The doctrine of vocational calling has fallen on hard times in today’s contemporary postmodern world. I recently heard a young man talk about how he was leaving his secular job and following his “call” into full-time ministry. What’s wrong with this picture?
All of life is to be lived under the comprehensive Lordship of Christ (Matt. 28:18). Few, however, understand that even in our everyday work, the Bible teaches no separation between the secular and the sacred. No church-related work or mission is more spiritual than any other profession such as law, business, education, journalism, or politics. (Read that last sentence one more time to let it sink in).
Scott Rae of Biola University writes,
Business is the work of God in the world in the same way that being a pastor is the work of God in the church and in the same way that missionary service is the work of God on the mission field. All have value to God because of the value of the work done…
All of our actions should be unified in obedience to God and for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17).
So if the idea of “calling” doesn’t just refer to missionary work, what exactly does it mean? In his book The Call, Os Guinness identifies calling as:
The truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.
Guinness differentiates between our primary and our secondary callings:
Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by Him, to Him, and for Him…. Our secondary calling is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for Him.
Said another way, our primary calling is “to be,” while our secondary callings is “to do.” Our primary calling should lead without fail to four secondary callings:
- Our call to family
- Our call to community (to be a good neighbor)
- Our call to the Church
- Our call to work (our vocational call)
While all of these secondary callings are important, which one consumes the most of our time? Our vocational calling is where many of us will spend most of our time. It is also the most powerful tool God has given us to impact the world for his kingdom. What you do through your vocational calling on Monday morning is just as important for the kingdom as what the pastor does on Sunday morning.
For followers of Christ, this secondary calling to vocation should lead us to find our unique life purpose, in order to use our particular gifts and abilities to their utmost for God’s glory, extend his kingdom, and serve the common good.
The God’s kingdom bears on every dimension of life. Agents of the kingdom serve as salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16) wherever the Spirit leads them. As we live out our worldview in public, we help reverse the erosion of truth in a number of different ways. In the midst of the fragmentation of postmodern pluralism, Christians should see all things as unified in God’s over-arching plan for the universe, summed up in the supremacy of Christ and his full calling on our lives. In this regard Abraham Kuyper, the great Dutch statesman, theologian, and journalist, made the famous statement in an inaugural address at the dedication of the Free University of Amsterdam:
There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’
The church has lost the biblical understanding of vocational calling. When was the last time you saw someone in church talk about God’s call on their life to be an accountant?
Properly understood, this biblical doctrine of work can give great insight and purpose to our daily work powerfully impacting the world for Christ.