When we hear the word vocation, we tend to associate it with pastors or those who work in a church. It sounds churchy, after all, so many of us think it is the purview of only those few individuals engaged in the business of the Church. Nothing could be further from the truth! Christian vocation is not limited to clergy or even religious scholars, but rather every person has a vocation, a calling that God has placed on their life.
When Paul described the Church in 1 Corinthians, he used the image of the body. The human body is a vastly complex organism comprising numerous distinct organs. Body parts do not look the same nor do they fulfill the same function; importantly, that is a good thing! A brain cannot provide the body oxygen; likewise, the lungs cannot pump blood. As Paul's point goes, a body only functions when each part plays its part. This metaphor is essential when considering Christian vocation. The entire body is Christian, not just certain parts. Every part has a role to play in life and in service of God's plans. These roles do not look the same, but they are all vital.
So, if everyone has a vocation, what does that look like from a Christian perspective? In short, it is the call to change the world you inhabit. Not the capital World, as in everyone everywhere, but rather the world, lowercase, where you live. Wherever you are right now, you have a world that you encounter. It is made of the people and places where you work, play and live alongside others. Your call as a Christian is to shine the transformative light of the Gospel into that world. Now how do we do that, you might ask? By embracing these ideas: that your vocation is a call to be bold and serve others.
Christian Vocation Is the Call to Be Bold
First, a Christian vocation is a call to speak and live boldly for the truths of the Gospel. Speaking out on issues of faith can be daunting, but we should not be afraid to live out the vocation God has given us. God reassures us constantly through his word that he is with us in our calling. As the psalmist says, "The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps 27:1). Or Paul puts it, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31).
Understanding the power of the Gospel, which enlivens our ministry, lets us serve God in powerful ways. This does not mean that we become superhuman or incapable of failure. But rather, it allows us to recognize that even as fallen and finite creatures, we can still speak about what is true. As Paul reminded the Corinthians, we must understand the power of Christ and the New Covenant, for, "therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold," (2 Cor 3:12).
God calls us to speak out, without fear, about the Gospel and its effects. The early Church spoke about Christ and his importance, even at the cost of life and livelihood. For those of us who have the great mercy to declare that Christ is Risen without fear of imprisonment or execution, how much more so should we boldly proclaim those truths? Whether at the workplace, the gym, the home, or wherever we are at, speak the truth of the Gospel into your world.
Christian Vocation Is the Call to Serve Others
Second, a Christian vocation is always other-focused. Now, this seems out of step with the world. Everyone seems out only for their own gain. As Dolly Parton famously described our modern work culture, "it’s all takin’ and no givin’.”1 Christian vocation though is intentionally, almost radically, countercultural here because at its heart, Christian vocation seeks to fulfill the second greatest command, to love your neighbor as yourself.
This idea of blessings or serving those around us, can be seen from the earliest pages of the Bible right through to the end. When he is first called to serve God, Abram is told that “in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” (Gen 12:3). By serving God, Abram was part of the plan to bring blessing and salvation to all through Christ! Even the nation of Israel is made a Kingdom of priests (cf. Ex 19:6), but priests do not serve for their own benefit but rather for the benefit of others. God has always called his people to be outward, and other-focused.
So, what does this look like? It will depend on your situation. It could be volunteering time at a local nonprofit. It could be buying a coworker a meal and listening to what is happening in their life. The form of service should fit the needs of your unique world. Pay attention to the people around you and seek to be the hands and feet of Christ as you serve them the way they need to be served. None of this means you should disregard yourself or treat yourself as worthless. Instead, it is to apply humility as not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking of yourself less, to paraphrase Rick Warren.
Christian Vocation Is the Call to Change the World
Too often, I hear people being overwhelmed with the problems the World faces. They are troubled by the challenges they see as too big to handle. What is the solution to worldwide racism and prejudice? How can we prevent war, or hunger, or poverty? To be honest, they are right. As Frank Herbert once wrote, “The sins of this universe would trouble anyone.”2 We often though follow up and think that because these issues seem too big, why should we bother working on them?
I can sympathize with being troubled when I look at the World's problems, but what I feel that they and Herbert miss is that our calling is not to fix those massive issues. We cannot redeem this World from the root of all these problems: sin. But we do not need to either; Jesus has already done that! Instead, we are called to manifest that new creation in the worlds in which we live.
I may not be able to cure global hunger, but I can buy a meal and share it with my neighbor. I cannot witness to every person in the World, but I can speak and live the Gospel for everyone who will see my life. The importance of your Christian vocation is that you can change your world. When we are bold for the Gospel and embrace the needs of others, we become world-changers right where we are. As each of us works to bring about the work of God in our world, I believe we will see the Gospel go forth and the World change.
1 Parton, D. 9 to 5. 9 to 5 and odd jobs. RCA, Nashville.
2 Herbert, F. God emperor of dune. Ace Books.
3 Warren R. (2012). The purpose driven life: what on earth am i here for? (Expanded). Zondervan.
Approved by an Instructor for the College of Theology on Dec. 2, 2022.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.