Longmont Pastor Video Blog – Episode 2: Calling and Vocation

Every week on Wednesdays we are releasing new episodes of the Longmont Pastor Video series. This week is we discuss the topics of calling and vocation and how the two are related.

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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…”

We Who Cut Mere Stones…

We who cut mere stones must always be envisioning cathedrals.

This was the creed of some medieval quarry workers, which served to remind them of the bigger picture of what their work was accomplishing. To remember that they were not just cutting rocks, but that they were a vital part of a grand and wonderful project which would serve many people and even generations to come – changed their perspective on their work completely.

I think this is applicable to many of us, in whatever field you may find yourself in, and I think it is particularly applicable to Christian service as well.

Martin Luther used this example: In the Lord’s Payer, Jesus instructed his disciples to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Take a moment though to consider how many people and how many jobs are involved in God answering that one prayer: there is a farmer who plants and waters and harvests the grain. There’s a miller, who grinds up the grain to make flour. There’s a person who produces oil. There’s a person who transports the materials. There’s a baker, who takes the materials and bakes them. There is a grocer who sells the bread. And all of these people, as they do their jobs, are all doing the work of God as they are contributing to the answering of this prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (For more on this subject, click here to listen to the message: Soli Deo Gloria)

In other words, the Bible teaches that a person’s daily work is not merely something for them to endure, so they can get on to the “good stuff,” but rather a calling and a summons from God to serve others and to do His work in the world, for His glory. Psalm 147 says that “God feeds every living thing.” How does God do that? Is it not through the farmer, the baker, the retailer, the website programmer, the truck driver, the banker, and everyone else involved in the process? Likewise, Psalm 147 says that God is the one who strengthens and protects a city. And yet it is done through the work of lawmakers and police officers.

If a person keeps this perspective, they will have a much higher view of their work than if they were to only see themselves as “mere quarry workers” or “mere shop workers”, “mere teachers,” “mere artists,” etc. If you can see the vital role that your work plays in a bigger picture and in doing the work of God, it will change the way you view your work, and the attitude with which you approach your work.

This is true in Christian service as well. At White Fields, for example, we have people who serve in many different ministries, from prayer to teaching children, to setting up chairs, to running sound. If a person who sets up chairs sees their ministry as “merely” setting up chairs, they might easily become discouraged. It is important that whatever role they play, they see it as the vital and crucial part of the ministry and the Kingdom of God which it truly is.

“We who cut mere stones must always be envisioning cathedrals.”

How can you apply this to your work and/or ministry today to change your perspective on what you do?

The Empty Soul

This past Sunday we finished the 5 Solas series at White Fields with our study of Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone) – click here to listen to that message. Something I learned through preparing for this study, is that for the Reformers, Soli Deo Gloria referred specifically to their view of work: that everything a person does, not just work in and for the Church, can be service to God. They rightly elevated the place of work – and all God-honoring, people-benefiting work – to its biblical place of significance and importance. This doctrine went hand in hand with the teaching of “the priesthood of all believers.”

Here is an excerpt from Luther’s article “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation” on this topic:

It is pure fiction that Pope, bishops, priests, and monks are called the “spiritual estate” while princes, lords, artisans, and farmers are called the “temporal estate.” This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. Yet no one need be intimidated by it, and that for this reason: all Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them except that of office. . . . We are all consecrated priests by baptism, as St. Peter says: “You are a royal priesthood and a priestly realm” (1 Pet. 2: 9). The Apocalypse says: “Thou hast made us to be kings and priests by thy blood” (Rev. 5: 9– 10).

As I was preparing for this message last week, I came across something interesting written by Dorothy Sayers, who has written a lot on the topic of the integration of faith and work.

While the biblical view of work is that it is good and part of God’s good design for us as human beings, there are certainly some pitfalls that we can fall into in regard to how we see our work. If we look to our work to “make a name for ourselves” – rather than looking to God to receive our “name” (identity, status, value) from him, then we will inevitably have an unhealthy, and destructive, relationship with our work.

Dorothy Sayers, in Creed or Chaos?, points out that there is a common misunderstanding about the meaning of “sloth” or “slothfulness” – one of the traditional seven deadly sins. Usually, we tend to think of sloth as laziness, but the Greek word Acedia means more of a life which is consumed only with cares about oneself.

Acedia is the sin which believes in nothing, cares for nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing and only remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die. We have known it far too well for many years, the only thing perhaps we have not known about it is it is a mortal sin.

She goes on to say that because a person characterized by acedia only cares about their own needs, interests and comforts, they might not necessarily be lazy at all. They might seem quite driven, in fact. She says though that acedia is “the sin of the empty soul.”

We think that if we are busily rushing about and doing things we cannot be suffering from Sloth. Gluttony offers a world of dancing, dining, sports, and dashing very fast from place to place to gape at beauty spots. Covetousness rakes us out of the bed at an early hour in order that we may put pep and hustle into our business; Envy sets us to gossip and scandals, to writing cantankerous letters to the paper, and to the unearthing of secrets and scavenging of desk bins; Wrath provides the argument that the only fitting activity in a world so full of evil doers and evil demons is to curse loudly and incessantly, while Lust provides that round of dreary promiscuity that passes for bodily vigor. But these are all disguises for the empty heart and the empty brain and the empty soul of Acedia. In the world it calls itself Tolerance but in hell it is called Despair.

Timothy Keller, referring to Sayers’ writings on Acedia in his book Every Good Endeavor, points out that Acedia is really misdirected passion. It is passion that only cares about oneself, but true passion – like the Jesus’ Passion – is passion for the good and well-being of others.

Jesus said: For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:35)

To live for yourself, caring for your own needs, interests and comforts, will leave you with an empty soul – but to give your life in service to God and others in response to the gospel will leave you with a soul that is full to overflowing. Jesus emptied Himself for you, but in doing so, His heart was full! May He empower us to live that way as well!

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