Does a missionary calling even exist? Aren’t all believers called to be followers and witnesses of the Good News? The Bible clearly states that all followers of Jesus are called, and this calling speaks to the longing of every human heart for purpose and identity. Who are we, and what are we here for? When Paul writes that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10), he is writing to the whole church. The early church prayed the Lord’s Prayer for the kingdom of God to come and His will to be done and then lived knowing they were called to be part of the answer to the prayer. They were called to live out the mission of God in a revolutionary, counter-cultural manner and to live good lives among their neighbours so that “though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).

Nevertheless, this universal call does not negate the unique calling to vocational ministry and leadership in the church, including a unique missionary calling. “In addition to the individual purpose God has for each of his people, there is a strong biblical precedence for those who are set apart specifically for the purposes of spiritual service and leadership.” 1 Jesus instructs us to pray that the Lord will send workers into the harvest field (Luke 10:2), men and women who make this call their full-time vocation.

The call of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:1-3 provides a clear example of this call to missionary service within the call to full-time vocational service. The Holy Spirit set them apart to cross ethnic, linguistic, cultural and national boundaries, a calling that took them on long journeys to distant lands so that everyone, everywhere might have an opportunity to hear the gospel. In our desire to mobilize the whole church to live on mission with God, we must be careful not to neutralize the uniqueness of the call to both full-time vocational ministry and missionary service.

The biblical theme of calling provides the storyline for our lives. Our lives don’t just wander down a path of chance opportunities or circumstances. God’s sovereign hand guides and nudges us to the work He has prepared for us. His call provides a sense of continuity, coherence and purpose.

The Problem of Pluralization

Os Guinness points to the problem of pluralization, a process by which the proliferation of choice and change rapidly multiplies our options. Life has become a virtual smorgasbord with an endless array of options to choose from.2 This pluralization leads to a decrease in commitment and continuity to everyone and everything. Freedom of choice can become an idol that overwhelms and diminishes both responsibility and rationality, and this idol can only be conquered by the truth that we are all called and chosen by the God of the universe for purpose and service. Calling to God’s purpose provides us all with a roadmap to clarity and purpose.

Transcendent Signals: A Personal Journey with Calling

I studied environmental science and natural resource management at university. During my first year, I cemented my commitment to follow Jesus and serve Him. Natural resource management or creation care seemed a noble career, a way to make a positive contribution to our world as a follower and witness of Christ. Yet, this has not been my vocational path. Along my storyline, there have been significant moments where stirrings from the Lord, something I can best describe as transcendent signals, have nudged and directed the path of my life in partnership with Cindy, who has also listened and followed those same signals.

More than 40 years ago, Peter Berger asked in his book, A Rumor of Angels, if there was still room in our pluralistic, modern, changing world for the transcendent and the supernatural. There existed a widespread thesis that with modernization and secularization, there would come a consequent fading of religious belief, and any belief in the transcendent would slowly disappear. Berger later questioned his own view that the religions of the world would eventually die away. From humanity’s tendency to create order, play, hope, condemn misdeeds and find humour and joy, he recognized a transcendence that pointed humanity beyond themselves to the divine. He called these “signals of transcendence.”3 These signals won’t let humanity off the hook until we find their meaning and calling in our lives. They push us to search for meaning and purpose beyond the immanent and find transcendence. When humanity forgets God, disaster awaits us.

In my journey with Cindy, we can point to many unique moments where God signalled a new direction in life—transcendent signals—all of which have contributed to our missionary calling. The first crisis moment came following my undergraduate studies when I planned to enter a graduate program in natural resource management. Although I had been accepted into an excellent program, God gave us no peace. He opened an alternative door to attend Regent College instead, which changed the direction of our lives. I entered this school with the goal of integrating foundational Christian studies with my intention to serve God through a vocation in science. It turns out that was not in God’s plan.

Enter another transcendent signal: a long night of wrestling with an invitation to take up a pastoral role in a local church—an unexpected open door that seemed so right and filled us with peace, joy and fulfilment. God pointed, and we embraced pastoral ministry in Vancouver and envisioned a long-term career as a pastor. Alas, it was not to be. God arrested my heart through an article about a church in Zimbabwe, another transcendent signal from God and a sense of calling to missionary service. What followed were 20 years of joyous, fruitful service in Zimbabwe, Zambia and the southern Africa region. It was easy for us to see Zimbabwe and Africa as home and remain there in comfortable service.

But once again, God broke into our journey of service. Driving with some African colleagues on a lonely road in Namibia, God whispered His plan and provided a clear sense of call to serve our Canadian Fellowship, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, by giving leadership to our “ends of the earth” responsibility, our international mission commitments. That day, He placed in my heart a blueprint, a clarity of role and a peace that change would take Cindy and me back to Canada.

Listening for these transcendent signals reflects a belief that God calls people, ordinary people like Cindy and me, to give our lives to a missionary calling. Today, nearly 300 Canadians serve in over 60 countries because God stepped into their lives, the transcendent into the day-to-day, and called them. It is that specific call that keeps us going in difficult times.

God is still calling Canadians today. He is calling them from every ethnic background and every vocational gifting and skill to give their lives and follow a missionary calling. Let us all do our part to call out these called ones. If you are being called, don’t ignore the transcendent signals. Let God lead you on a journey that will bring great fulfilment, purpose and joy. Our churches across the nation must commit to “call out the called” so that we can take the Good News to those with little or no access to the story of Jesus.

Murray Cornelius is the executive director of Mission Global. This article appeared in the April/May/June 2024 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2024 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photo ©

  1. Scott Pace and Shane Pruitt, Calling Out the Called: Discipling Those Called to Ministry Leadership (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2022), 4.
  2. Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 1998), 194.
  3. Peter L. Berger, A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural (Garden City: Anchor Books, 1969), 94-95.

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