I have become increasingly disturbed by a trend that I have noticed in my generation (Bible-believing Christians under 40 in America). If I were to describe it as simply as possible, I would identify it as ‘the sovereignty of personal calling.’ When I use the word sovereignty in this context, I mean both power and authority, but also autonomy and self-determination. In an age where self-perception is both highly subjective and obsessively individualistic, the sanctified version of “being true to yourself” is “fulfilling God’s call on your life.”

Leaving the discussion of the biblical validity of “personal calling” for another day, let me start by saying that every Christian, by definition, is “called.” If you are a Christian, it is because you were called by God. The proof texts are almost too numerous to mention, but I’ll include a few to clarify the point. You were “called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6). You were called by the Father “in the grace of Christ” (Galatians 1:6). You were called “into the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:9). You were called “through [the] gospel” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). And of course, you are called to “walk worthy of the calling to which you have been called…eager to maintain unity…just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call” (Ephesians 4:1,3-4). To be a Christian is to be called by the Father into union with His Son, sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. This doesn’t happen by accident! This is the greatest calling a sinful human being can receive. “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). Every Christian is called to Christ. God planned this. God does this “to the praise of His glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).

Type something related to Christian calling in your favorite search engine and you will find thousands of think pieces on how to discover your calling, be true to your calling, and avoid the trap of missing your calling. Proponents of this idea will point out that Ephesians 2:10 says, “…we [Christians] are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

If you are a Christian, you are called to Christ. Yes, God has redeemed you in Christ for good works. But those good works aren’t done in a vacuum. Click To Tweet

The issue is that we have taken this biblical idea and done two unbiblical things with it. First, we have radically individualized it. I am searching for MY calling. I want to discover MY purpose. I want to steer clear of those who would limit or inhibit MY God-ordained mission. God saved ME through Jesus to do good works, which God prepared beforehand for ME to do? Read Ephesians 2:10 again. There are only two pronouns in that verse, and they are both plural. This means the Christian ministry is more of a we thing than a me thing.

You can spot the second unbiblical thing we do with the Ephesians 2:10 idea if you notice the way we are conditioned to embrace our sense of personal calling. How do you know what you are called to do? How do you discover your calling? Basically, you feel it. Subjectivity is the name of the game. We are told to find what we are passionate about, what we feel God leading us to, what we sense God saying to us, how we see God leading us, and then search for confirmation. The confirmation treasure hunt has us sensing, feeling, hearing, and looking for any number of eureka moments where it all lines up.

Again, leaving aside the discussion of whether or not the popular concept of personal calling is even biblical, conceptualizing your calling through subjectivism leads to a couple of troubling factors.

1. You become sovereign.

First, you become sovereign. I once had a pastor tell me that the single statement that he never questions another Christian on is when that Christian says, “God told me.” Really? How about when what ‘God told you’ contradicts what God has told all of us in His word? The ‘God told me’ trump card is categorically unbiblical.

2. You become autonomous.

Second, you become autonomous. What if your subjective sense of God’s calling on your life doesn’t line up with your gifts? What is the role of Christian community or spiritual authority as it relates to your personal sense of calling? The early church said things like “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” as they humbly and carefully sent out missionaries. Stressed out and fearful Timothy didn’t hear Paul appeal to his inner sense of God-told-me-ness. Paul reminded Timothy of the elders and faith community who affirmed him (1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6).

If you are a Christian, you are called to Christ. Yes, God has redeemed you in Christ for good works. But those good works aren’t done in a vacuum. The good works God has called you to do are our good works. Christian calling is not individualistic, we are a body. Christian calling is also not exclusively subjective, you are birthed into a family of faith. When you are united with Christ you are no longer a stranger and alien, but a fellow citizen with the saints and a member of God’s household. He has told us how this household is to function in His word. God is not silent.

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:3-7)