Mark Dawson is a guest contributor to IFWE’s daily blog. You may have read his series on starting well in the pursuit of calling, or his posts detailing the roles joy and suffering play in our vocations. He is the founder and director of Created for Good (C4G), an organization that connects people to their callings. Dawson spoke with me in more detail about the work C4G is doing and offered his insights into vocation that he’s gained along the way.
To start, since we’re talking about vocation, what is yours?
MD: I have two vocational focuses, full-time and part-time. In my full-time vocation, I have spent the last two years as a corporate trainer within the insurance industry. On a part-time basis, I get to more fully pursue my passions as the founder and director of Created for Good, a practice established for connecting people to calling. In both roles, I am privileged to train, equip, and inspire others to reach their potential in their current roles, prepare them for new roles, or help them discover the roles for which they were created.
What has shaped your understanding of vocation?
MD: Growing up I never thought about vocation in terms of calling. In truth, I never considered the idea of calling. Instead, I thought that my vocation was simply a job that I should do well. In my mind, the process worked like this: I decide what I want to do, find a job that allows me to do it, get raises and promotions, buy homes and cars, take vacations and retire. It never occurred to me that I might have a calling, and it never occurred to me that calling was bigger than vocation.
What caused the change in your perspective?
MD: God, in his grace, corrected and expanded my view of calling over a number of years. Cru and Covenant Theological Seminary have been instrumental in shaping my perspective. During my senior year in college, I got involved with Cru’s campus ministry and began to see life with an eternal perspective. That perspective caused me to see that everything in life should be viewed through the lens of Christ and his work – that the eternity of people should drive my heart, rather than the accumulation of accomplishments, wealth, or possessions. I began to see that calling is not about striving for success in a particular field, instead it is about people and eternity.
Years later, my family and I moved to St. Louis to attend Covenant Theological Seminary. There, our thinking on vocation was broadened again as we were challenged to think of vocation, and all of life, in terms of redemption. Redemption includes evangelism and discipleship, but goes beyond that. You might find it helpful to think of redemption in this way:
1. At creation, everything was perfect
2. At the fall, evening was broken.
3. Jesus came to redeem everything.
4. One day we will experience the fullness of his redemption.
Redemption includes regaining the hearts, minds, and souls of God’s people, but it does not stop there. Redemption is about creation regained – all of it! Work, play, food, drink, relationships, art, music, and the list goes on. Our vocational callings are intended to take us into the places where our passions intersect with the world’s needs. There we will find our opportunities to be agents of redemption, opportunities to speak into the lives of those around us about the Savior, and opportunities to redeem culture, work, products, services, and processes. Opportunities to bring flourishing.
What inspired you to start C4G? Why do you want to connect people to calling?
MD: C4G is not the result of a single moment of inspiration. Rather it was born over a long period of time and as the result of a number of powerful experiences.
I have always been fascinated by calling, but during my time at Covenant Theological Seminary, God began preparing me for the work of developing C4G. While there, I was the both the placement director and a mentor to those taking virtual classes. In both jobs, I was working with people in coaching, consulting, and teaching roles. After seminary, I worked as a church planting intern and later returned to the corporate world. The placement director and mentor roles gave me the skills I would need for C4G, not for planting a church. Coupled with a return to corporate life, these skills shaped my heart in several key ways: learning to trust that God was at work for my best even in the most difficult and disappointing of circumstances; learning that calling is not about deciding what I want, but rather about discovering my role in God’s redemptive drama; learning that God uses both joy and suffering in our callings to make us more like him; and learning that God’s long-term plans are far better than any short-term plans that I might devise.
Central to my inspiration for C4G is Scripture. Broadly, all of Scripture, from Genesis through Revelation, is a single unfolding redemptive drama. Everything in Scripture points to Christ and his work of redemption. Specifically, Ephesians 2:10 states: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” In short, we are all created for “good works” and those good works fit into the single unfolding redemptive drama of Scripture. Each of us has a role in bringing about the redemption that will lead to the new heavens and new earth described in Revelation 22 and 23.
I am excited about connecting people to calling because it is part of what I was created to do. On the one hand, it feeds and fulfills my passion. When I am coaching individuals, designing curriculum, teaching, or training, I am swimming in the stream for which I was created. I find it challenging, difficult, joyful, and exciting. One the other hand, there is an incredible need for it. In Multi-Careering, Bob Goff makes the point that only 20 percent of the Christian community has a sense of what God wants them to do with their lives. Can you imagine a world in which the other 80 percent of believers knew their callings and pursued them? What a difference that would make in our world today!
Describe C4G’s relationship with the church.
MD: When I think of the church, I am reminded of Peter’s teaching that all of us, as believers, are the church. Peter makes the point that we are “living stones” being built into a “spiritual house” (1 Pet. 2:5). Connecting people to calling is all about helping the living stones find their place in that “spiritual house” and in God’s redemptive story. In that sense, anytime I work with a believer, I am working to strengthen the church and advance the cause of Christ.
C4G has its roots in the local church, as well as branches that extend beyond. The ministry was born when my pastor asked a simple question: “A couple in our church is struggling, will you consider walking with them during this difficult time?” I spent several months working with this couple, and in the process, the Lord began laying the foundation of C4G. Since those first steps, I have had the privilege to work in several primary roles: coaching, teaching, training, and writing. I have also had the privilege to work in a number of settings: one-on-one, retreat, conference, church, denomination, para-church, etc.
In my work, I have not sensed a struggle between faith and work groups and churches. Perhaps the issue I most often run into is a view of calling that is not fully formed, but rather reduced to emphasize one part of life over others. Here are a few examples: some groups emphasize marriage, some parenting, some justice, some mercy, some evangelism, some discipleship, some vocation, and some service to the organization. The truth is that we are not single-issue people. We are called to bring redemption to every relationship and corner of the world that our lives touch – we are integrated people.
Whatever the role or setting, I love serving the church by connecting its living stones to their callings so that they can join Christ in his work of redemption.
How does your work with C4G relate to your work as a corporate trainer?
MD: With C4G, I help people discover their callings by helping them answer three key questions: Who were you created to be? What were you created to do? How do you get there? When I am coaching, teaching, training, and equipping, I know that I am doing the things for which I was created. C4G allows me to bring direction into a broken world in the arena of my passion: advancing the kingdom by connecting people to calling. For me, this is flourishing.
Being a corporate trainer gives me the ability to equip people vocationally. Additionally, by working in the insurance world, I am part of an industry dedicated to restoring lives when tragedy or destruction strikes. Bringing restoration to the world’s brokenness is an important part of Christ’s redemptive work, and as such advances the kingdom.