At the Missions Sunday service about 2 years ago, Pastor Harold gave this sermon that I think I will never forget. I will never forget it because at the time, I thought it was totally inappropriate; even wrong. His sermon, fitting with the theme of the Sunday, was the Great Commission. But his take on it was different, and he was saying how the Great Commission isn’t for all of us (stay with me on this one) but how it was a corporate call; a call to the church, not a call to every person. What that means is that not every person is called to go out and preach the gospel, starting from their homelands and moving to the surrounding areas and then to the farthest reaches of the world. Instead, the call is a corporate one, a call to the church. It is a personal call, maybe, but not an individual one, if that makes any sense. You are responsible for fulfilling the Great Commission, but in the context of the church, be it as a goer or a sender, so you yourself are not necessarily called to go. (You can see the emphasis in church participation and membership here, too.) At any rate, he kept saying “It’s a corporate call,” and the take home message was something like not to feel guilty that you’re not going.
I thought at the time that this was poppycock. At the very least, I thought it was an inappropriate sermon for that Sunday. Because for the missions rally, you want to encourage everyone to go on missions, not encourage them to not feel guilty about not going (yikes, too many negatives in that sentence). Everyone, I thought, should be encouraged to go at least on short-term missions, which was what this rally was for. I actually still believe this, that everyone, regardless of their career call, should go on short-term missions at least once. But I digress. My influences had been people like Keith Green, kind of radical, who sings in his songs how people feel like they’re not called, but he says, you know what? Read Matthew 28; you’re already called. Then he sings, “Jesus commands us to go / It should be the exception if we stay / It’s no wonder (something) so slow / when His children refuse to obey.” Pretty extreme stuff. But that was my influence in high school – this radical commissioning and push towards missions for everyone. That’s why this message was such a shock to me.
At the time, Pastor Harold had just kind of started ministry, so I just thought he was some random whippersnapper that would be dealt with eventually. But the more I’ve thought about this, the more I’ve come to agree with it. Scary, but true.
I’ve just come to believe that really, not all of us are called to be missionaries. And I mean missionary in the traditional sense of the word, meaning foreign missions, not the strange idea that we are missionaries in our homes; that is evangelism, but that’s not really missions, I think, and it is useful to make a distinction. I think this is not too difficult to believe. At the very least, some of us have to be farmers, right? Not all of us can be full-time missionaries.
The problem then is, if the Great Commission really is a call to every individual, is that farmer sinning? Not listening to God? When he never even goes on short term missions in his lifetime? My claim is no, he’s not sinning. But if the Great Commission is an individual call, he must be sinning. But he really isn’t. So it seems reasonable to me that the Great Commission really is a corporate call; we must participate in the context of the church, being senders or supporters, or, if we are so called, goers; missionaries ourselves.
But that’s not for everyone. More importantly, we shouldn’t feel guilty about not going. The problem sometimes is that people feel like unless they are a missionary or a pastor, they are not really devoting or giving their whole lives to God. What I mean is, if someone wants to give their whole life to God, they must be a pastor or a missionary. And I don’t think that’s true. My bold claim is that someone can give their whole lives to God and become a high school teacher, or a computer programmer, or a janitor. I mean, if we are not called to ordained ministry, and are called to be a janitor, how can we say that in being a janitor, we are not wholeheartedly giving our lives to God? We can’t right? So there is no reason we should feel guilty, or even that we are serving God any less than someone who is in a pastoral position. It’s not that anyone is serving God more or better, it’s all about obedience and roles. So we should not feel guilty about not being a pastor or a missionary if our calling truly lies elsewhere.
It’s all about that passage of the body of Christ. Every part of it, no matter how small it looks, is crucial and necessary to the body. How can the arm say to the sphincter, I don’t need you? Each part has its role, and if it tried to do something else, that would be bad, and the body could not function, and if any part were missing, it could not function as well. So we need the fingernails and the underarm hair of the body, you know? I mean, my point is that every part is crucial and should not try to be something else, but should live up to its calling.
It’s clear that doing less that you are called to do is a sin, but I think Jesus is saying that trying to do more than you are called is also a sin. That obedience doesn’t mean trying to do everything, but doing your utmost to fulfill the calling God gave you, as humble a position it might be. Amy Grant sings a song about this and the chorus goes, “And all I ever have to be is what you’ve made me / Any more or less would be a step out of your plan” and more stuff, but that line has always been powerful to me. Any more than His call would be a step out of His plan. I think that’s true.
I think it’s so easy to fall into the pride of that body part in the Bible passage. Was it the arm? I can’t remember. Like at least for me, I know that it is easy to fall into a trap of thinking less of a person because of his ministry choices. Like I consider their ministry something that’s easier to do. Like I have been impressed (though not able really) to reach out to those who are normally kind of on the fringe. I’ve just always felt that it’s not really hard to reach out to people that are already likeable or popular, you know? But if that’s really someone’s ministry, their calling which they’ve received with prayer, how dare we question that. How dare we look down on anything or think that it is easier than what we are doing. Actually, it may be easier, but how can we possibly look down on that person if it’s really their calling? So someone needs to reach out to the fringe people, but someone also needs to reach out to the unfringe people as well. It needs to be done. Sure it’s easier, but we dare not look down on the person who is called to do it lest we fall into the trap of pride, thinking that that person has copped out or something. If God has called them to it, they are serving God well, and doing something more may not even be in line with His plan.
So I worry about that – looking down on someone who’s doing an easier ministry; thinking somehow that my ministry is more difficult or more powerful or more outreaching or more serving or whatever. In any case, even if it is true (which often, as it turns out, is not the case), I’m struggling with pride, as I somehow think I’m thus a better servant of God or something. Whatever. Whatever God gives you, do it no matter how small or how big it is, and I think God will be pleased, regardless of whatever other Christians might think.
So that’s why Pastor Harold’s message kind of makes me think. We need not feel guilty or less worthy because we are not pastors or missionaries. God’s call is often a corporate call, and we need to find our place in the body of Christ, and fulfill that to the fullest, rather than trying to do more or less than He’s called us to do.
That said, let me share a struggle of mine. Something about FiCS that has always bothered me is that we take an easy ministry route. It’s like we reach out to people that are easy to reach out to and then pat ourselves on the back for it. Let’s face it – most of the people in FiCS are basically of the same mold. Maybe we’re not all SoCal Koreans, but we are mostly Asian, and are all kind of the same. I feel like even without Christ, these are the kind of people we would be hanging out with. So we end up reaching out to people who are just like us, or at least a lot like us, and then of course we become close, of course we serve each other, I mean, it is relatively easy to serve someone who is easy to like and who serves you too. Then at the end of the year, we praise God for His blessings (which is a good thing) and feel good about ourselves, that our ministry was so successful, that we had been able to reach out to and become close with the people we have. I don’t know, that just bothers me.
I’ll be honest – (don’t read this if you’re easily stumbled) – this year bothered me a lot in some ways. I just see us moving more toward the trend of easy outreach than the more difficult stuff. I didn’t join FiCS because I felt most comfortable, that’s the truth. I mean, the person I felt most comfortable with was David Hong, and let’s be frank; how comfortable can anyone ever really feel with Dave Hong? But somehow it’s become a group of people that I really feel comfortable with and a commonality with – but not for the reasons I would like. This campus did not need another Asian Christian Fellowship when FiCS started. Nor did it really need another church fellowship, I think. I could be wrong on that. I just don’t know where FIX came from. By the way, that’s why if you talk to me, you’ll notice I don’t say Fix, I almost always say Ef I See Ess. Kind of weird, but Ef I See Ess is what it was originally, and somehow it got changed (the pronunciation, that is) to Fix. I just prefer to have it the way it was meant to be (at least in my mind) when it started.
So I decided that I would reach out to more difficult things. Like in forming some groups, I didn’t push to get people who might have made it easier for me, people who are known to be servants and leaders. If I didn’t have them, that was fine with me. It was still a blessing and I was blessed and encouraged, but for different reasons. To be honest, it was frustrating at times when people shared how encouraging their groups were. I just sometimes felt like that was set up to be from the beginning, and I’m getting trampled on because I made a conscious decision not to do that, to set up for what would come easy. Of course, I’ve ended up failing as a leader or a servant in basically everthing I’ve tried, but that’s another story.
Does anyone kind of understand what I’m saying? Maybe not. Maybe I’m just kind of screwed up in the brain. But I feel this trend of FiCS moving toward what is easy, “reaching out” to people who have been churched all their life, etc. And you know, I am encouraged by it all, and of course am thankful to God for all the blessings. It just seems a bit too easy, and I fear that our thanks of God gets mingled with feeling good about ourselves. You know what I mean? It’s really hard when we’re thanking God for our growth this past year not to feel personally good about that growth. OK, maybe not for everyone, but at least for me.
I should stop.