Thursday, November 12, 2009

Vocation and calling

The idea of vocation, or calling, is not based on some deterministic social hierarchy that God affirms, but is based on the openness of every life to the Spirit of God, that saves and transforms every part the world, whatever limitations might otherwise be placed on that life. 'Vocation' is the dogged belief that God is not transforming some ideal or imagined world, but the very particular world that I find before my eyes (and behind them). It is the commitment that God has in fact saved me, in my strange and individual situation, and called me to serve him there. It is the commitment that that service will be judged by the Lord, and the Lord alone. Judged, not by the standards of the world, nor by the gospel-consequentialism of full time ministers, but by the very Lord who called me TO his service, IN my situation. (note this isn't called TO my situation, IN his service. Our situations may and probably will, and possibly should change, our calling to serve those around us as though serving the Lord won't). It is a commitment that the rewards of the Lords judgement are available to all, id indeed they live lives of loving service.

Approaches to 'vocation' that are about searching within for talents and then pursuing them at the expense of others are perversions of vocation.

The dropping of the idea of vocation for 'ministry' in protestant circles is perhaps behind the attempts of some full time ministry workers to serve an ideal pure (non-existent) church rather than accepting that the reward of the Lord is equally available for serving the messed up, broken church they find before them.


Mike Bull said...


Could you explain the last paragraph to me?

Matt Bales said...

Where does the 'missionary' calling come?

Mike W said...

@mike- 'calling' and 'vocation' aren't used much in our circles. I think this probably comes from a similar logic to the one I'm using, there is an aversion to saying that someone is irrevocably called. The downside is we lose this wider sense of vocation that sees God working in every situation, even in a church full of annoying people who won't get on board with 'your vision'.

@matt- I think this way of thinking helps with missionary calling. It renders vocation less statically. If we are called to God's service, we may be called to it anywhere, not simply the situation we are now in. (In fact sometimes the best way to witness to those around us may well be to leave them to reach others). It also frees us from the calculation of effectiveness, (oh, I would be more effective if I stayed here). The thing that calls us to different countries is the fact that God can and will work through his Spirit and gospel there.

My hunch (I have alot of those) is that if Christians learned to see the opportunity to live for Christ while washing dishes, their eyes would be more open to see the possibility of serving Christ overseas

steve said...

Interesting post there.

I was wondering though where you would place language of Charisma (gifting) in relation to Vocation/Calling.

O'Donovan has an interesting way of speaking about the Christian life in terms of Vocation/Calling and Charisma as two distinct (though inseparable) poles. I "nicked" his insights for my issues paper on Reformed concepts of Vocation.

Sometimes I think our problem in speaking about gifting and vocation is because we either fail to distinguish between them at all... or we elevate one over the other.

O'Donovan illustrates the relationship between calling (Vocation) and gifting (Charisma) well by speaking about marriage vs singleness (RMO p70-71).

just a thought.

steve Frederick