At 17-years-old I left my hometown in North Carolina and moved to Texas, 923 miles away. I was coming for a one-year internship, which I finally left five years later.
I left home with ambition, with dreams, with hope, and without a clue about life.
I was confident that this internship would be the launch pad for my destiny. I was confident that I would do something great. And I was confident that some amazing opportunity would just fall into my lap.
I frequently said something like, “I’m going to be someone’s Timothy.” You know, like Paul and Timothy. I just knew some great man of God would speak at a chapel one day and take notice of me sitting attentively in the crowd, find me afterward and initiate a conversation.
That conversation, I’d imagined, would go something this:
Hi. My name is Successful Ministry Leader Man. I noticed you on the 3rd row as I was speaking. The Lord spoke to me during my message and told me to come find you and tell you that you are destined for greatness. How would you like to travel the world with me for the next two years so I can show you the ropes of ministry? I’ll even let you preach as often as possible.
I am embarrassed to tell you that I’m not exaggerating. I seriously thought that was going to happen to me. And when it didn’t I was disillusioned, which is almost comical now. My hopes and dreams were fully dependent on something completely out of my control and something that I later realized wasn’t even realistic to begin with.
I thought this way because I had the wrong idea about “prophesies” (or whatever you’d like to call them) that were spoken over me when I was young.
Basically, I thought I was so fantastic that someone who didn’t even know me would somehow see my potential and be mesmerized by it.
I don’t think this story makes me strange. Unfortunately, I think it makes me a fairly typical millennial.
Big dreams with no plan.
I’m not one to shift blame. I know I’ve wasted time and missed opportunities, and I know that’s my fault. But you know something? I have come to resent Christian clichés like, “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”
I resent them, not because of what they really mean, but because of how they are usually intended and how they are often interpreted.
Christian clichés like this, I believe, have damaged a lot of sincere young Christians, who didn’t consider self-development a requisite for their calling because “God doesn’t call the qualified.” In other words, I don’t need to worry about becoming a great leader, or a hard worker, or a studious pupil, so long as I am a good Christian who reads my Bible and prays every day.
The way I heard one speaker say it is, “You worry about your character and let God worry about your calling.” In many ways this is an excellent exhortation. But if we aren’t careful we may misuse it.
If by “calling”, he meant career, then it would be foolish to say that we shouldn’t worry about our calling at all. Of course we should worry about it. We should work hard to pursue it and prepare for it. We shouldn’t buy the lie that God will just promote us when the time comes.
This isn’t even Biblical. “The soul of the lazy person has strong desires but gets nothing, but the soul of the one who does his best gets more than he needs,” (Prov. 13:4 NLV).
Yes, God is our promoter, but if we aren’t prepared, the promotion may pass right over us.
So here are 5 (seemingly) unspiritual lessons I’ve learned about how to become qualified and ready for when God calls.
1. Pursue education and experience in whatever form you can get it.
Whatever it is that you want to do, you need training. Training may be college, or a low-end job that could serve as a starting point for what you want to do, or both. It may be connecting with the right people and rubbing shoulders with others in your field.
Do whatever it takes to gain knowledge and experience.
2. Say yes as often as you possibly can (even without pay).
We’ve all read books and heard sermons about the importance of saying “no.” We should say no because we need to prioritize Sabbath, because we can’t let people take advantage of us, and because we must keep ourselves from being so busy that we don’t have time for Jesus, or family.
But it becomes easy to turn the need for rest into self-preservation.
I think some of us have forgotten the importance of saying yes. Every time you see an opportunity to gain experience practicing what you want to do, take it. It doesn’t matter if it pays. Just do it.
This is your launch pad.
3. Make a specific plan, and follow through.
The bridge between your dreams and your goals is a plan. Make a plan, and make your plan specific. Put a time limit on it. A year, five years, or ten years. Write down steps for how you will pursue it. And then follow through.
You might not get there, but you will get much further than you will if you only have dreams and no plan at all.
4. Redefine mentorship and pursue the new definition.
The traditional idea of a mentor is someone who frees up space to meet with you every single week to coach you and hold you accountable. There are a few problems with this.
First, people are busy. Many people can’t commit to a weekly (or even monthly) meeting to pour into you.
Second, each person has only a single perspective. If you are only mentored by one person you won’t learn nearly as much as you would if you met with different people each week.
We need to redefine mentorship to mean learning from lots of people who are further along in life than we are. It doesn’t even have to happen in a meeting. It can happen through text or email as well.
5. Get out of your comfort zone and find a posse.
I’m talking about peers who are pursuing the same kinds of things you are. You can’t do it without other people. You need advice, accountability, critique, encouragement, and help.
But understand that no one is going to pursue you.
People aren’t going to go out of their way to find you and give you opportunities. You have to find them and let them know that you have common interests and goals.
You may also like:
Download a free copy of my ebook, Motley Tribe: Real Community is not Ideal.