The next big thing. Isn’t that what we’re all shooting for? In sports, the next big thing would be the highest pick in the draft. In business, it’s making the cover of Forbes magazine. If it’s music, we want to be the next “big” band. Even in the faith community, we want to be the next Andy Stanley, John Piper or Beth Moore. Why? Why does our heart seem hard-wired to equate big with better? We even teach our kids this principal to some degree— to swing for fences and to shoot for the stars. In the right context, it can be healthy, from a competitive perspective. But is this the wisest approach to our callings? Is this the best approach for our ministries? I’m not sure who coined the phrase, “Bigger isn’t better, better is better,” but I like it. Spiritually speaking, it stings, but a good dose of truth often does. Why do we believe our ministries will seem more valid if we make them bigger or even if they just look bigger? Isn’t it amazing, how someone, even new to the faith, will often take their first bold steps into the ministry God has called them to, and say something like:
“God has called me to speak to the nations.”
Or God has called me to be the next “you fill in the blank.”
It’s usually a best seller, huge pastor or continent altering calling. (Something visual)
Why? Why do the ministries we feel called to always have to be a whopper? I mean Big! I’m not trying to be cynical, just honest. I’m all about shooting for the stars. I’ll tell my kid to lasso the moon while she’s at it. I’m all about pursuing excellence in our callings too, but should we be measuring the validity of our calling by the size of its success? Isn’t that where the disillusionment comes in? When the dust settles on the long road of obedience, we suddenly realize that God’s “big” calling for us looks frightfully smaller than we think it should. That’s when the questions begin to mount:
Was I wrong about my calling?
Wasn’t my calling supposed to be BIG?
Wasn’t I supposed to speak to the nations?
At some point, we all face the enemy of doubt. But what if we’re looking at this thing wrong?
Is it the calling that is small or just it’s footprint?
You see, I’m 100% in agreement with God’s “callings” being God-sized. God’s plans are “Huge.” As far as I can tell, our callings are always bigger than we are. It takes God’s timing, God’s provision and God’s power to accomplish a God-calling in our lives. So maybe what we struggle with is the footprint, right? The seemingly small package that the calling comes wrapped in. Shouldn’t there be more??
God hit me with this weeks ago, and it’s just now making its way onto theinkForge. Inevitably, this question popped into my head. What if it’s supposed to be this way? It gnaws at your pride at first. It gnaws at mine. But let it sit on the anvil for awhile and take some shape.
What if, sometimes, great callings leave small footprints?
I can see the smirk on half of my pastor’s friend’s faces right now at such a question. The other half I can see outright horror.
But what if our calling(or its footprint) is not supposed to be big? Am I okay with that? Is it okay if the leadership meeting at church tonight is supposed to be “small?” Is it okay if God has a work for you and me that is not inflated with numbers? Can we bring ourselves to wrestle this beast to the ground?
Here’s a thought, what if God’s “big” calling for my life is to be a dad?— a dad so full of the Holy Spirit and a heart after God, that I raise up a champion in the faith for Christ. What if my primary purpose, God sized, holy calling to be on this planet is to raise my daughter to fall in love with God and in so doing, launch her into championing His name to greater heights than I ever did?
What if the champion in my calling is not me, but the one God has placed into my care? Is that somehow… less?
Maybe we should ask ourselves, what is so important about callings anyway? Is it the splash I leave behind on social media? Is it the amount of people in our small groups or congregations? Is it in the platform that we tirelessly build for ourselves? Is that why God trusted you and I with His name and His calling?— God’s trust isn’t big enough so we need to make it look bigger? If this sounds harsh, I don’t mean it in that way. I mean it in the “God help me” kind of way.
Could it be, that great callings sometimes leave small footprints?
Thinking through all of this made me wonder if callings are actually no greater than the trust required to go with them. In other words, what if we started viewing and valuing our callings like “a trusting?”— like God is trusting me with something. Can we find its value there? It was worth the trust of God. I imagine eternity is bound up in it somewhere, so I’d say there’s a fair amount of value and importance to the trusts of God.
I knew a man once, who walked this out in front of me. His name was Skender. He was a man of God I had the privilege to know on the other side of the world. Kosovo was his home. Skender was a pastor that knew how to keep the trust of a God calling. He didn’t quibble over the size of his church or influence. Like the Apostle Paul, Skender simply would not quit in well doing. I’m not sure Skender knew how to quit. He had been beaten, on more than one occasion, for the gospel that he’d held so dear but he wouldn’t stop. Most men would throw in the towel after being beaten for their faith. Not Skender. And you know what? You won’t find Skender’s sermons collected in a book at the top of Lifeway’s best seller’s list. You won’t hear about Skender’s church on internet polls or in Christianity Today magazine. To my knowledge Skender never did “speak to the nations,” but he sure enough spoke to me. He left the indelible footprint of a God calling on my family’s life when we came to Kosovo. While there, Skender and my daughter, together, led a sweet young Muslim girl to the Lord. It was my daughter’s first missions trip. No one will ever convince me that Skender’s calling wasn’t huge because his church was small. Just because your ministry feels small, doesn’t mean your calling is small either.
I’ll miss Skender. His calling here is through. In life he reminded me that God has given me a trust. Whether I’m serving it out on a small church campus or in a coliseum with a bass strapped around my neck, both callings are trusts. He reminded me that sometimes great callings, the highest ones, can leave small footprints. Speaking of high callings and small footprints, I’ve got a champion to raise…
See you next time.
In honor of Skender Hoti 1977-2017.