“Are teachers born or made?”
The first of many philosophical questions you’re bombarded with as you begin any teacher education program in college. It’s a thought provoking question that makes you not only, daily rethink your major thoroughly; but reevaluate every teacher that has ever taught you up until that point.
“Am I cut out for this?”
“Does God really want me doing this?”
Two years ago and this 5 word question would have never bothered me as much as it did now.
Did God’s refining make me ready for my calling, or did he create this calling for me all along?
“For 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 NIV.
My name is Michael Montalvo and I am 21 years old. Born and raised here in O-town and attending Faith Assembly since 2012. The last few years of my life have been quite the exciting journey of “moving forward in one’s calling,” which is exactly what I want to share with you about. When Christians think about their “calling,” their thoughts typically resort to titles, positions, or locations that they might happen upon one day. It’s the spiritual equivalent of that one relative you barely know that you sees only during holidays and they ask you intricate questions on career goals or your love-life. To which you respond: “I’ve been busy” with a pained smile as you rethink life to yourself. The process of one’s calling has truly been simplified to me over that past few years and I hope the scope of my journey may grant you peace in the hindsight of yours to come! Let me take you to where it all started.
There I was,a senior at UHS wondering about the path of my future, as if college wasn’t enough pressure to every Junior and Senior that had to take the ACT or SAT soon. I was serving God at church as a student leader, and I was Vice President of a thriving, evangelistic Christian club on campus. I was content in knowing the fact that God calls us to new things everyday, and that worrying about the future was stress in vain. But still in the distance, my thoughts wondered of what was ahead. What was to come…and even bigger than that…when?
I had just left a meeting with our principal, my club President, and Pastor Jason Alvarado. We had confirmed having a large scale school assembly to encourage the student body and provide an invitation for the church to be on campus. This was a huge deal for my school! I felt like I was soaring at the peak of “my calling” then. We often feel this right before God completely changes the course of your future before we even realize it. I was in prayer for the assembly when I recalled Pastor Jason offering his intern’s services to help volunteer at the school to our principal. We already got our approval so I genuinely intrigued as to why he was so persistent in serving our school above and beyond the assembly. It was in that moment in prayer that I heard the voice of the Lord speak, “I want you to serve your community, before you serve someone else’s.” At this same time interval, I had two thoughts on the backburner of my attention: 1. I had a tug on my heart for missions that I was ignoring for some time and 2. I was considering the Mainstream Orlando Internship program as a way to learn more about “pursuing a call to ministry”. This quick quote from the Lord confirmed that both of those things were for me.
Now fresh out of high school I jumped straight into the Mainstream Orlando Internship Program (now called Mainstream Leadership College). I knew this was a two year commitment to learning hands-on ministry and pursuing my so-called calling to “serve my community.” I finally understood why they talked about it so much at the Voice as a route for people called to ministry. The thing was, I didn’t join the program completely knowing what my realm of ministry was going to look like one day. Frankly, I just graduated high school and I didn’t have a job or a driver’s license yet…but I knew I had the ability to serve people. Also, God kinda confirmed it and said “do it”…so there was that factor to weigh in as well. What finally clicked in my head about the program was that it wasn’t supposed to give me any shiny key to “open up the doors of ministry.” In fact, I learned more about my identity in Christ: who I am as a friend, a leader, a son, a coworker, an employee, and a servant of Christ.
“But Michael, that doesn’t really romanticize the process to learning my calling. Let alone teach me how to ‘Love What I Do.’”
Well. Good. It shouldn’t. That’s where God comes in.
Of course I wasn’t crazy enough to do a program with such extreme requirements and receive nothing from it. That program taught me one thing: my calling will always be about God’s people. The simple fact that people don’t know Him yet and are ignorant of their desperate need for Him was the urgency I learned to have, wrapped in a pretty little bow called: “Intern.” Two years had passed and I realized I was pruned of a lot of baggage that God gave me the chance to face. I gained drive and passion in whatever I did because although I didn’t know what the future held, I knew the Great Commission was enough to wake me up each day and give me something to do. I learned a few practical skills here and there like: how to script, shoot, and edit a video; organize a modern youth service; or run an outreach. Most importantly, the community of like-minded, call-pursuing, stress-inducing, family-loving interns were living life next to me, teaching me my strengths just as much as my weaknesses too. At the end of this two year program, I preached a passionate message at a youth service of 100+ students in the same week that I taught a Bible lesson to a small classroom of about 6 students. This was a turning point for me when I compared the feeling I felt when I left that classroom to when I left the pulpit. I knew then, that teaching was for me. All because I said yes, to the small step of commiting to a ministry program.
God showed me this program was what I needed, and I had a choice to accept it. Saying no to that choice would’ve been a “No” to countless students possibly never being invited to their first church service, and a “No” to the molding process that God had for me in just saying “Yes”. Maybe your “Yes” isn’t to the MLC program here at this amazing church. Maybe your “small-stepped-Yes” is going back to school? Or quitting the job that you know is preventing you from doing more for God? I don’t know. But you probably already do know. This was the path God used to get my attention the best. or me to say “Yes”. That very well may be different for you, and that’s okay! Shortly after graduating, all I knew was that I wanted to teach on the mission field. So I didn’t need a neon sign held by a thousand doves to point me in my next step. I knew I wanted t to be a teacher…so I need to finish school. My next step was that easy for me.
Returning to Valencia definitely challenged my pride. All of a sudden I was going 100 mph from a full-time ministry internship to now working part-time as a server at Outback Steakhouse (with great discounts) and full-time students with homework being my nighttime lullaby.
“God, how am I going to change the nations like this? What do I even teach?!”
Bible college was financially the end of that possibility for me. So I needed to decide. Teach English? But I am American and a native English speaker…foreign countries will hire me with ANY degree with that on my resume from what I knew about missions. This was the next turning point where it all hit home for me. I remember being in high school, doing on-campus ministry thinking to myself about how I was smart in school and it would all go to waste now that I am called to do ministry forever. I mean…how am I going to use Pre-Calculus to lead someone in the sinner’s prayer? Well, I’m sure there is a way, but I’m sure it’s also very annoying and not very effective. I knew that I loved Chemistry class in high school. It was the one class that I was the most proud of my grade because it was the third highest in my class! This thought hit me as I finished my last gen-ed class at Valencia. What about teaching Chemistry? Next thing I knew, professors and advisors were breaking their necks at the mention of a minority male teaching a stem field. Apparently, even in the secular realm, it was a huge need to be filled. Then this peace came over me… “God say no more. If it’s your will, I’ll be the crazy science teacher that loves Jesus!”
“Are teachers born or made?”
“We are born with a calling that God has carved out perfectly for us, but He will let us choose to say “Yes” first. So He will sculpt us to be more like Him, so that we are made ready to say “Yes.”
God took me as an average high schooler who thought he wasn’t enough of a Christian to then become VP of the top growing Christian club on campus at the time. Then took him through a process of molding him into a Man of God, pruning out the things that would hold him back from saying yes, to the big boy things He wanted to show him all this time. Then God revealed in him a gift to teach and a love for the Word. Then used his desires of chemistry that He put in him from the beginning, to passionately use for Him wherever he may go (TVC2K18).
God created you. You were made in His image. That means He put passions and desires in you to reflect what He wants for your life. Not only that, but once He molds you into the man or woman of God you need to be to say Yes to His call, He will remind you of those desires He put in you and say “Now use that for Me.” THIS WAY, God knows we will have no choice but to LOVE serving Him, because we will Love What We Do. Of course, along the way some things will be more specific than others. God speaks in different ways from story to story. Now you’ve seen how that looked for my story. Ask God what that looks like for yours!