Semester the Second

My next semester at Western Seminary will begin on January 9. I’m excited to be continuing my Greek studies with a course on Syntax with Dr. James DeYoung. I just read the assigned reading for the first week in our text, which is ¬†Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. We used Mounce’s text the first semester, which I had gone through about 5 years ago during my undergrad, so I’m excited to be moving beyond what I’ve done before. The first semester was still plenty challenging, even being a review of sorts, but it remains to be seen how difficult this next course will be. Having just read the introductory material and the first few chapters on case, I think that while a bit dry, the nuance and depth of syntax will keep me interested.

One of the greatest helps for me going through the first semester was using my Greek every day. However, since the end of the semester, I’ve realized how difficult it is to maintain that habit without the accountability of homework. I need to seriously consider the best way to maintain and keep up what I’ve learned so far, while at the same time continuing to learn the material for this next level.

 

The other class I’ll be taking this semester is called Wisdom from Church History, taught by Dr. Marc Cortez. This is a class that I’m particularly excited about for a few reasons. I’ve never had the opportunity to study Church History before, beyond my own limited reading, and loving both history and the church, it’s an area that I’ve long desired to dive into. I’m also excited to take my first course from Dr. Cortez. When Shelby and I visited Western for the first time, my admission counselor set up a meeting with Marc and we were able to chat at length about the school, our goals, and whether Western might be a good fit. Since that first conversation, though I’ve not had a class with him, I’ve consistently enjoyed and been challenged by what he writes at his blog, Everyday Theology. He has a fantastic sense of humor, especially for a seminary prof, and as the title of his blog suggests, is passionate about the intersection of theology with life. He is also the director of Western’s Th.M. program, which is one that I’m considering after I complete my M.A. Put it all together and I’m excited by what I’ll be studying, and who I’ll be studying with.

 

I’m thrilled with how my first semester has gone, and I’m looking forward to the next. I did well in the three classes I took, and also received a number of credits by doing some Advanced Standing testing. Perhaps the most exciting thing is to see the transforming work the Holy Spirit is doing in my heart and life as I learn and live. The combination of school and church and life with my wife have provided me with ample opportunities to grow in practical knowledge and experience, as well as in grace and wisdom.

I hear Jesus Calling (Part 2)

from Wikipedia

In Part 1 of this post, I asked a few questions about calling and the validity of some of the ways we use the term today.

So when we say, “God called me to be a missionary”, or “I feel called to ministry”, what are we really referring to, if we have not experienced an external call from God in the dramatic and miraculous fashion that Isaiah, Paul, Moses, and others in the Bible did?

In my Discovering and Developing Ministry Potential Class, Ron Marrs, made this statement:

“God desires that everyone use their gifts, abilities, and talents to glorify him and love people and will sovereignly guide every Christian to a place of kingdom maturity.”

This is relatively standard stuff. As a part of the body of Christ, each Christian has been given spiritual gifts and has natural talents and abilities which they are responsible to use to love God and love people. However, as we discussed this in class, he made the point that this is essentially what we are talking about when we describe our calling.

A few people in our class had experienced what they described as some sort of external call from God, but the vast majority described some form of the leading of the Holy Spirit, often through confirmation of experience, through input from the community of believers, a discovery of a new passion, or by realization of a way to make use of a gift.

He suggests that we should, in order to find our place or places of kingdom usefulness:

  1. Examine our gifts, abilities, passions, and temperaments
  2. Consider the needs of people
  3. Weigh the variety of life’s obligations: work, marriage, family, school, church, etc.
  4. Discuss with trusted friends and family
  5. Pray!
It was evident during the discussion how ingrained the language of “calling” is. We all had a very difficult time talking about the type of ministry which we felt God had prepared us for without resorting to the language of “being called.” It was certainly eye-opening to me to realize that what I had in the past called a call, were things that I was passionate about, or good at, or enjoyed doing. There is nothing wrong with those things, and I think we should be aware of them. However, having never personally experienced a dramatic, external call from God to something very specific, I want to be careful about the language that I use, especially in order to avoid some of the detrimental confusion which I mentioned in Part 1.
I don’t necessarily think everyone should stop using the word “call”, and I honestly don’t have a great term (nor did my professor) for referring to what most Christians term their “calling.” It has been helpful for me to think through these things, and to understand that all disciples of Christ are called to serve him and his people in one unique way or another depending upon how he has made them. I may not have had a vision of the throne room of God, or been specifically sent to preach repentance to the Ninevites, but God has called me to repentance, and to his son, and Jesus has called me to follow him. I pray that I will faithfully pursue the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and to know myself so that I can follow him to the best of my ability.
Should we continue to use the term “calling” to refer to what we feel God has prepared us to do for him? Is there a better term that would preserve the biblical use of call as something more specific than many of us have experienced, and not cause as much confusion to those who have not had such experiences?