Where Is God Calling You?
By Bishop Brian Maas
This month’s theme will be read by some as an invitation to reflection on vocation—‘what is God calling you to become?’—while others will read an invitation to visioning—‘what future is God calling you to enter?’ While I have no particular faculty for seeing the future, it’s that latter reading I’m responding to.
God is calling me into 2021; into an immediate future I pray is an improvement over the immediate past. But that’s nothing unique—God is calling all of us into 2021; or at least the calendar is dragging us there.
My sense is that God is calling me, and those of us who are willing to follow, into something far more intense than just a new year. God is calling me, calling us, into the future of the church—the future of God’s church. This is a daunting calling, that fills me with abundant trepidation. But also more than a little bit of excitement.
God is calling us to share a future as God’s “mouth-house,” as Luther called the church; as the body gifted with the Gospel and sent to proclaim it (and words are merely optional when proclaiming the Gospel). The institution we currently think of when we hear the word “church” is going to change, and change significantly, even drastically. And I don’t know if there’ll be a place, or a need, for synods in the future church—or even bishops, for that matter.
What the future church will need, what I believe God is calling us to become, is a body of people whose greatest focus is on making the Gospel real in their lives; living its hope and its challenge of radical openness to and action on behalf of all people, in such a way that they are called into community and compelled to share their faith without reservation. Which is to say there will still be congregations, but they will be built of the faith and shared calling of members, not of brick and mortar.
We will still need places to gather—church buildings are not going away altogether—but we will be less concerned with them and they will look less distinct from other gathering places than they do now. People will drive by them and say, “there’s the church,” not because they see a steeple, but because they see people of faith in action; perhaps even signage or symbolism that makes clear, “Hope is spoken here. Lives are transformed here. And you are welcome here.”
That’s the briefest description I can offer of where I believe God is calling us. As a leader in today’s church, trying to make my way to tomorrow’s, I have to confess that a lot—virtually all—of the path between is shrouded in mystery. I can’t see much further than a step or two in front of me. But I feel called, compelled, to go where I believe God is calling all of us. And I’m as certain as I am compelled that there will be a lot of pain along that as-yet-unseen path, as there always is when individuals or groups go through transformation.
Such pain is the way of the Cross. And such transformation is the way of Resurrection.
That’s where I believe God is calling me to go. I pray for the faith to follow.