What Is Your Vocation?

coffee11.jpgI have been a Christian for a number of years.  As a child, I recall that people would refer to some people as "workers" in the church.  It seemed that this usually referred to people who did some kind of work either in or around our church building.  For years, at the church where I grew up, my mother "did the bulletin," running the bulletin off on a mimeograph machine.

 
The mimeograph machines are gone, but there are still plenty of people doing one task or another inside church buildings.  Thank God for these people.  Every week we have scores of people (volunteers) in our building doing this or that task.  If you were to look at our church calendar or even walk down the hallways of our building, you would know that we are a very busy, active church.

 
Recently, I was in a conversation with a very good friend in which he talked about the frustration with many churches that will not affirm, equip, and bless the idea that living out our vocations is actually ministry.  In other words, in the eyes of many, ministry seems to be church activity.  If one is involved in an organized church activity or ministry, then one is ministering to others.

 
I think my friend is right.  One can go to work, do quality work for others, and be in service to other men and women every day.  That is ministry.  That kind of ministry is every bit as legitimate as what might be done in the confines of a church building.  Now I don’t want to minimize the value of what good men and women do every day in church buildings all over the world as they seek to do good for others.  Yet, neither do I want to minimize the value of one’s calling lived out in service to God.

 
What do you think?  In what way could churches affirm, support, and recognize the ministry that takes place each day as men and women live out their vocations?

 
I like these words written a few years ago by Rick Marrs in an article entitled "Calling or Career" in Leaven Journal (Vol. 11, Number 1, First Quarter 2003):


The Old Testament concept of vocation was as radical then as now.  In a world given to self-absorption, human self-interest, and an overwhelming human tendency to define oneself independently of any other (a tendency that creates anxiety about the meaning of life and a purposeful future), the Old Testament presents us with a decidedly different view of humanity.  The Old Testament defines human life quintessentially in relation to God.  The world we inhabit reflects the loving imprint of a creator fundamentally for us, a creator who longs to be in relationship with us.  Because God acts with intent and purpose, human life necessarily has intent and purpose.

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20 thoughts on “What Is Your Vocation?

  1. Ahh, the old Greek vs Hebrew way of thinking about vocation. Greeks thought work was for slaves and to be disdained. Hebrews saw the work as avodah or as a way of praising God. We need to instill hebrew thinking again… I am just not sure how.
     

  2. For many people the idea of “ministry” is something that happens within the church walls and/or is something that is organized and implemented from within the church (i.e. mission trips, evangelistic services, Bible studies and even small group ministry).  “Ministry” is something that the church does, not something that the average “non-clergy” person does.  Unfortunately the idea is that outside the church is the world of work, school, struggle and responsibility—not ministry.

     

    In the church we must celebrate the service of our people and their lives for the Lord in the “real” world of work, school, etc.  I think one role of the church should be to always impart the idea that the church is not the place of ministry but rather that each person’s home, workplace and neighborhood are where ministry happens and where vocation is realized. 

     

    I have to ask myself, “Is that what I am about in my leadership in the church?”  “Do I look to celebrate the working of God in the lives of the people as much as I celebrate the ministries that emanate from within the church?”  “Do I incorporate testimonies from others in our gatherings that highlight their ministry out in the living, working world of life?”  Do I highlight in our gatherings how the Word of God and the calling of God are relevant to life, service and ministry in the life of the believer today?”

     

    People need to know that more important that their “job” is their vocation, or rather their calling.  That calling is to be Jesus, the aroma of Christ, wherever God has put them.

  3. Carl,I’m not sure how either.  Yet I do think that if we do not at least occasionally address this in churches that the cultural view of work/career will completely engulf Christian people.  As a result they will lose any sense of calling/vocation. Thanks Carl. 

  4. Ryan,I really like your comment and found it helpful.  In particular I like this line,…each person’s home, workplace and neighborhood are where ministry happens and where vocation is realized. Your questions also are very useful.  In fact, I plan to reflect on these in regard to my own ministry.  Thanks.

  5. One idea I recently came across was praying not only for our missionaries and leaders in the church but also for those who work elsewhere…our lawyers, doctors, nurses, accountants, janitors, teachers, etc., so that we might include them all in our prayers for doing our work to the glory of God.  

  6. I often think this is a luxury question–that people in other places who have fewer options do not focus so much on these distinctions. This, of course, doesn’t necessarily help us regarding your question!

  7. The truth is that ministry isn’t ministry because we call it so. Scriptural ministry, IMHO, is simply that which the Lord Jesus is actually doing in and through you in any given circumstance.
    In otherwords it is service first and foremostly unto Him, not just others. Ministering unto the Lord Jesus may also then flow out of us unto to others, as we yield ourselves righteously to the purposes of the Lord Jesus Christ in the moment.
    It seems to me that we all want to be stroked, patted on the back and this without qualification. This is not at issue in much of the world, however it certainly seems like an issue here in the West.
    True ministry must flow out the heart of the Lord for others, even as He is reaching out to touch the lives of others, regardless of where we find oursleves, living, working and or worshipping.
    If we water down ministry as simply something we do, as Christians, without qualification, then it is in no way distinct from the world in what it does or even doesn’t do.
    Just some of my thoughts, anyway.
    I see ministry as something we do in surrender unto the Lord Jesus or at the very least, in cooperation with Him.
     

  8. Jennifer,I like your idea.  This is a simple but important way of recognizing the legitimate and important ministry that takes place each day in the lives of ordinary people. 

  9. L.L.,I suspect you are right.Unfortunately, I am afraid that too many ordinary everyday believers do not feel as if their church really recognizes their work as school teachers, nurses, etc. as ministry.  As you suggest, if we were living in places where there are few options, we might more readily affirm and encourage these people in their daily ministries.  

  10. Phil–Thanks for your words.  Very good.  In particular, I appreciate your reminder that ministry is first "unto the Lord."

  11. I’ve heard of churches who have a service devoted to this. On Labor Day weekend everyone comes dressed as they do on their daily jobs. It is the topic of the sermon that every worker is in ministry at their jobs. There are special prayers for those who work with children, mostly unbelievers, the elderly, in the health profession, etc. I’ve been told it is very moving and enlightening since we don’t even realize what each other does M-F.

  12. Jim, I think you are right.  There tends to be a disconnect between vocation as ministry and church as ministry.  I would even go as far to include "life" as ministry.  I tell people that I am in ministry full-time.  I am married with a family and I teach full-time in a public middle school.  In addition to that I am a youth director at a church.  Admittedly, I get some weird looks when I say that but I can’t help but understand life that way when I look at 1 Corinthians 3:16 and see that we are God’s temple.  Then I look at Colossians 3:17 & 3:23 and see that we are representing Jesus in all we say and do. And for the ones who wonder what vocational ministers do all day I have them look at Ephesians 4:11, 12.  Our role is to equip people to live life as ministry.Maybe it’s simplistic but I show them the Bible (youth and adults
    alike) and I ask if they will allow themselves to be transformed by
    God’s Word. 

  13. Curtis,I really like the way you express this regarding life itself, lived to God, as "full time ministry."  Thanks. 

  14. Bob,Thanks very much.  I just read your post.  What a wonderful idea!  As you said, we are all in "full-time ministry." 

  15. MOTHER TERESA ONCE WAS ASKED:
    WHAT IS YOUR VOCATION, HELPING THE POOR?. NO, SHE SAID, MY VOCATION IS AN UNDIVIDED LOVE OF GOD AND THAT SHOULD BE FOR ALL OF US. WAKE UP YOU FOLKS.