We continue with the chapter on vocation in Making the Best of It by John Stackhouse. So far we have looked at human vocation in terms of “all, some, and individuals.” We looked at Christian vocation in terms of “all” Christians in the last post. Today we continue with Stackhouse’s observations about “some and individuals.”
Stackhouse sees the church engaging the world through many institutional means. He is not fond of the label “parachurch” organizations. These organizations are not additives to cure deficiencies. They are modes through which the church is deployed.
Furthermore, Stackhouse is not be particularly troubled by the presence of multiple denominations and their traditions. He is not necessarily excited about the performance of traditional ecumenical bodies per se (ex. World Council of Churches or World Evangelical Alliance) but he does think that the differences can be mutually invigorating to the body. They may actually enhance the witness of the church. He uses differences over pacifism as an example. He believes (and I agree) that war is a thorny issue that is not easy to resolve in terms of Christian ethics. The faithful witness of Christians in the military may positively shape how a military functions and the faithful witness of pacifists will always serve as thorny reminder to the rest of us that we dare not take Jesus’ teaching on peace and nonresistance lightly. Our ecumenism should be one of tension where there one sharpens the other not purely a lowest-common-denominator relationship that too many ecumenical bodies develop.
Concerning congregations, Stackhouse writes:
Amen! The same could be said about certain denominational structures I work with but we’re improving.
Stackhouse says we should actually be thankful, in a sense, for our personal limitations. It helps us narrow the scope of our competencies for service. Rather than being resigned to our particular situations maybe we should consider whether we have been assigned to them. We can take great pleasure in the work we are called to do and should be able to celebrate the work others are called to do. We should not expect everyone to enjoy what we do nor should we be disparaging of the work that others do.
The diversity of gifts is a good thing. Stackhouse writes that each of us a member, not a microcosm, of the church. Another important point he makes is that some people’s spiritual gifts may have nothing to do with their workweek skills (ex. a high power executive who also has a gift of hospitality). He also notes that putting people’s spiritual gifts to work doesn’t necessarily mean putting them to work in a local church. We often need to be more sophisticated in how we think about spiritual gifts.
Stackhouse notes that all too often we lavish praise on the speakers and musicians in the church but what about those who do the work behind the scenes that is so essential? Stackhouse writes:
A mark of the church functioning properly surely must be the practice of inverting the normal hierarchy of honor and making sure that every member receives the recognition that he or she deserves according to the value of the Kingdom of God. (255)