Some of the things we learn in life we receive through our leaders and their example of faith. I am thankful that I got the opportunity to learn from our regional director, Pastor Eman Doce. What resonated well with me from our meeting is how growing in our calling never stops.
We have different stories of how we receive God’s call in our life to serve Him through different vocations. For Pastor Eman, he was reached out on campus and built strong relationships with people who mentored and helped him follow Jesus Christ.
When he realized that students need a kuya to guide them and be with them, that burden, along with confirmation from his leaders and mentors, clarified that God was calling him to do campus ministry as a vocation. Pursuing God’s call in his life didn’t come easy. A few months after he went through the initial training, he encountered personal challenges. He received offers to work abroad as a nurse, as well as an opportunity to put up a business. What made him decide to stay the course was knowing that full-time ministry was what God called him to. Eight years later, despite turning down more lucrative offers, Pastor Eman can attest that God is indeed faithful.
How do we discover what God called us to pursue in life? Pastor Eman has this to say: “Pursue your primary calling—have an intimate relationship with God.”
At the end of the day, there is more to our calling than just our vocation. The truth is God can bring us to several vocations in our lifetime. Knowing the vocation God calls us into is vital, as well. The key to staying in His purpose and calling for each season, regardless of circumstance, is in our primary calling of abiding in Christ. Our devotion to God will result in an overflow to our relationships and to our work.
As we nurture our relationship with God, it is important to guard our daily devotion and time with Him. Here’s what Pastor Eman shared that helped him stick to God’s calling for him: daily devotion, weekly rest (yes, rest!), and monthly solitude. He also added that we can learn to say no to some things, but be ready with a solution. We are to receive what we can carry and evaluate how we pace our life. We also need to learn to manage tensions, because they will always be present. We will be able to navigate all these well when we guard our primary calling of being intimate with our God.
God has a unique calling for all of us. Listening to Him, realigning yourself constantly to His purpose, and responding to His call without delay will enable you to make the most of the great adventure that God has planned just for you.
Pastor Eman Doce can be reached through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/eman.doce) or Instagram @emandoce.
We hear this a lot, “Christianity is about having a personal relationship with God.” Because of this, some people may find it hard to see the need to be in a church community. You might say, “After all, if it’s a personal relationship with God, then everything is just between God and me.” What has other people got to do about this personal relationship? A lot, apparently.
In Matthew 22, the religious leaders of Israel sought to trap Jesus Christ with questions that they could use against him. One of them asked, “What is the first and greatest commandment?” To which he replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’ A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Jesus seems to be implying in the passage that loving others is just as important as loving God with everything you have. This is not to say that we are to love God and others equally, but that we are to value our relationship with God and with others equally. You see, when you love God above all, it also means you learn to love those He loves—other people who can sometimes be unlovable because just like you are, they are imperfect.
This is why church community is not optional. God designed each of us to be connected to Him and to others. Most of His commands in the Bible revolve around promoting and protecting healthy relationships with one another, and they cannot be exercised apart from being in community. The primary reason God hates sin is because sin leads to separation from Him and to the breaking of trust and of relationship with one another.
So how do we encourage others to see the beauty of being in church community?
How many of us have met our long time friends in the church?
We may have heard the saying, “We don’t believe in disposable relationships” in the church—and many of us have seen that to be true.
For most of our lives, we were thrown together with other people because of circumstances. We become friends with them because they were our neighbors, family friends, classmates, or athletic teammates, etc. In a new environment where everyone is a stranger, we look for those we can bond with, play fun games with, survive the rigors of school work with, or chill after training with. It’s a bond formed over a mutual need.
In church community, however, we experience building relationships not because of mutual need, but because someone intentionally started the friendship, compelled by the love of Christ, in order for others to experience the same unconditional love. These are people we share life with, celebrate milestones with, and struggle through tough times with. True friends push us closer to God, and they are never afraid to speak into and point out areas in our lives that need to be submitted to God.
This is the kind of friendship we offer and show to those we lead to Christ—a friendship rooted not out of a mutual need, but out of an experience and understanding of the compelling and unconditional love of Christ.
Pastor Jon Naron, one of our pastors, said that “Our level of community with God enables us to open up our lives to also have a deeper community with people.”
We need to have fellowship with God first, which will then translate to fellowship with others who follow Him. If we hide things from God, then we will also try to hide things from others. If our relationship with God is one of trust, then we will also trust others with our life “because we know that God is sovereign and He’s the one working out things in our life.”
Fellowship is not just about eating together or hanging out in one place, it is about intentionally building and nurturing relationships with others, worshipping God together, and remembering His greatness and His goodness in our lives together.
When we are part of a family, we have the rights and privileges of being a child of our parents. At the same time, we are concerned about the things that concern our parents as well. And we do our part as a family member to take care of the things we consider our own. We do not need to be paid to do so, because we know we are coheirs to what our parents own.
The Bible says in Romans 8 that through Jesus Christ, God has adopted us as His children and that we are now coheirs with Christ. We now have the privilege to relate with God as a Father and enjoy unhindered communion with Him. It also means that we become concerned with the things that concern our Father—the lives of other people who have yet to experience and understand the gospel.
The great thing about this is that we don’t need to do it alone. We have brothers and sisters in Christ that we run this race with. Oh how fulfilling it is to show God’s love to those in need along with others who experienced His love as well! The experience of sitting on one side of the campus and preaching the gospel together to other students is unforgettable. Learning together how to read and apply God’s word, praying and believing together with others in the small group, and even going on church planting and missions trips together expand our perspective of God and His kingdom work. When we bring along the person we are helping to follow Christ in doing kingdom work, we are allowing them to see the fullness of being part of a spiritual family.
The church is God’s tangible expression of love to the rest of the world. We are called to be His hands and feet to the poor, the needy, the broken, and the rejected, so that when they encounter the gospel through us, they can be reconciled to God and find healing and wholeness in Him. When we understand what church community truly means, we would not want anyone to miss out on experiencing its fullness.