Don’t Confuse Your Roles With Your Calling

You and I are tempted to be distracted by the Goliaths in our lives by seeing them as our primary mission. Remember the epic story about David and Goliath? But the moment we cave to this paradigm, we lose sight of the bigger calling. And when we lose sight of our calling and primary purpose, the obstacles in front of us grow bigger and more threatening. Fighting the giants becomes an all or nothing event—we win, we can keep on going; we lose, it’s all over.

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We have to return again and again to seeing what stands in our way not as our primary mission but as situations or people we simply have to deal with in order to fulfill our true mission. This perspective on reality is what empowers us to persist in the face of great odds.

My Journey From Role To Calling

I know this potential confusion quite well from my own experience. I spent twenty-five years as a congregational pastor and then found myself no longer in that role. In the years that followed, my biggest struggle revolved around this issue: who am I if I am not a respected pastor of a local congregation within my lifelong denominational system? My identity had been wrapped up in that role my whole life—a role I loved and excelled at and had certainly felt “called” to.

My challenge was exacerbated by the fact that I had received all my praise and accolades for the high levels of success I achieved in my life through my role as pastor. Subtly and subconsciously I had made my calling synonymous with my role as a spiritual leader of congregations. So if I was no longer a pastor in that setting, did I not have my calling anymore? Who was I without that role? What was my true identity?

My temptation was to see this loss of role as my Goliath. So the natural conclusion was that the way to fight Goliath, to restore my perceived identity, was to return somehow to my pastoral role. And realistically, if that was my primary mission, Goliath was indeed a painful and imposing giant because the obstacles to returning to my religious system as a pastor were huge.

Differentiating Between Role and Calling

As the ensuing months and years went by, I began to come to the realization that my equating of calling with role was seriously flawed. I started seeing with deepening precision: my roles were actually the delivery systems for and specific expressions of my calling and life purpose. So the reality is that there are multiple roles in life through which I can faithfully and successfully live out my calling. Roles are simply platforms for callings, not the calling itself.

As I worked through this significant distinction and differentiation, clarity came to me about the true definition of my calling and purpose. My calling wasn’t an exclusive proposition: be a pastor or else forsake your calling.

No, I now could see with renewed vision, my vision: I am called to be a guide (a Lightbearer) who brings people and groups to the strongest, most authentic expression of themselves—not who I or anyone else thinks they should be, but who they are perfectly designed to be.

I’m a strategic maximizer who empowers people to understand themselves in truth so that they experience greater effectiveness, energy, and expression of their calling and purpose.

I certainly fulfilled that calling in my role as pastor. But I finally realized that I could fulfill that calling in many different roles even outside the religious system I had grown up in, which now include my current roles as a public speaker, teacher, author, life coach, consultant, and spiritual advisor.

The Liberation of Distinction Between Role and Calling

My Goliath wasn’t about how to get back to pastoring in the system I had left. My Goliath was about fighting the greatest battle of all, the one we all have to fight:

who am I in a world that demands certain conformity and molding to its image; what is my true, changeless, and absolutely secure identity? And how can I live that out (calling) in confident and powerful ways? What is my own armor? And how can I learn to wear my armor boldly and passionately within the ongoing legend and adventure of my calling, whatever roles I choose to embody and in whatever settings I choose to employ?

I can honestly tell you, this discovery was one of the most liberating, empowering, and confidence-building discoveries of my entire life. Losing my church role ended up becoming a profound blessing because it forced me to come to a place of truth and reality—I discovered who I was and what I was truly called to be and do in this world. And the exciting thing is that there are no walls or limits to this adventure of purpose and mission for me. My calling is truly global and so expansive it will last for my entire lifetime no matter what roles I choose along the way.

Are You Clear On Your Calling?

So are you clear about your unique calling and purpose in your life? Are you being motivated and driven and empowered by this specific calling? Can you see the differentiation between the roles you’re filling right now and your calling?

Over the next few blog posts I want to give specific strategies and methods you can use to identify your sense of calling and purpose in this world. Choose to face this new year with a renewed clarity about what your life is truly designed for. Stay tuned.

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Looking for a Speaker or Coach?

If you or someone you know in your organization is looking for a keynote speaker or workshop teacher for events in your company, congregation, or association gatherings, I would be happy to come speak on this theme or others like it. And interested in coaching for how to be an effective culture architect in your groups? Feel free to email me at greg@gregorypnelson.com or look at the Speaking or Coaching pages of this site.

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