First rule of business?
Know who your targeted audience is.
As many entrepreneurship programs I've subscribed to, business courses I've taken, and mentors I've submitted to, that's one of the first rules of thumb they'll lead the conversation with.
"You want to build this business?" they'll lean in with a serious look on their face and say. "You better know who you're building it for."
And, as much as I'd like to think these conversations are reserved for entrepreneurs in their meetings with the CEO, Scriptures tell us that God cares about your targeted audience too. In fact, it's one of the first points God will bring up in conversation with those He's calling.
Have you noticed?
Track with me!
Abram's call in Genesis 12 was to be made into a great nation, to be a blessed man. Why? Because "all the families on earth will be blessed through him," as God said in Genesis 12:3. In other words, the people connected to Abram's call was what made the call so significant in the first place.
Take Moses, as another example. Even through all of his protesting when God called him at the burning bush in Exodus 3, God didn't take long to mention Moses' assignment in verses 9 and 10: "Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt," God said. Moses' targeted audience couldn't be more clear.
And, what about Joshua? Soon as Moses passed away, God quickly assured Joshua that his audience is no different. In the second verse in Joshua's book, God immediately makes it known that Joshua is called to the Israelites as well.
And, on and on the list goes.
The Bible is filled with stories of God not just calling a leader, but calling a leader to a specific people. And, in every conversation had, you will find that God makes the targeted audience pretty clear.
And, perhaps you're reading the blog today slightly bummed because as much as you've prayed and asked God to reveal this to you—that is, your targeted audience—you feel as though you haven't gotten your answer yet. In other words, you have a sense of what you're called to do, but only a small clue of who you're called to do it for.
Well, lucky for you, reader—
That's exactly what I'll be blogging about today.
To those who are conflicted on the kind of audience God is calling you to, I'm writing this post just for you...
And, if I'm honest, for me too.
Oh, yes. I know what it's like to be haunted by God's really loud silence when it came to figuring out who I'm called to. I walked through a short season of driving myself (and, the Lord) crazy trying to make sense of it. On one hand, I was really passionate about building up my brothers and sisters in Christ through the gifts that God has given me. Yet, on the other hand, I didn't want to spend my days preaching to the choir, sharing Scripture verses church kids everywhere have spent their whole life hearing. In other words, I felt called to speak and preach to Christians and non-Christians alike, which—up until my conversation with God—I wasn't sure if the two different audiences could co-exist, therefore, causing a lot of frustration within.
My conversations with God were sort of like ping-pong matches, going back and forth between my commitment to the church and who I felt called to in the world.
Who do I do this for, Lord? I would anxiously ask. Write it in the clouds for me. Show me in a dream. Make it so clear so that I will never be confused about it not a day in my life!!!
And today, I'm grateful to share with you that the line of questioning didn't last as long as I thought it would. Once again, God was faithful enough to provide an answer.
The answer didn't come as a loud, booming voice from above.
The sound didn't knock me off my horse as it did Paul in Acts 9, which we'll discuss.
Instead, it was in the still, small voice described in 1 Kings 19:12—a whisper similar to that of God's communication with Elijah.
In a quiet, gentle statement, I sensed God say, "You are called to the lost." And, with a soft follow up, He added, "And, you are called to the found."
And, the moment those words landed on my heart, I froze.
The light bulb didn't go off until I considered what He meant—what lost and found will now and forevermore mean to me.
I'm called to the lost—those who want nothing to do with church, wouldn't dare pick up a bible, cringe at the name of Jesus, and are actually quite settled into the darkness they've lived in for so long—and, the found—those who know God, love God, serve God, and want additional encouragement in their walk with Him.
The lost and the found, God said.
After being confused for a while, you could imagine how grateful I was to hear this.
It made perfect sense to me. It relieved me from all of the friction I felt within.
It was never either/or for me. It's always been both/and.
The lost and the found.
The believer and the non-believer.
The church and the world.
And, while I spent a minute rejoicing over the wonderful clarity I received, I spent the following moments realizing at a deeper degree what that means for me.
To be called to minister to both—to those who are already letting their light shine and to those who are living in darkness, to those who've been quoting Scripture since they were three and to those who don't even know what Scripture is, to those who make up the church and to those who feel too guilty to walk through the doors—can only mean one thing:
I am going to be misunderstood.
Showing up in two different spaces, preaching the same kind of biblical truth, isn't as easy as it looks on paper. Your motives will be misconstrued. Your intentions won't be recognized. You will offend many. You will be ridiculed often. One camp you're called to can't see why you're associated with the other camp, and vice versa.
Needless to say, you will quickly become a controversial figure.
...Not really the best news for a people-pleaser like myself.
When the reality of who I'm called to hit me, fear quickly followed after.
What will people think of me? Am I sure this is God who said this? What if I can't handle being misunderstood like this? Isn't this kind of call a bit too risky? Doesn't God know I prefer to play it safe?!?
And, on and on it went. I was paralyzed after the clarity given.
If I'm called to both camps—the lost and the found—I am sure to be in for a few rounds of backlash.
And, if you don't mind me being a bit vulnerable today, that's an inevitability I'm not exactly looking forward to.
So, I began to ask God to show me what to do. If this is my assignment, what more did He have to say about it?
Unsurprisingly enough, I found myself studying none other than the life of Paul.
And, today? I'm asking you to study with me.
We find the beginning of Paul's ministry begin in Acts 9—when he was knocked off of his horse at the sound of Jesus' voice, with His light so bright it left Paul blind for three days. But, what he saw isn't what made the moment so significant. It was what Jesus said that made all the difference.
In Acts 9:15, God made it clear to Paul through a man named Ananias that Paul was God's chosen instrument to take His message to 1) Gentiles 2) kings and 3) the people of Israel.
Let's talk about why that was so significant.
Way back in Genesis, God already ordained the Israelites to be God's chosen people. Anyone who wasn't an Israelite was considered a Gentile. And for centuries, before Paul got on the scene, the people of Israel were the only ones with any hope of salvation. But now, God assigned Paul to take the message of salvation not just to the Israelites—the chosen people of God—but to the Gentiles as well.
In other words, an extremely controversial decision was made.
The Israelites often viewed the Gentiles as the outsiders, enemies, those unworthy of the grace of God. And, the worst part is that they felt they had biblical reasons to justify their viewpoint. When God made a covenant promise with Abraham in Genesis 15, promising Abraham that his descendants were going to be as many as the stars in the sky, we see later on in Scripture that God called these descendants Israelites. Not Gentiles.
Get the picture?
The Israelites lorded their covenant promise over those who weren’t descendants of Abraham. They overlooked Gentiles, excluded them, outcasted them, shunned them—
—so when Paul came on the scene with a clear call to minister to Gentiles, the Israelites were terribly upset.
But, let's not forget the latter part of God's call either. Along with the Gentiles, God did say in Acts 9:15 that Paul was called to the people of Israel as well.
In other words, Paul was called to two seemingly different groups of people. The Gentiles and the Israelites.
The reason why that blessed me so much?
It sounds very similar to my call. The lost and the found.
Paul's story had my attention.
I took note of the many times he was ridiculed, misunderstood, persecuted, beaten, and even imprisoned. It was a call with a cost, that's for sure. But, according to the letters he wrote to the church, he didn't seem the slightest bit afraid.
He wasn't intimidated. He didn't pull back. Instead, he preached all the more. He took the message of Christ even further. He knew in his heart that God called him to this, and that was enough for him to endure anything that came his way.
If you don't mind me opening up a bit...these are the kinds of prayers I've been praying lately—for a faith and a certainty as bold as Paul's that I won't succumb to the hardships that's coupled with my call, that I will care more about who I'm called to than I would about the cost that comes with it.
Because, that's just the thing, reader. Paul knew more than ever that his call had nothing to do with him and everything to do with the Gentiles and the Israelites he was called to preach to.
What I'm trying to say is that if you—like me—have any fear regarding your call, the best way to cast that fear on Jesus—the One who called you—is to humble yourself. Your pride will make you quit at the first sign of criticism. You'll turn back around faster than you can quote Acts 9:15 if you're making your call all about you.
News flash: It isn't.
It's about the girl who cries herself to sleep at night because she doesn't know who she is. It's about the man who's too afraid to reach out for help for fear that it disqualifies him from his manhood. It's for the single mom who doesn't know how to connect with her teenager. It's for the family man who feels his family doesn't appreciate him enough. It's for the young child battling cancer. It's for the agnostic unsure of where to put their hope.
I hope you understand this. What you're called to is for them. When you make it about them, any kind of backlash hurts a little less.
I'm sure by now you're waiting for me to answer the question I teased you with earlier: Who are you called to in the first place?
Paul was called to the Gentiles and the Israelites. I'm called to the lost and found. Who am I called to, though? you may be asking.
Well, in the case that you don't have an experience like Paul, where God blinds you for three days just for you to get the point, I urge you to do what I did:
Pray and ask God about it. As faithful as He was to answer me, I believe He's faithful enough to answer you too. But, something tells me He's going to give you an answer He's already given us years and years ago—an answer He gave to His disciples before He ascended to be at the right hand of the Father.
This answer is found in Mark 16:15. It says:
"He [JESUS] said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.'"
And, there you have it, reader. Jesus commissioned you to go out into all the world.
Does this mean you have to empty your bank account and book a handful of flights in order to accomplish this? Not necessarily. You don't have to travel the world to find a group of people to minister to. Nope! You can minister right where you are—in the corner of the world God has you in now.
Be it your college as you begin a new semester, your workplace, your neighborhood. Heck! Even your family. Going out into all the world means going out into your world, bringing the good news there. You may be surprised by the amount of people who need to hear His message.
Therefore, if you're stumped at all about the audience you're called to, just start with Mark 16:15.
And, just like every other person God calls, I hate to break it to you, but it may not be an easy ride. You may also experience backlash. You, too, might be ridiculed. And, as uncomfortable as this may make you, you may be misunderstood too.
But, like Paul, don't let that stop you.
Embrace your call, humble your heart, be faithful to your corner of the world, and preach the gospel. The person who's waiting on the other side of your obedience is the one who's going to benefit.
And, hey! Take a breath. You are not alone in this. I'm embracing my call and humbling myself with you. And, if we have to take a couple of hits together, then so be it. It's not about us. It's for them.