Two weeks ago I said I wanted to enter a discussion about calling and vocations in our current environment. This is my first installment.
R. Paul Stevens, in his book The Other Six Days, makes a case for a Trinitarian view of call. I haven’t seen this perspective presented elsewhere but it is core to my understanding. Stevens suggests that God’s call comes to us in these ways.
Father = Creation Stewardship – Being stewards of creation and co-creators with God.
Son = Kingdom Service – Carrying on the works of Jesus.
Spirit = Exercising Gifts – Using gifts for the growth and health of the Church and humanity.
All are called to participate in all three. The callings are integrated and yet each has identifiable aspects. However, in terms of how we spend the hours of our days, the great majority of us spend the great majority of our time in Creation Stewardship. Accounting, farming, sales, factory work, teaching, art, plumbing, even (and especially) diaper changing, are Creation Stewardship.
Stevens sees this Trinitarian idea of call reflected in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (NIV)
Spirit – Gifts
Lord – Service
God – Works
In addition to these general calls, God gives us temperament, gifts, life experiences and passions. Form these we discern our personal vocation. However, the exercise of our vocation is always contextual. The particular context we are in always shapes how our vocation is expressed. In the best of circumstances, our employment, or occupation, will be an extension of the vocation God has given us. This means that our occupation is but one expression of our vocation which can find expression in other ways apart from employment. Thus, how we respond the Trinitarian call is unique to each of us:
Temperament/gifts/experience + passion = personal vocation
Temperament/gifts/experience + passion + context = occupation (in the broadest sense of “what I am occupied with,” which may mean employment)
Notice that I have said nothing here about ministry. Ministry is not defined by what we do. It is defined by WHO we are doing for! If we are using our vocation in service to the Trinitarian call of God, that is ministry, period!
Notice I have said nothing of church or ecclesiastical leadership. While ecclesiastical service is an occupation for a few, it categorically is not THE ministry. I am convinced that ecclesiastical structures should exist to equip, nurture, and empower people do the ministry as I just defined it; whatever we do in service to God.
So how is it that all but a very small number of us who have never darkened the hallways of a seminary have no sense of call to ministry in our lives?
(Warning: I have great passion about these issues. Potential flaming ahead.)