Calling & Clarity: Discovering What God Wants for Your Life by Doug Koskela (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015. 136 pp)
Doug Koskela is associate professor of theology and associate dean for undergraduate studies in the School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University.
What Will You Do?
I would argue the question of purpose represents one of the central conundrums in life. As a child, endless potential allows for dreams to span the universe. You can be that 7-foot center in the NBA, no matter your actual height, commandeering the driveway to practice your sky hook.
But eventually, the dream fades to basic reality. At 5’11’’ with no hops, your professional basketball years are a mirage. No matter how much you want to find fulfillment and purpose on the court, your physical limitations will always be too large an obstacle.
And yet, we all have passions and talents—aspects of our life we enjoy and at which we succeed. How does one reconcile these talents with heartfelt ideas of purpose?
Doug Koskela’s Calling & Clarity offers an answer.
Popularly, calling resides within a ministry conception of purpose. God calls and humanity answers. Calling, then, corresponds with a spiritually evident end. Most consider calling to coincide with ordination into the ministry or a sending to the mission field far away.
For Koskela, this belief offers too narrow a definition.
In fact, calling entails a missional, direct, and general component.
So let’s unpack.
Starting with a missional call, Koskela contends that your innate capacity provides answers to what each and every person ought to do with his or her life.
“The term ‘missional calling’ refers to the main contribution that your life makes to God’s kingdom. You could think of it as the ‘mission statement’ of your life. It refers to the distinctive direction in which you aim to spend the bulk of your time, gifts, and energy” (2).
Those passionate about numbers might find a missional call in engineering. Those orbiting language might become a translator. The possibilities are endless, but your missional call surrounds an understanding of who you are and how you might best contribute to the positive ends of society.
Understanding your missional call can take some discernment. Sometimes people aren’t entirely aware of their innate capacities. Some people actually do want to play in the NBA even if the physical limitations will always make it too difficult. Having friends and family members speak into your life and encourage you in your hobbies and passions can be an excellent way to unlock your missional calling.
This idea exists in stark contrast to Koskela’s second definition of purpose, the direct call.
Where missional calling surrounds the passions and giftings you receive, direct calling is a specific request from God, whether you like it or not. Consider it the Jonah call.
Such a calling, however, requires extensive testing, especially when it forces a high cost. In other words, God might direct you to talk to a downtrodden person on the sidewalk corner. Such a direct call demands little discernment as it costs little to pause for a minute or two and enter a conversation.
However, if you feel the direct call to move halfway across the world, you better think long and hard about the ramifications and whether or not it is a true call. Koskela notes:
“You might call this the confirmation principle: the greater the consequences of acting on a supposed direct calling, the more extensive the confirmation process should be” (35).
While a missional call represents a one-time stamp on who you are, direct calls can come and go. God might want you in one area for a specific season and somewhere else in another. In fact, God might not have a direct call for you at all, in which case, your missional calling ought to be lived out.
But these conceptions of call differ from a general call.
“You do not need to seek out or discern your general calling, as Scripture offers a comprehensive and compelling vision of God’s desires for all people” (50).
General calling, then, is the universal direction God has given through Scripture and the Church. The best practices suggested in Scripture act as a general call. If you are curious about whether or not to do a specific action and it’s directly referenced in scripture, you, then, have a general call to that action as mandated in Scripture.
So when it comes to purpose in life, calling manifests itself in three ways—missional, direct, and general.
Bring Clarity to the Map
The NBA dreamer might not have the talent to cut it in the NBA, but that does not mean he has no call. The engrained talents and desires operate as his missional call; the directives in Scripture represent his general call; and God might just swoop down and tell him to go do something directly.
These three aspects of call provide the foundation for a direction in life. We all are searching for a map telling us where to go. Calling & Clarity brings clarity to that map.
Verdict: 4 out of 5