Call Designed Church

The following is a description of the way in which Hope Lutheran Church organizes itself around the unique calls of its individual members. It is taken from Pastor Wendy’s booklet, The Custom Designed Church: Unique People Called by God, pages 3-5. Material below is Copyright © 2008 Wendy A.W. Berthelsen.

Custom designing around the calls of people is an approach to “church” and ministry.  It is not a new approach as its foundational principles are found throughout the scriptures.  Since the word “church” literally means “called out ones,” call is central to what the church is to be and do.  As a result, generally speaking, ministry development and vision using call as its organizing and driving principle focuses upon helping everyone in the church discover their sense of “call.”

Based upon a reading of nearly every “call” scripture, generally speaking “call” has three dimensions:  the call to know Jesus, the call to follow Jesus and the call to uniquely serve Jesus, thus fulfilling a particular function in the Body of Christ.  The aim of a church gathering of people (congregation) that operates using this approach is for the church’s people and what these people do together to look more and more like the sum total of all the unique individuals’ calls to serve, or to custom design its ministry (service) around its own unique group of people.  This approach takes seriously that everyone is a minister with a significant ministry (service) – not just pastors, missionaries and church professionals.

In this approach, ministry is organized and driven by “call” as opposed to being program-driven, structure-driven or pastor-driven or staff-driven.  The starting place for this approach is people.  Thus rather than finding, developing and starting programs or strategies, or forming committees to come up with program or strategy ideas, (and perhaps also trying desperately to find the people who might like to implement these ideas) attention is focused upon preaching, teaching, and other practical strategies to help individual people know their own unique call, and then appropriately training them to carry out their unique calls.  A significant aspect of knowing one’s call is identifying and using one’s spiritual gifts.  Focusing on this approach, the exact shape and timing of the future is dependent upon all of the individuals of the church more clearly knowing their own unique calls.

Diagram A - Click to Enlarge

Diagram A – Click to Enlarge

The shape and timing of future ministry is slowly being determined as more and more persons are stepping into significant ministry functions that they are excited about because they have a sense of call.  Diagram A shows a schematic of how custom designing around the calls of people works.  Note the direction of the arrows – bottom-up.  Often times in many church gatherings, the arrows go in the opposite direction – top-down.  Mission and vision, strategies, paid staff, and structures (e.g., committees, etc.) all have a place in this approach, but their roles and uses are somewhat different:

  • The Big Picture:  Mission and Vision – Mission and vision are descriptive in nature (not prescriptive), using broad strokes.  Broad strokes can be defined with a few words.  The top circle of Diagram A lists possible examples of broad stroke “words.”  Rather than prescribing outcomes and specific strategies, using broad words takes into account that God might creatively reveal through God’s people infinite possibilities and strategies that will contribute to the gospel ministry of Jesus.
  • Planning and Evaluating of Strategies and Projects – Strategies and projects are both initiated and accomplished on a grassroots level by those who feel called to take an idea or project and make it into reality.  New ideas and strategies are begun only as a person or group of persons have some sense of call to do them.  Projects and strategies are often unique because they are born out of the creative voice of God working through an individual or group of people who are dedicated to making an idea become reality.  So instead of a small few making up ideas almost always for others to do and then assigning them to a committee or someone running around attempting to find someone to make these ideas into reality, people trust God to call people in unique ways and to bring people together who share common interests and bring their ideas to reality because they are called and therefore intensely motivated to make their ideas happen.
  • Paid Staff and Pastors – Paid staff and pastors also seek to know their own particular “call” within their “call” to a formal position.  Hopefully their time will be shaped by their own spiritual gifts and the ministry desires that accompany this particular sense of call.  Effort is made to build their own ministry time and activities around their spiritual gifts and sense of call, and to use their own spiritual gifts to help and facilitate others in carrying out their unique calls.
  • Structures (committees, teams, task forces, networks, etc.) – When people are “called” by God, there will be less of a need for coordination and structure.  In addition, new structure can be formed as it makes sense to provide needed coordination, or to group people together who have a common goal or project in mind.  The type of structure is custom designed around the persons involved – how each would like to contribute, whether in a small or big way. How often a committee or team or task force meets is governed by how much need that there is for a group to be together in order to forge a common direction.

Therefore, what is done and not done is largely dependent upon if persons feel called, motivated and excited about what they are doing. This whole approach, in addition to bearing fruit, has resulted in creative, excellent, and missional ministry.  Because paid staff are not attempting to do most of the significant work of the Body of Christ by themselves, usually it has also allowed paid staff to be healthy in the number of hours that they personally work.  Using this particular approach, ministry may develop and grow at a slower pace because many people are not used to viewing ministry in this way.  As a result, they must be taught to reflect and pray about their own sense of call and helped to understand how their spiritual gifts operate in their lives as well as taught a new way of thinking about “church.”   However, as people begin to view “church” in this way, initiative, innovation, fruitfulness, and ownership increase.