In the midst of a career change from Youth Ministries to Missions and Evangelism here at the church, I find myself rewriting my bio on the church website. Hopefully by the time you’re reading this, the new bio is up and the old one is gone . . . because as more and more time passed, and as I continually put off updating it, it continued to grow more and more outdated. It was so out of date that the last line originally read that I was in a Christian fraternity in college until at some point in the last 6 years, someone went in and added to my bio, “They have two daughters.”
Since I wrote it in 2006, Aimee and I have had two children, and I’ve packed away a lot of life experience, both personally and professionally. While the story of who I am hasn’t changed much, my understanding of who I am and what are the most significant, life-shaping events that are church-website-bio-worthy has changed a lot. My experience as a Schlitterbahn lifeguard is not as relevant as it used to be. My identity as a father was non-existent, but now fatherhood is a lens through which I see almost everything.
There was a time when I thought I’d be a youth minister for all of my working life. My experience of youth was so formative that I wanted to give back and serve in the same place that had shaped me, yet as my own life continued to take shape, my strengths and passions emerged with more clarity and I felt God’s call on my life evolve and take shape into something different.
God’s call on our lives is not a singular, static assignment. Fred Buechner writes that vocation, from the latin vocare, literally means “that which you are called by God to do.” He asserts that our vocation, our calling, lies at the intersection of our greatest passions and the world’s deepest hungers. Over our lives, our strengths and passions may not shift dramatically (not to say that they can’t). The needs of the world are always changing and evolving and I believe that God continually meets us where we are, which means that the way God calls us can’t be a static singular call, but a dynamic, moving target. Sure, the words may never change–”Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself,” but my heart and mind have grown. My neighbors, our neighbors, are not the same neighbors we had 10 or 50 years ago, and as God draws the world ever closer towards the kingdom of God, we too are called to deepen the ways we live as followers of Jesus.
The keyword there is “follower.” To follow, necessarily incites movement and change. The church (both universally and we specifically) is not always the best at navigating change. The very purpose of an institution is to preserve the structures that have served us well in the past, but the great pitfall in the life of the church is that we tend to want to live in the past. We stand at a unique point in Christian history: the onset of post-Christendom. All that means is that most of the people in our community are not going to church like they did 50 or 100 years ago, and we cannot stand on the steps of the church shouting out to the world, “Come in here to meet God!” because God is already present and working in the lives of the people around us. We, the church, must follow God out into the world lest we become outdated.
As I embrace my new journey, I’m excited to see how God will continue to influence my ever changing bio.