What is Vocation?
Vocation is a slippery word. It derives from a Latin word meaning “call”. There was a time when only the “Priest” was thought to be called. “Every member ministry” has been much more the catch phrase in recent decades. But the concept of vocation is often extended much further in modern parlance to mean anyone who works but does not get paid!
So: What is vocation? Do we all have one? How does that relate to ordained ministry?
Conversion and Calling
The primary call of every believer is to faith, leading to conversion. The needy sinner calls out to God for salvation. But more, the gracious Father calls to us to hear and heed his invitation: “As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” (Rom 9:25).
For some there is also a secondary calling to ministry. For me, conversion and ministry were very much tied up. I was so enthusiastic as a new convert that I assumed that I would spend the rest of my Christian life working for God in some sort of full time paid capacity. But, for many people, the call to ministry is a separate and subsequent call in which God clearly directs the individual into some new acts of ministry and service. And, of course, for many more people calling means serving God in every sphere of life and work.
Try Something New Today
Vocations Sunday is an excellent annual reminder that all Christian believers are “called” to ministry. But for some it might also be a time to hear God’s call to a particular ministry. Recent Sainsbury adverts use the slogan: “try something new today”. The adverts hope to incite shoppers with a sense of adventure and impulsiveness. Give this a try, you might like it! It is also hoped that, having tried something new, you might just stick with it.
An Audience with God
How is your appetite for ministry and service? Vocations Sunday may give you a chance to “suck and see”. But ultimately vocation is a God-thing. It is not about the jobs we do; it is not about the roles we fulfil; it is not about our sense of fulfilment. Rather, as Os Guinness wisely wrote in his Christian classic The Call, vocation is all about living before “an audience of one”. Yes, we serve men and women. Yes, we flourish when we are affirmed and encouraged in our ministry. But, for vocation to be vocation it requires an acute sense that all we do is in God’s presence and is to be for His glory. He is the only audience which matters.
Equipping for Ministry
Those of us who have the privilege of training men and women for the misapplied phrase “full time Christian ministry” are familiar with the word “formation”. The mind needs to be challenged and stretched. So academics are involved. There are skills to be developed: preaching, counselling, evangelism etc. So ministry is involved. But there is also the need for personal and spiritual formation. For what God does through us seems to be inextricably tied to what God does in us. The most useful Christian ministers are those who have their lives God-oriented. Vocation is all to do with being called by the Son, equipped by the Spirit and God-glorifying and honouring throughout.