What’s it mean to be “called”?

For as long as I can remember in this journey that stretches back to high school, I have struggled to understand “call.” For the most part, I’ve heard it described as a one-time event.

Even in The Blues Brothers, Jake learns about his “mission from God” when he sees the light.

Abraham heard from God while looking up into the night sky. Moses had the burning bush. David experienced Samuel’s anointing. The disciples received invitations from Jesus himself. Paul was knocked off of his horse. Each had a one-time encounter that set him on a life path, or so it seems.

I’ve met pastors who also talk like that. A miraculous event occurred in college; a family member set them on the path when they were very young; a summer camp or mission trip experience impacted them.

I must confess, I’m jealous.

My winding road

My experience is different.

I typically describe my call as circuitous, which is a nice way of saying “all over the place.” I served five years as a pastor before becoming a youth minister. Later, family ministries was added to my title. Then, when I formed a band and launched a contemporary worship service (back when that was a thing), we tacked on “worship ministry.” Now I am a writer for our denominational website and increasingly an interviewer and podcaster. Circuitous.

My call to ministry has felt less like interstate travel and more like journeying through switchbacks.

For me, call has been about the next ministry opportunity: a door opening over there, a need in the church, a skill developed over time and finding a place to use it.

For example, I learned guitar from a member of the first church I pastored. In the second church, I wrote devotions as bulletin filler for the contemporary worship service. In the third, I started managing webpages and posting podcasts — skills I now use nearly every day.

Every step led me to the next, but in those early days of feeling called, I would have never expected to end up here.

Not boring

I wanted a clear path, but in hindsight, that would have been boring.

What about you and your journey with God? Has it been a straight line or roller coaster? Interstate or scenic route? What does “call” mean to you?

Tell me about your call in the comments below!