go slowly

There is a particular conversation I have found my self having repeatedly over the past few months, and it is time to share it.  It has occurred so often, in so many different contexts that I think it is more than coincidence.

And it is this:

When God stirs the waters, and you are suddenly giddy at the potential,
when faith suddenly jumps to life, and your vision of God is expanding,
there is no need to rush.

There is a precious ‘first flush’ of faith — of growth– that comes and cannot be repeated.  It should be there in every Christian’s life.  It should be exciting, and challenging, and overwhelming.

Somewhere along the line, there will be a question of vocation, and the question is this:  What is God calling me to?  What sort of life shall I lead to grow more deeply into Christ’s likeness, and to serve God in the world?  It has nothing to do with ordination.

For some, of course, there will also be a question about ordination. Is there a call to sacramental ministry?  Is the shape of the call to focus on the gathered church or the broad scope of God’s world.  But that is a secondary question — something for sorting out later.  The church has a far greater need for interesting, committed, deepening disciples than ever it has for more clergy– simply because the church needs to have more lay people than it has clergy.

Too often lately, I’ve seen people in that first flush of faith confusing normal Christian development with a call to ordained ministry.  Or worse, I have seen the people around them confusing it:  assuming that a growing vivid faith is unusual , or  ‘different’; and that it must indicate a specific call.

For some who are on that dizzy growth curve, there may indeed be a call, but it is too soon, too soon.

So if you find yourself breathless with the wonder of God, and full of excitement at what life with God will mean, please:  don’t rush.

If you want to learn about your faith and know God to the very depths of your being, then that is your call — and it is enough.

If God needs to be ordained, it will happen when it has to.  You have all the time in the world.
If God wants you to live in a religious community — then it will happen when it has to.  You have all the time in the world.

Go slowly, and enjoy God where you find God:  here and now.

4 thoughts on “go slowly

  1. I think the worst problem is what it says about lay membership – that it is not appropriate to a lay member to expect to take an active role in the church, and to be involved in an active way in leading worship, or planning worship and worse of all that it is not expected that a lay person will want to learn about the Bible, and faith, and the history of belief et al. Oh, yes, they are welcome to sing, and to deal with finance and fabric – but faith, no, keep off the grass. I wish with all my heart that after a life time in the pews I could say that I see this has totally changed – but while I see tiny green leaves in some places, while I know and have friends in the clergy whose attitude is totally other, and I even know lay people whose attitude is other (and the problem is as much if not far more on the lay side, though it was nurtured there by the clergy) over all, no, it has not changed.

    While a kind of supportive stagnation is what is expected of most church members in most places – we will inevitably have this kind of confusion.

  2. Thanks for such an interesting post. I think part of the problem is that it can be quite difficult for people to ‘situate’ themselves in the world once they become serious about their Christian commitment (the same is true for believers of any faith).

    It’s natural when one develops a strong interest in something, is grasped by a strong sense of vocation, to seek to dedicate most of one’s time to it: to do it for ‘a living’, as it were. Well defined career paths exist for most interests that people develop. If you experience a burning desire to teach, for example, you train to become a teacher, and so on.

    If you become entranced by the Christian faith, pretty much the only directly related career path on offer is to become a priest. Which, as you say, is often something of an illusory call, requiring particular skills and aptitudes that not everyone has.

    So you get people, trapped in careers which, so far as they can see, offer no opportunity for expression of their faith, who seek to escape from all that and enfold themselves within the life of the church by pursuing ordination, when in fact the skills they already have, if employed in a more sympathetic environment, would be deeply useful to the church. Matching the two up of course is where it gets difficult…

  3. thanks, Justin. A very helpful addition.

    I think you are right, but that the very problem points to another sort of failure of perception in the church.

    The primary vocation of a Christian is to be a Christian in whatever environment they find themselves in. The harder that is, the more they are needed.

    That does not for a moment mean that I think people should stay in jobs that are soul destroying, but that we need (all of us, clergy and lay) to be much better about seeing vocation as something that usually finds its focus outside of the church, and church itself as a place of rehearsal and refocusing.

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