Let’s think about jobs for a moment, actually think about vocations because a job is just something we get paid to do, whereas a vocation means something a little bit more. In fact a quick look at Wikipedia you get this definition:
A vocation (Latin vocātiō – a call, summons) is a term for an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which he or she is suited, trained, or qualified. Though now often used in non-religious contexts, the meanings of the term originated in Christianity.
The idea of vocation is central to the Christian belief that God has created each person with gifts and talents oriented toward specific purposes and a way of life.
That’s some definition! How does that apply to those of us not working in the Church? It’s important to just say again how vocation is defined today: term for an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which he or she is suited, trained, or qualified. Keep this in mind as we think about vocation a little bit more.
Some may look at vocation as something we do to generate finances to help us work out God’s calling on our lives. In other words it pays the bills, it keeps things afloat, basically it underwrites this other thing that God has called us to do.
Some might view vocation as the thing we spend a massive proportion of our week doing (other than sleeping) and that actually we think of it as a barrier to doing the thing that God has called us to do.
I remember that when I worked for The Carphone warehouse, well over 10 years ago now, I viewed that being part of the Church – employed, paid and released from secular work – was the only way that I could work out the thing that God was calling me to do. And for a long time I viewed working for Carphone as a major block to working out my calling. When the time came that I was released from full-time secular work there was a huge sense of relief. A massive sense of ‘right, now we can knuckle down’…’now we have the time.’
In fact there are plenty of people who believe, (and for a long time I was one of these) that a real calling – one that has any worth and is in anyway way spiritual – is the call to be working for the Church full-time and that anything outside of this just isn’t as useful or it’s there to either simply underwrite the real thing that God has got for them to do or it’s a great big barrier to God’s calling that needs to be got over. Some may even go so far to say that being a Church leader, pastor, or evangelist and so on, that’s where the real spirituality is at and everything else just plays second fiddle to those truly spiritual callings! Over the years maybe this has been enforced by what we hear. Church leaders saying, “God said this to me, or that to me”, or “while in my 4th hour of prayer an angel came”, or even “I felt God say this or that.”
Now while all this may be true and amazing it can and does have the effect of saying, at least subliminally, that unless your released from that other kinds of work or vocations you’ll never hear from God as well as I do, or be as spiritual as I am, being a full-time leader in the Church is where it’s at.
Let me state this very clearly – this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Have we ever heard, or do we hear enough folks, saying, “I feel called to be a banker or work in a coffee shop.” or “I feel called to be an MP, steel worker, fisherman or journalist.” Or even, “I feel called to be a stay-at-home full-time mum or dad!”
Let’s pretend that for every 100 believers in the world that there is one church leader. There are an estimated 2 billion Christians in the world today so if there is 1 Church leader for every 100 Christians by my maths that makes around 2%. So 2% of this theoretical sum are Christian leaders. If we are stuck on our previous thinking that only full-time, paid Church leaders or pastors are the ones that can make a Spiritual difference – we’ve got to ask: Is it God’s to use only 2% of His Church to help build His Kingdom? Only to call 2% to help redeem and restore this broken fallen creation? What is the role of the 98%, what’s their role in the restoration of creation? Is it solely about financially underwriting the work of the 2%?
Let’s be honest if it wasn’t for the generosity of people, and the amazing principle and practice of tithing and giving, many local churches wouldn’t be able to do some of the amazing things they do. Like, feeding and clothing the poor and the destitute. Helping people climb out off debt, creating employment and so on and so on. Many billions of pounds worth of service poured into our communities, giving help to anyone who needs it year after year.
When you choose to give to your local church on a regular basis you help the Church get stuff done, help people get cared for and, ultimately, build and advance His Kingdom in our nation. Without money this would be incredibly difficult to do – not impossible – but more difficult. The Church across the world would not be able to accomplish what it does without the giving collective heart of this 98%. But the question comes back into view – is this all there is to do for this 98%? Where do this theoretical 98% spend most of their time? What about the 30, 40, 50 hours or more that Christ followers spend in their vocation? Are all those hours connected to the restorative nature of God and what we have all been called to be a part of? Or is work, vocation just a necessary evil?
It’s said that there are 7 major channels of cultural influence:
- The Government channel – This includes lawyers, judges, the whole judiciary. Those who are part of the legislative process, those that are part of advocacy groups and also the military.
- The Business channel – Those who work in finance, marketing, public relations and small business owners. Also those that work in retail, product development, technology, science and medicine.
- The Education channel – Those that work in public school and private schools. Colleges and universities and other forms of further education.
- The Entertainment channel – This is the ‘cool’ channel with ‘cool’ people! The writers, artists, film makers and performers. As well as those in sports.
- The Media channel – Those that work in television, radio, publishing or internet driven media.
- The Social Sector channel – This is full of people that work in trusts or foundations and charitable, non-profit organisations. But it also includes mums and dads and those that professionally work with marriages and families etc.
- The Church channel (the 2% remember) – Church leaders, para-church leaders, evangelists, missionaries and all those kind of people.
While considering all these channels it seems a little odd that the Church channel is often seen as the only way to to join with God to accomplish His restorative mission. Rather then considering the Church as a force for redemption and restoration that uses every channel of cultural influence available! Think for a moment which of these cultural channels would you consider yourself a part. And then consider how you would connect with any of the other cultural channels. Now have a think about what if members of Jesus’s Church, across the board, began to influence society at large through all the different cultural channels and not just try to push through change and garner influence through that small, limited cultural church channel.
The local church community I would suggest is the only group that meets regularly and is the only group that on the whole that has representatives in every one of those 7 channels of cultural influence. Think for a moment about all the people that make up a local church. Followers of Christ cleverly disguised as doctors, shop workers, council employees, business owners, mums and dads and even those that work for the local church or a para-church organisation. All 7 channels represented. What I mean by ‘cleverly disguised’ is that the way that you do your job and the way you live your life may not on the surface seem like it’s connected to Church, but you have the potential to change the world, to redeem and restore this world that has been crushed by sin. You carry the potential to see God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. In Matthew 5 Jesus describes the kind of influences that cleverly disguised followers of Jesus are to have on the world:
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand-shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16 MSG).