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The Calling Initiative

The Vision

The Lilly Foundation has invited Whitworth’s Office of Church Engagement (OCE) to submit a proposal for $1.5 million to launch a new initiative that will explore what it means to be "called" by God to kingdom work in a post-Christendom setting. By post-Christendom we mean a situation in which Christianity and the church no longer hold a position of cultural privilege and power.

We are choosing to identify this as "the Third Way," which echoes the language used during the early Christian period. The Christian movement was neither religiously pluralistic and syncretistic, as Rome was, nor was it culturally and ethnically isolated, as Judaism was. It embodied a "Third Way," which proved to be highly effective in the ancient world.

We are inviting your church to become a ministry partner with us in exploring what a "Third Way" identity and ministry may look like today.

The Commitment

Ministry partners are invited to step into the Calling Initiative by committing to a one-year discernment process. Thereafter, a multiyear commitment to the Calling Initiative is asked from ministry partners by the OCE, for the intention of deepening relationship. The one-year discernment process includes the following chronological commitments and begins in the summer of 2018, with annual openings thereafter, e.g., summer of 2019.

  1. Partner with the OCE.
  2. Recruit a cohort of at least five people to participate in the Academy of Christian Discipleship’s "Third Way" track. The track explores and explains how the apostolic church (A.D. 40-90) and early Christian movement (A.D. 90-300) established a new way of living in the world, based on the gospel, and how we can rediscover this way for the contemporary church.
  3. Participate in a process of discerning what your church needs and what it may mean to become a "Third Way" church, especially with reference to the six working groups mentioned below. Participation in the Academy will assist in this process.
  4. Consider a multiyear commitment to participate in one or more of the following working groups, which will depend upon what your church needs. The goal here is to develop and deepen "Third Way" ministry in a post-Christendom setting. The six working groups we are considering include:
    • Secular vocation and Gospel faithfulness (Col. 3:14-17)
      Goal: Transform secular vocations for kingdom work
    • Worship: Old, New, and Global (Romans 12:1-2)
      Goal: Transform worship by exploring how the church can renew its vision of God
    • Intergenerational Discipleship (Malachi 4:6)
      Goal: Transform churches by challenging people of all ages to join together in fulfilling the Great Commission
    • Impact on the City (Jeremiah 29:4-11)
      Goal: Transform cities by exploring how churches can become salt, leaven and light at the local level
    • Evangelism (Matthew 28:18-20)
      Goal: Transform how followers of Jesus understand, live and practice the Good News
    • Hospitality (Leviticus 19:18, 34)
      Goal: Transform communities by welcoming strangers (immigrants and refugees), orphans and widows into the church body
  5. Continue to participate in the Academy of Christian Discipleship and collaborate with other partner churches within each group.


  • Church financial commitment
    • Annual ministry partnership cost ($500)
    • Academy costs ($100/person X [at least] five people = minimum $500)

Discernment Process

In the spring of each year (2018 or 2019), we ask that you decide whether to commit to a multiyear partnership with the OCE and other churches as "Third Way" churches. This will mean joining at least one working group (see above) for long-term planning and ministry network partnership. Participating churches will help shape each working group. Through a grant process, the OCE will distribute to participating ministry network partners up to 50 percent of the Calling Initiative Grant ($750,000) in increments to be determined based on the number of participating churches and quality of grant applications. The OCE anticipates the amount of each grant to be in the range of $10,000 to $25,000.


For questions and/or more information about the calling initiative and OCE partnership, please email

We look forward to partnering with you!