Your Best You: Uncover Calling

Life Younique founder Will Mancini asks this question: 

Do you see your mission in life as something created, designed, and given by God? We are called not just to follow Jesus (a common call to all people) but we are called to accomplish something specific as a one-of-a-kind saint (your special assignment from God).

Is there a process of discovering and living out your unique life call?


Askinosie Chocolate is a small-batch, award winning chocolate company widely considered to be a vanguard in the industry. Known for sourcing 100% of his cocoa beans directly from farmers across the globe, Shawn Askinosie has pioneered direct trade and profit sharing in the craft chocolate industry with farmers in Tanzania, Ecuador, and the Philippines. In addition to developing relationships with smallholder farmers, the company also partners with schools in their origin communities to provide lunch to 1,600 children every day with no outside donations.

Twenty-five years ago, Shawn Askinosie was a successful criminal defense lawyer trying his first murder death penalty case that would later go on to become a Dateline special. For many years he found law satisfying, but after several high profile trials he reached a breaking point and found solace in the search for a new career.

In this inspiring guide to discovering a vocation that feeds your heart and soul, Askinosie describes his quest to discover more meaningful work – a search that led him to volunteering in the palliative care wing of a hospital, to a Trappist monastery where he became inspired by the monks focus on “being” rather than “doing,” and eventually traipsing through jungles across the globe in search of excellent cocoa bean farmers to make award winning chocolate.

Askinosie shares his hard-won insights into doing work that reflects one’s values and purpose in life. He shares with readers visioning tools that can be used in any industry or field to create a work life that is inspired and fulfilling. Askinosie shows us that everyone has the capacity to find meaning in his or her work and be a positive force for good in the world.


Assuming a normal lifespan and typical work patterns, individuals will spend over 80,000 hours of their lifetime at work. That’s a significant portion of our adult lives, especially between the ages of 20 and 65 or 70.

Does your work fulfill you? Is it enjoyable?

The quote attributed to Mark Twain is appropriate here: “Find something you love to do and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Your reason for being is certainly developed in your personal life, but it’s possible to create it with your work life, and in doing so, serve others.

We all need a reason to live, a reason to wake up in the morning. This reason can be cultivated in your personal life. But it’s also entirely possible to create it with your work life. In fact, it’s not only possible, it’s essential.

Vocation, as I define it, is the reason you do what you do. The impact of vocation reverberates throughout your life, both internally and externally, your business, your community, and the world by allowing you to realize your true self and by meeting and serving the needs of others.

Steps to Uncover Your Personal Vocation

Step 1 – Don’t try to find it by endless research.

Step 2 – Inventory your talents, your passion, and what the world needs.

Step 3 – Begin with your sorrow.

Step 4 – Serve selflessly.

Step 5 – Expect nothing in return.

Step 6 – Discover the internal space where you can ponder your next steps with clarity.

Shawn Askinosie, Meaningful Work


Author Shawn Askinosie has provided several exercises to help move through the six steps listed above. Here is a partial list:

  1. Reflection – a step 1 exercise

Have you ever experienced a moment that defined your next move, either at work or in your personal life? Write the moment down, and reflect on these questions: Where were you and who was with you? Describe your feelings.

  1. Writing “Prouds” – a step 2 exercise

Get a pen and one sheet of paper. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Write a list of the “prouds” – the things you’re proud of that you’ve accomplished. Don’t stop writing for the entire 15 minutes. Include not only professional accomplishments, but also family, friends, hobbies – all of your life.

  1. Uncovering Your Sorrows – a step 3 exercise

Discover your joys by first looking at your sorrows. On a piece of paper, write “My great sorrow is” and fill in the blank. With short phrases, repeat again and again until you have emptied yourself of painful memories.

  1. Joy Meditation – a step 4 exercise

Believing that on the other side of sorrow is joy, voice this prayer: “From the depths of sorrow please reveal a place where I might serve someone who needs me.” You are doing this with the intention that a place of service or someone who needs you will rise up to the surface.

  1. Opening Your Heart – a step 5 exercise

In order to live, you must let go of yourself. Service to others can be the true bridge to your vocation. Where can you serve others without any expectation of benefits or advantages for your service?

  1. Seeing Through the Fog – a step 6 exercise

When you immerse yourself in serving others wholeheartedly you find yourself, along with many answers to the “what next” questions you’ve been seeking. As you serve others and listen, look for the space to find true clarity.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 106-2, released November 2018.


This is part of a weekly series posting excerpts from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix book excerpts for church leaders.

SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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— Scott Michael Whitley
comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you so Much for this great article. It has open my eyes on where we have faltered and the things we need to work on. God can never indeed be the problem. It's us.
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— Faith Jackson

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

5 Lenses to Clarity of Your Ministry Calling

Is God calling you to serve Him in ministry?

First of all, it’s a big YES.

God draws lost people to himself to save them, and his desire is that all saved people serve people. So, if you’re a believer, you are called! Obviously, however, there is a kind of “calling” that sets certain individuals apart for positions of ministry leadership. The New Testament refers to some people as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. And they are given to the church to teach, preach, shepherd, equip, and instruct.

It should be noted before moving any further that everyone within the body of Christ is of equal worth and importance. We may serve different functions, but the gap between “clergy” and “laity” is an imagined one. All believers are “ministers” even though a few may receive a special calling to lead and to take responsibility for the health and welfare of the flock as undershepherds who follow Jesus.

Some of these leaders are paid and some are not. Some work for churches full-time, some part-time, and others on a volunteer basis. Regardless of their formal relationship with a particular church body, they are called to a higher level of responsibility for the maturing of the body of Christ. So they preach, they lead, they counsel, they give oversight, and they cast a vision for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Here’s the million dollar question among those who grapple with this subject: Is the call of God to ministry leadership discerned mystically? Or practically? Is God’s call heard supernaturally? Or naturally?

And again, the answer is YES.

I have friends who testify that God showed up in a moment of their lives in an unusual way and made his presence known to them in the moment of their calling. But this isn’t always the case.

Personally, I would describe my own experience of God’s calling in three phases:

I was hungry. I couldn’t get enough of the Bible, and I couldn’t seem to read enough about ministry or ask enough questions of my mentors. This hunger grew over several months as I found my way back into a local church. (As an aside, we ought to pursue this calling in the context of a local church community and under the mentorship of our pastors and leaders.)

I was convinced. I came to a moment when I simply knew that God wanted me to spend the rest of my life in full-time, vocational ministry leadership. It was on a bus ride to Louisville, Kentucky when I was a senior in high school. I jotted in the margin of my Bible the phrase, “3-1-95 Called to Preach”. I wrote it next to Jeremiah 1:5, which I was reading that day…

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

I became confident. Once I knew God was calling me, sadly, it took another seven months for me to find the guts to go public. In October of 1995, I preached my first, rather pitiful eighteen-minute sermon. But that experience lit a fire under me that burns to this day, and I still can’t hold it in.

While I believe God can and does often speak his calling into our lives in precise and unique ways, I believe that there should be some practical confirmation of that calling. After spending twenty years talking to younger leaders just getting started, I’ve developed a sense for those who are serious and those who aren’t – those who will go far because they lean into God’s grace and launch out in faith, and those who squander their time and energy on the sidelines.

When someone expresses an interest in ministry or talks of a calling, there are several questions that are quite appropriate to be asked, and through which a prospective leader can and should be screened, and I would divide them into five areas.


Are you presently walking in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit? Are you soaking in God’s Word, praying regularly, and growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus? And does it show in your closest relationships? Would those nearest you (especially a spouse) describe you as Spirit-filled?


Do you WANT to lead the church? Do you crave it? Hunger for it? Is your appetite insatiable enough that you cannot be stopped? Do you desire to do the work of a Pastor?


Obviously we should never attempt to serve merely in the power of our own flesh, but to be effective, we must be sharpening our skills and abilities. This is why teachability is one of the most vital characteristics of ministry leaders. When you stop learning, you will stop leading.


Your unique personality doesn’t really determine whether or not you’re ready to lead in ministry. Rather, it relates to HOW you should lead. One of the most beneficial exercises I’ve ever gone through is the DISC profile (or one of dozens of similar personality and temperament assessments). I’m laid back (a high “I”), so I have to work at communicating clear expectations. I hate conflict, so I have to be intentional about confrontation. And I’m an introvert, so owning this and being at peace with it is important.


A decade and a half ago, Angie and I started to go plant a church, and had we done so, it would have been disastrous. I only know that because of all that we’ve encountered in the last five years that I would have been totally unprepared for back then. All of your past experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly – prepare you for what is next in your life.

If you’ve come to a place in your Christian walk where your hunger to serve and your conviction that God wants you to serve line up, and you have the maturity, the desire, the ability, the personality, and the experience necessary to prepare you, then GO FOR IT!

Every believer is “called.” We’re all called to serve others, to share the gospel, and to glorify God. And we’re all called to do these things “full time.” But thank God for granting the special opportunity for some to be fully immersed in the life of leading the body of Christ forward for the gospel’s sake!

> Read more from Brandon.

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Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders ( He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Amen!!
— Scott Michael Whitley
comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you so Much for this great article. It has open my eyes on where we have faltered and the things we need to work on. God can never indeed be the problem. It's us.
— Bertille
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks for this information. It helps me begin to look at the church in a different light.
— Faith Jackson

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

When Our Calling Isn’t Enough

Recently we had the privilege of participating in several church planting events, including ARC, Exponential East, and Stadia.

The level of passion and enthusiasm we saw was unparalleled.  I can’t tell you how many pastors spoke to me about their calling.  They left no doubt that this was the decision God had asked them to make.

Meeting these expectant pastors reminded me of an article I had read several months before in the Christian Post.  The article referenced research done by Warren Bird and Ed Stetzer claiming that U.S. churches were no longer in decline.

Their primary metric to prove this was that, according to their research done in 2010, 4,000 new churches were being planted each year, compared to 3,500 that close their doors.  Essentially working out to a positive net 500 churches.

A secondary data source, from the Barna Group and mentioned by Pastor James McDonald in a 2013 article, claimed that there are now 4,000 churches that close each year, equal to the number of church plants.

In summary, anywhere from 3,500-4,000 churches close each year, while approximately the same number are planted in their place.

There’s positives and negatives to take from this data, but the simple fact remains that the average American church has an attendance of 75 people, and approximately 80% of all churches are either stagnant or declining in terms of attendance growth.

Advice from popular pastor Tim Keller, quoted in the aforementioned Christian Post article, suggests one potential solution to the problem, “The only way to increase the number of Christians in a city is to plant thousands of new churches.”

But is this really the answer?

There must be a reason why some churches survive, grow, and thrive, while 4,000 others close each year.

Countless church consulting groups have identified the “stuck” nature of many churches, and are now creating programs specifically tailored to create growth.

Two of these programs in particular target the small church.  Tony Morgan’s Unstuck Group launched a program call GrowthSolutions with the goal of helping small churches, “take intentional steps towards growing their church to 500 in weekly attendance.”

The other group, simply titled Grow, is a ministry of Church of the Highlands, and since 2010 they’ve been pursuing a goal of, “helping 1,000 churches under 1,000 in weekly attendance break that barrier.”

The two initiatives represent comprehensive programs, led by industry experts, dedicated to helping churches find a way to survive, grow, and thrive.

At the end of the day though, if for a second we can remove spiritual elements such as faith and calling, church success comes down to a single word: participation.

As a church, your best ideas, most well thought out programs, and truest intentions cannot survive the absence of participation.

On the positive side, when we have participation, it allows for amazing growth and spiritual maturity through those very same discipleship programs.

Here are three ways churches can focus on increasing participation without sacrificing calling.

Increasing Participation Comes Down to Three Elements

1. Generate Excitement by Leading with Generosity

In our book, Be Prolific, Brad Leeper of Generis made this profound statement, “Generosity is now the best apologetic we as Christ followers have to a watching and needy world.”

His point is that generosity is now so counter-culture, that to see an individual or group practicing it in ridiculous excess is the one thing that catches people’s attention.  As a pastor, lead the charge.  When was the last time you publically gave financially to your church?  Or to another church or ministry?

During the holidays this last year, we matched the first Sunday offering of churches who signed on with Pushpay, up to $500, as a way to generate excitement from individual givers.  Find a way to create a matching moment in your church as an excitement generator!

2. Make First Time & On-Going Participation Easy

This may seem like a no-brainer, but the statistics still remain the same.  80% of church attendees do not give or volunteer on a regular basis.  I refuse to believe that these 80% are just extremely selfish individuals, seeking to take more than they give.  I imagine them to be not so different from myself: busy, slightly distracted, managing a family, and splitting time between work, church, a non-profit, side projects, hobbies, and quality time with my wife.

These aren’t excuses, they simply speak to the fast-moving and always-on culture that most of us find ourselves in everyday.  As a church that is serious about increasing participation, how do we interrupt that flow for a moment to encourage first time engagement?

Use technology to do three things really well: make giving & church communications available through apps on the mobile phone, collect and manage email addresses to send highly targeted invitations, and be proactive in creating on-going real-time conversations through social media.

 3. Never Lose Sight of the True Goal

Rachel Held Evans wrote a spectacular commentary in the Washington Post this past week, titled, “Want millennials back in the pews? Stop trying to make church cool.”

Her point is that participation isn’t tied to flash or bang, but rather to authenticity and substance.  For example, “You can snag all sorts of free swag for brand loyalty online, but church is the only place where you are named a beloved child of God with a cold plunge into the water. You can share food with the hungry at any homeless shelter, but only the church teaches that a shared meal brings us into the very presence of God.”

Echoing her sentiment is blogger Amy Peterson, also mentioned in Evans’ article, “At church, I do not want to be entertained. I do not want to be the target of anyone’s marketing. I want to be asked to participate in the life of an ancient-future community.”

The true goal is not participation in our church, but rather participation in the life of being a disciple of Christ.  Keeping this front and center is essential as we move away from entertainment and towards true church growth.

I’ll leave you with a final line that I heard from one of my favorite worship leaders, Will Reagan of United Pursuit.  During a recent worship set he made this statement, “There’s a new development in Christianity where we’re beginning to see it as more of a participation and less of a club.”


> Read more from Derek.

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Derek Gillette

My name is Derek Gillette and I am the Communications Manager for eChurchGiving and Pushpay. I like to use analogies and metaphors as a way to tell better stories. If you are a church, ministry, or non-profit leader, contact me to learn how eChurchGiving & Pushpay helps engage with young and first time givers to build lasting relationships.

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What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Amen!!
— Scott Michael Whitley
comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you so Much for this great article. It has open my eyes on where we have faltered and the things we need to work on. God can never indeed be the problem. It's us.
— Bertille
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks for this information. It helps me begin to look at the church in a different light.
— Faith Jackson

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.