The new Bible Study is called ‘If you want to walk on water you’ve got to get out of the boat’. I’d like to add a thought : ‘Presuming, that is, the others allow you to do so.‘
A big part of the book is that all of us are meant to discover and embrace our unique callings. My church does a great job of that – there’s the children’s choir, the adult choir, and the big Christmas concert. Outside of singing, there’s a hand bell group and the occasional instrumentalist – trombone, tuba, trumpet and the weekly pot-luck dinners … but other than that, there’s really not a whole lot of opportunity to respond to one’s calling let alone discover what one’s calling is in the first place.
I know of a phenomenal bass guitarist in the congregation. Hymns can’t be played on bass guitars, so she can’t play the music that they like and they barely tolerate the music she likes so long as the choir sings it. I speak Spanish. There’s no opportunity to really use my skills in any way to help my church. If there’s kid who is supposed to become an artist, the church isn’t going to set up art classes or an art gallery to encourage them. But you can bet that if a kid is a super-talented singer, then he or she will have encouragement to keep at it and opportunity to sing as often as possible.
Because churches tend to be so isolated – there’s really not a way to connect my calling to serve other churches in the area. I’d have to leave my church to join another to use my calling – but I’ve already discovered that the theology of these other churches are a big issue for me in that I do not agree with a great many of their basic assumptions. I find it difficult to want to use my Spanish to connect people to a church whose theology is at odds with my own. In which case, they would realize that my theology does not match and decide not to use my Spanish to serve them as I might disrupt their perfect agreement or contaminate their church with disagreement.
So I find it disingenuous to tell people that they have got to get over their fears and get out of the boat when churches don’t create opportunities to discover callings, don’t create ministries to support developing one’s calling, and don’t connect believers to opportunities to use their callings to serve God and his church.
It feels like the other disciples are pulling me back into the boat – “You’ll be overtaken by the waves!” “You’ll sink! You’re not Him!” “He can calm the storm – what can you do about it?”
For generations ladies were told that they could organize charity events and sing but that’s all they were permitted to do because that was the most lady-like calling of their day and age. All other callings went unheeded. Art went unmade, conversations went unsaid, music went unwritten, so that their ladylike tradition could supersede their Christian god-given vocation. It feels like we’re doing the same thing – not making art, not having conversations, and not writing new music not because it’s not ladylike – but because it’s not traditional.
It’s not traditional to let artists make art to honor God. (The Renaissance art doesn’t count.) It’s not traditional to have conversations. (People who speak other languages can have their own services and their own churches.) It’s not traditional to write songs or play music. (We sing hymns and play piano and the organ – we don’t need bass guitars.) It is traditional to ignore one’s calling. The church traditionally supports people ignoring their calling. The church traditionally encourages people to ignore their calling. The church tends to keep people firmly secured inside the boat – it calls people to never leave their regular pew or preferred chair.