Vocation and Calling According to the Reformers

One question I am sometimes asked is how a person can know what their “calling” in life is. The Reformers had a lot to say on this topic, which is helpful for us in how we think about “calling” in our lives.

The words “occupation,” “job” and “vocation” are used more or less interchangeably by people today. “Vocational training,” for example, refers to training specific to a particular line of work. However, for the Reformers, the word “vocation” had a distinct meaning.

The word vocation comes from the Latin word vocare, literally: calling.

For the Reformers, to speak of work as vocation, reflected their view that “secular” work is actually a calling from God to do his work in the world and to serve your neighbor.
This was in contrast to the view which was held by the medieval Roman Catholic Church, which made a strong distinction between sacred and secular realms of life, the sacred realm being reserved for things directly related to the church and its work, and the secular realm being that of all non church-related activity. This view, however, is still very common – and the language of “secular” vs “sacred” is still very prominent. Think about all the times you have heard people talk about “secular music” as opposed to “Christian music”, or if you have heard people talk about “secular jobs” as opposed to “ministry jobs.”

To this, Luther wrote:

“What seem to be secular works are actually the praise of God and represent an obedience which is well-pleasing to him.” Housework may have “no obvious appearance of holiness, yet those household chores are to be more valued than all the works of monks and nuns.” (From Luther’s commentary on Genesis)

To the person struggling to find their calling, Luther would say, “How is it possible that you are not called? Are you a husband or a wife? Are you a mother or a father or a child or an employee?” (See Colossians 3:17-24)

The Reformers would have pushed back against the concept of “finding your calling.” Your calling, they would have said, is not something mysterious or difficult to discern. It is the current circumstances of your life. If you are a mother, then your calling is to be a mother. If you are an office worker, then it is to be an office worker. There is a freedom to change what you do, but whatever you do, you are to view it as a calling from God to serve him by serving your neighbor in that context.

What transforms a job into a calling is faith. By faith we see our daily activities as tasks given to us by God to be done for his glory and for the benefit of others.

One bit of feedback I received via social media was from a person who works in a convenience store, and who questioned how selling cigarettes, beer and junk food could possibly be service to God or others. While I’m sure that there is some redeeming value in working in a convenience store, this brings up a great point: if you do not believe that what you are doing is honoring to God or contributing to the flourishing of others, or is actually detrimental to others, then the right thing to do might be to find another job.

This teaching should not be taken to mean that you must not leave your job if, for example, the working climate or culture is unhealthy, or if you would simply like to pursue another career. It simply means that you should view whatever you do as a way to glorify God and do his work in the world by serving others.

For more on this topic see: “We Who Cut Mere Stones…”

Finishing Up the Trip

Yesterday was our final full day in Ukraine. We spent the day running errands and going around with Ben to look at different properties the church in Svitlovodsk has their eye on to purchase.
Svitlovodsk, with the Dniper river in the background
As part of our support of the ministry there, White Fields donated towards their building project. They currently meet in a 50 square meter (500 square foot) space in an office building, with a few extra rooms for children’s ministry. They estimate that for 60,000 USD they should be able to either buy land and build something from scratch or buy and refurbish a building. Pray for them in this regard.
In the evening we held part 2 of the Work as Worship seminar. Travis taught and then he and I fielded questions on the topic. It went really well and I think that we could easily fine tune this seminar and present it elsewhere. It is a topic which affects all people but something evangelical Christians fail to teach on enough – or to give a comprehensive enough vision for. I look forward to how we might be able to bring this teaching to our church in Longmont.
Travis teaching Work as Worship seminar: part 2 at Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk

Right after the seminar ended, Levi, the assistant pastor and worship leader, drove Travis and I to Boryspil, where we stayed at a hotel near the airport, and then at 3:30 we woke up and got to the airport by 4:00am.

We had a 5 hour layover in Frankfurt, so we took atvantage of the great public transport here and went into the city. If you’ve been to Frankfurt, you know that there’s not a whole lot to see, so that was plenty of time.

Right now we are in the airport waiting for our flight to Denver. It’s been an extremely fruitful trip, but it will be great to be home.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday and today:

The first rule of cross fit: always talk about cross fit. Apartment building in Ukraine.
Glorious Soviet Air Force Jet in Svitlovodsk
Downtown Frankfurt
…always talk about Crossfit. Frankfurt Stock Exchange
Frankfurt City



Work as Worship Seminar in Svitlovodsk

Today we spent the day in Kremenchug and then in the evening we did our first session of the Work as Worship seminar at Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk.

The seminar was well attended and the Q&A drew many thoughtful questions.

Tomorrow night Travis will teach part 2.

I am looking forward to seeing how this seminar, as well as the one on Christocentrisity which Ben and I taught at the Pastors and Leaders Conference in Kyiv, can be shared in other places, including our church in Longmont.

Teaching the Work as Worship seminar at CC Svitlovodsk, with Ben Morrison translating into Russian


Busyness: The Enemy of the Soul

“How have you been?” “Busy!”
“Haven’t seen you much lately. What have you been up to?” “Oh, I’ve just been really busy.”
“We should really get together sometime.” “Yeah, I’d love to. Things are just really busy right now.”

We live in a culture that is chronically busy. Many of us, myself included, are busy doing a lot of really great things – but if we don’t watch out, our busyness with all these great things can destroy us.

What legacy will you have to show for all your running around?

Recently I’ve been listening to some audiobooks given to me by a friend. One of them is about how to get out of debt – a topic I’m very interested in. And what I see is that there is a parallel between how our culture handles money and time.

You see – because of technological developments of everything from cars to the internet, we now have more time on our hands, which frees us up to many more possibilities! We can go more places and do more things and connect with more people than ever before. In the same way – money and products are also readily available, perhaps like no other time before. Even if you have no money, there are a myriad of ways to finance purchases, which you can leverage to buy GOOD things, like houses and cars, you couldn’t have before. But, if you are always spending your money on every good thing that comes your way – after a while, you end up with very little to show for your years of hard work. The statistics on how much money passes through the average middle-class home in America are astounding.

Similarly, with busyness – if we stay busy doing a lot of really good things, we can easily find ourselves BUSY, but then looking back we have very little to show for it. Sure we might accomplish a few things along the way and spend time with some people – but what legacy will we have to show for all of our running around?

On a website I recently read about how the difference between chronically broke people and those who have financial security is found not in income, but in habits. One defining factor is that a much higher percentage of those who attain financial security set out concrete goals for themselves to work towards, whereas many chronically broke people never set out goals to work towards; they go through life living day to day.

The same principle can and should be applied to time-management. What are the goals that you would like to attain with your time? Who is the person you would like to be? What is the big-picture thing you hope to accomplish? What has God called you to do? If you are a spouse or a parent, that is a calling. If you are a Christian, by definition, you have a calling on your life – because to be a Christian is to be one who has been commissioned by Jesus Christ to join Him in His mission.

What do you want your legacy to be?  Do you want to raise a Christian family?  Do you want to have a closer walk with the Lord?  Do you want to be used by God for His purposes in the world? 

Once you have identified what you want to attain, what you are shooting for – then THAT will dictate how you spend your time, it will prioritize your options. Otherwise, you will be just like everyone else: running around like crazy, but with very little to show for it. In fact, being super busy with no purpose and direction – well that will quickly kill your creativity, and it will quickly kill relationships – with people and with God.

Guess what the first thing is that many God-fearing people cut out when they are feeling too busy:  Church. Time with spouse and kids. Bible study. Devotions.  “Oh, I’ll do those things when I am not so busy.”  But if you let your calling in life and the end goals that you hope to attain dictate your priorities, then seeking the Lord and being in fellowship with other believers is always a priority.

Certainly there are many things which might be dialed back in a busy schedule – but figuring out which ones you should dial back is the result of evaluating your goals and focusing yourself on attaining them.

Don’t wind up a victim of your own busyness! Figure out what it is that God has called you to do – and what it is that you hope to attain, and let those things dictate how you spend your time.