality.” Vocational calling is a real thing independent of the individual. Our vocation certainly can be sensed in our hearts and mind, but calling involves a perception of an actual reality independent of us. The call is not accidental or fabricated – it is real and personal in expression. Finally, calling is a response to divine direction – to the actual movement of God in our minds and hearts, moving us to embrace His purpose for our lives. Calling involves our response, our embrace of what God has purposed and desired for us. Our response to God’s calling will likely involve working and struggling to clarify and define our call. 

This certainly applies to those called to vocational ministry in the local church. This was true for me in my calling. Although I had a general sense God might be calling me, my initial response was not immediate surrender. In fact, I ran from God’s call to vocational ministry for several years. As a result, my response to God’s calling was a process that extended over a period of time. My wrestling with God’s calling involved dealing with doubts and fears; rationalizations to justify pursuing my own desires and directions; outright resistance and rebellion; and ignorance to what God was calling me to do. After years of wrestling, struggling, and praying, as well as counseling, mentoring, and prayers from others, I finally surrendered to God’s leading. I embraced my call. 

We at Williams Baptist University believe so strongly in the concept of God’s calling and the need to encourage and invite others to embrace their vocational calling, we have established a platform for high school and college students to explore their calling. This summer we will launch on our campus a “calling camp” – Camp Kaleo. This is a camp designed to nurture, equip, and mentor students who have already surrendered to a vocational calling to ministry. We want to better equip them for vocational calling. Camp Kaleo is also for the student who is wrestling with or questioning their sense of God’s leading them to embrace His calling to ministry.  

Dr. Scott Pace, author of Calling Out the Called: Discipling Those Called to Ministry Leadership, will serve as the camp pastor. He will be preaching and teaching on various aspects of calling and local church ministry. In addition, we will have experienced, gifted teachers leading breakout sessions on various expressions of calling. These include preaching/pastoral ministry; youth/college ministry; worship ministry; women’s ministry; and children’s ministry. All these sessions are designed to encourage participants to consider or to strengthen their calling to local church ministry. 

God’s calling is not only for those called to local church ministry. God also calls others to serve in in marketplace mission. Every believer has a calling, and for most, the call is to serve the Lord in marketplace mission. Breakout sessions will also explore calling for those who sense God’s leading to faithfully minister in gospel mission in the places where they work. 

Camp Kaleo will be held on the WBU campus, June 3-5. More information about the camp can be found at  

If you are a pastor, youth pastor, youth/student leader, or someone who works with high school or college students, we pray you will take advantage of this opportunity to bring students who are wrestling with a call or questioning if they are called, to Camp Kaleo 

Undoubtedly, God has a calling for all His people, a calling to serve, a calling of purpose, a calling for mission. Please join with me in praying for God to loudly and clearly call a new generation of faithful followers to serve vocationally in the local church. Also, please join with me in praying for God to call faithful followers to embrace their call to serve in marketplace. I believe God is still working among His people, calling and leading His followers to identify and embrace their calling, whether in the local church or the marketplace. We have a responsibility to encourage, mentor, and equip the next generation to hear God’s call, respond by faith to His call, and to prepare to live in that call.  

One way to do this is to bring your students to Camp Kaleo on campus June 3-5. Hope to see you then and there! 

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