My senior year at college I took a seminar about vocation. For my final project, I wrote this paper about the vocation of the church as an institution...I had to make the title that long and fancy because the professor didn't know what I was talking about when I said I wanted to write about the calling of the church. Really the issue I was wondering about was one that had bothered me ever since I did an internship in urban ministry...what is more important: evangelism or social action?
But amid the "Great Commission" enthusiasts that I read about, and those with bleeding hearts for the materially poor, there was one dissident voice. I think it was Mennonite. They said that the church existed simply "to be".
Actually, I scoffed at this at the time. I was a senior in college, trapped in a classroom when there was a world out there in need of acting Christians. I wanted out. I was through with books and wanted real people, the needier the better. I wanted to DO.
Recently I was listening to a friend talking about her ministry and she talked about it being simply to "be"...to live among the people she was living with. I've heard people say other things like that before, and it always strikes me. I've had friends tell me they are jealous of my sense of calling before...this idea that I know what I want to do. I am constantly off trying to start prayer movements, prayer rooms, activities...but what is the goal of all this?
The reason I pray is not because I'm one of those people who really gets a kick out of praying. I once read an article by an intercessor who was describing one day where it was really difficult for her to pray and how it made her understand Christians who were not intercessors. I read the article thinking..."That's amazing...her one day having a hard time praying is what prayer is for me EVERY day." I pray out of a love for God, not out of a love for prayer. The reason I take a whole day to do it a week is because I spent the first half of the day fighting to even sit down at all. It takes me a day to get a good hour with God.
So, no. The goal isn't the activities themselves. The goal is that a whole lot of people, whether Christian or non (the difference in ministering to the two groups doesn't seem so different anymore) would come to know God's heart for them. The activities are just trying to set up situations where that will happen.
There is a book called "Captivating" about women. In the book, I remember there being one woman who they described as constantly striving. They presented this idea that all that was really required of her from God was to exist...that she was enough as she was without all the projects. The book describes her as "softening" at that point and saying how it would be both sad and a relief. Sad because she had spent so much time striving.
There was another woman in the book who was very active in the church. She made the decision to stop leading Bible studies and women's groups and the like, earning her intense criticism from other church leaders. But there was a peace around her after that that hadn't been there before.
These two stories stuck out to me quite a bit at the time, and I've been remembering them again recently (though I've probably butchered the retelling a bit). Part of me is yearning with everything it has just to let go...to let the world run itself and Jesus be savior. Another part of me is condemning myself as apathetic or complacent or lazy or whatever.
This week a girl named April is praying and fasting about starting a prayer house in Tokyo. She felt led to ask me and two other people to be especially devoted to the project this week and to pray and fast along with her. Yesterday she asked me to come to the prayer house and pray with them, and I was filled with dread. Do you want to know what I did? It was a Monday...I always stay at home on Mondays. But I just wanted to be with Kat and Jenae. So, I went out and watched a super intense movie and hung out in a five person group (an awkward dynamic in and of itself). Not the most restful, Sabbath type activity. But, as I am sitting here writing this, I have to think I would do it again. Because, at the end of the day...it's the people I have close relationships with that I really want to give myself to.
Is it really possible that the best way to give oneself to God, that the greatest calling one can have, is simply to be?