Guard Your Calling, Frodo, by John Ortberg

An ongoing series: Two Handed Authors and Bloggers you Should Know.

John Ortberg believes his calling is to lead people to “spiritual formation,” which is how people become more like Jesus. Through his humorous teachings he brings practical applications of Scripture to those around him.

John was born in Rockford, Illinois and received his Bachelors from Wheaton College. He went on to earn a Masters of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology from Fuller Seminary and pursued post graduate studies at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Since 2003, John has served as the Senior Pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. And he is the author of If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat and The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Growth for Ordinary People. John and his wife of twenty years, Nancy, have three children


My introduction: Heroic leadership is servant leadership. This means that all heroic leadership eventually leads to the end of yourself. You simply can’t lead with the goal of meeting the needs of others without encountering moments when the cost is the sacrifice of your own needs.  Author John Ortberg taps into one of the more powerful literary and cinematic examples of heroic servant leadership–Frodo Baggins–to find the words to describe the critical nature of “Morder moments” in servant leadership.


Guard Your Calling, Frodo

I ran across a striking statistic recently—90 percent of people who enter vocational ministry will end up in another field. (I wish I could remember the source. I’m pretty sure it was reliable, though I know our subculture is filled with what Christian Smith calls “evangelicals using statistics badly.” And 80 percent of all statistics are just made up. You can quote me.)

Of course, lots of folks who didn’t start in local church ministry will end up there.

And we live in a day when job change is a way of life; “40 years and a gold watch” stopped a long time ago.

But it got me thinking about the notion of calling.

There is something sacred about being called.

And a sense of calling needs desperately to be guarded.

Frodo's transformation from happy-go-lucky Shire youth, into an empire-shaking servant leader came at a tremendous price.

My daughter and I were re-watching Lord of the Rings before Christmas. At one point, on the last part of the journey through Mordor, Frodo turns to Sam and tells him how badly he wishes he did not have to be the one to carry the Ring. Being the Ring-Bearer was a difficult and dangerous role. He took it up voluntarily; he knew it was a worthy task; he understood in some dim way that he was suited for it—even his weakness was part of his gifting, and yet the cost of it wore him down.

Scholars sometimes speak of a distinctness that Christianity added to the idea of a vocation. The Greeks gloried in achievement; heroism was much to be aspired to. However, it was generally understood as a way to express the strength and greatness of the hero. The hero chose what army to lead and what battle to fight.

In the story of the Jesus movement, accomplishment was a more complex journey. From the history of Israel came the notion of a life not so much planned for glory as interrupted by God: “And the word of the Lord came to …” Having the word of the Lord come to you is a little like bearing the Ring—you may know it’s a glorious and powerful thing, but the task can wear on you after a while.

In ancient Greece, heroism was a chosen path.

In the Jesus story, it became a calling greater than oneself; both a glorious quest to be achieved but also a spending of oneself for Something larger.

“But you have been chosen,” Gandalf says to Frodo. “And you must therefore use such strength and hearts and wits as you have.”

You have been chosen. I don’t know if you (or I) am in exactly the perfect fitting job. But that’s not the issue.

You have been chosen.

And this sense of having been called—the worthiness of it, the glorious goodness of a life lived beyond an individual’s agenda—is a precious thing. It is sometimes subverted into grandiosity. It is perhaps more often lost in the ministry of the mundane. It needs to be guarded.

Sometimes, in the quest, we get to visit the House of Elrond; the Fellowship is united and strong, the plans are glorious, hope is fierce, and hearts beat fast.

But you don’t get to spend every day there.

All ministry involves slogging through Mordor…

To read the entire article click: Guard Your Calling Frodo.

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