By Lindsay McCampbell, Bethel Seminary San Diego
As a first year seminary student earning a Master of Divinity, vocation has been at the forefront of my mind. Unsure of where God is calling me with in the church and professionally, I was excited to investigate God’s view of vocation. Through the semester I had the opportunity to discuss several books on vocational calling with other students and professors. We started with Kingdom Calling, moved on to Every Good Endeavor, God at Work and lastly Christian Economic Ethics. Each book provided a fresh perspective and in some way built on our previous readings. Overall they delivered a well-rounded and holistic view of what vocation and our callings as Christians are in today’s society. A holistic view of vocation is paramount to success in bringing the kingdom of God to fruition on earth.
Starting with Kingdom Calling by Amy L. Sherman, this book intends to help pastors ministering to a working congregation. Vocation is indeed an important aspect of our lives as both Christian and non-Christians. This is where we develop relationships and friendships that can last a lifetime. As Christians, when we are working at a job that we are particularly gifted at, we have a responsibility to give God the glory. Through her book Amy Sherman described how to make the world a better place through doing our best work in any given area. However, she did not incorporate or encourage evangelizing through our work situations. Her vision seemed to encourage the creation of a new world through action in everyday situations, but not through encouraging conversion to Christianity. Although I believe that as Christians we should be working hard every day to advance God’s vision for his creation, I also believe that he deserves the credit as well as to be brought into the lives of those who don’t know him. This fundamental aspect of evangelism in Christianity is missing in her vision. Many people can do a good job and make the world a better place, it is not necessary to be Christian to do so. What makes being Christian unique compared to the do-gooders of society is that they believe Jesus Christ is savior. This belief is the fundamental aspect of our religion and what empowers us through the Holy Spirit to accomplish things we otherwise would not be able to.
The next book, Every Good Endeavor was inspiring and deeply theological in its vision for work as a Christian in God’s kingdom here on earth. The book encourages church vocation groups in which Christians of similar career paths can meet and support each other’s faith through their working environments. It also supports a natural type of evangelism in the work place. Meaning when God helps us through something in prayer or any other means, we should give him the glory. To give a personal example, through my work experience there have been times when a co-worker and I had struggled to complete a task due to IT issues. Neither of us knew what to do to fix it and we had worked on it for far too long. So I prayed about it and all of the sudden this IT issue went away. I let my co-worker know that I had prayed about it just before it was fixed. Of course I credited God for helping us through this situation. Although we didn’t have much of a conversation about it, I think that this may have played a role in my co-worker developing a spiritual relationship with the Lord. A few months later he told me how he had been praying before he goes to bed, something I don’t believe he was doing before. Similar to examples in Keller’s book, this is allowing God to show up fostering discreet evangelistic opportunities.
In God at Work, Gene Veith takes a drastically wider approach to vocational calling than the two previous authors. Specifically he argues that we have multiple vocations to which we are called in different areas of our lives such as the work, family, society and the church (Veith 2002, 47). Personally I feel called to be a wife, a mother and a diligent citizen in addition to my workplace and church callings. These aspects of life are rarely factored into discussion of vocational calling even though they will be some of the most important and lifelong commitments compared to the others. Considering all life callings to be vocational in nature is an all-encompassing and holistic view of our life mission as Christians. I appreciate Veith’s holistic view of vocation because it offers an opportunity to assess our roles in various areas in our lives.
Lastly we discussed Christian Economic Ethics by Daniel Finn. Although we discussed the book in its entirety, I focused my reading on two specific chapters of which I will highlight one. Concentrating on Chapter 11, this section provided an overview of the development of the church (Roman Catholic) in their views regarding usury, slavery and human rights. This chapter was informative in a historical sense and thought provoking to see how long it can take for societal changes to come to fruition. It gives me hope that we are on the right track to addressing the fundamental concerns of human dignity in society. Throughout the centuries we have come a long way, yet we still have a long way to go. There is much room for improvement both within the modern American system and abroad to improve the conditions for God’s children. This chapter provides a larger historical context to the societal issues we face and work for today. It shows us that societal changes don’t happen overnight, they are the result of the work of many people for many years. This is an encouragement for anyone called to fight for fundamental human rights.
Overall, the assigned readings provided a wide range of perspective on vocation and what it means for Christians in today’s society. Kingdom Calling provided an opportunity to see work as a means for expanding the vision of the new creation. Every Good Endeavor brought to light the Lord’s hand in our vocational callings. God at Work provided an expanded view of our vocational calling that included family, church and society as well as our professional vocations. Lastly, Christian Economic Ethics gave an extensive background and context to societal development throughout the ages. These books combined provided a well-rounded and thought provoking view of our responsibilities as Christians building the kingdom of God here on earth. It is important to understand a holistic view of our roles as Christians in society. As we cannot put God in a box, we also should not limit our understanding of our calls to further God’s kingdom through all areas of life.
Finn, Daniel K. 2013. Christian economic ethics: History and implications. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
Keller, Timothy, and Katherine Leary Alsdorf. 2012. Every good endeavor: Connecting your work to God’s work.New York: Penguin Group.
Sherman, Amy L. 2011. Kingdom calling: Vocational stewardship for the common good. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Veith Jr., Gene Edward. 2002. God at work: Your Christian vocation in all of life. Wheaton: Crossway.
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