One of the more imperceptible changes in personal communications that have come about in recent years is the shift from voice calls to text messages. Some of us will still remember the mad dash that ensued whenever the telephone rang in your home. Nowadays, not many of us have “landlines” and most of us leave our cellphones on “silent mode.” Consequently, we rarely acknowledge voice calls so that if someone really wants to catch up with us, text messages are the contact of choice.
Call me nostalgic, but I think we may be missing out on something vital in the process. While a text message gets the job done, it fails miserably at capturing tone and emotion. It’s sterile and distant – what some might say is the perfect description of postmodern conversation.
Just last year, Hollywood came out with a new television series titled, “God Friended Me.” Though I have yet to see a single episode, I thought it interesting that media moguls would have been the first to contemplate the possibility of God reaching out to us via Social Media instead of the more conventional means of prayer. But I guess that if you’re looking to translate the Damascus Road story in Acts for a day totally unfamiliar with the story, Facebook is about as good a way to do it as any.
Speaking of the Damascus Road, I am actually more concerned that we don’t hear more messages challenging young people to consider ministry as a lifelong vocation. While I can appreciate the efforts of a previous generation to expand the notion of “God’s call” to involve more than church-related work, I am afraid we may have gone overboard and been too silent about the need for young ministers to take their place in church positions.
This topic was one of the primary points of conversation at a peer group meeting I was involved in a couple of years ago. Most of the group is of my generation. We all came through Southern Seminary at a time when enrollment was close to 4,000, and if you shook one of the oak trees that dotted the Louisville campus, twenty-five or more seminarians would fall out, all sharp as a tack if I say so myself. Now, a good enrollment at Southern might be 1,000, and that is one of the larger seminary enrollment. Needless to say, we Baptists (both moderate and fundamentalist) are on the verge of a shortage that some in other denominations (i.e., Methodist) have termed a “death tsunami.”
So, my colleagues and I decided to do something about it. We wrote a book, which one of our number, Barry Howard, former Brookwood and First Baptist, Pensacola pastor, volunteered to edit. We wrote down our “call stories” and then realized that in the interest of diversity we needed many more than just those of white males in their sixties. We secured those stories and the finished product is a nice book that we trust will encourage congregations to “cultivate a culture of call.” In other words, our prayer is that by telling our stories, others who are coming along might be moved to consider that still, small voice that bids boys and girls (yes, girls!) to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
Thus I encourage you to check out Call Stories: Hearing and Responding to God’s Call (Nurturing Faith, 2019), which is available on Amazon. You may have a child or grandchild in whom you might see evidence of the gifts and graces required for ministry. Or you may know of a child in our church who possesses such gifts. Or given the manner in which the majority of seminarians today are second-career enrollees, you yourself might be open to the possibilities of answering such a call.
Next week I’ll share my “call story” with you on this blog. But for now I simply want to say thank you to Mountain Brook Baptist Church for affirming my ministry calling by inviting me to be your Senior Minister. Not a day goes by when I don’t count it a distinct joy, and as my time on sabbatical moves into the home stretch I look forward more than ever to serving Christ and you so that we might experience together the sheer delight that comes from being in the precise center of His will.
“Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8)