Monday, January 29, 2007

Calling and Os Guinness

Went to Missions Fest to hear a great session by Os Guinness. The hour long session was on 'calling'. Fantastic stuff - here is an exert from an article on the same subject... it will give you a basic idea:

R&L: How do you define "the Call"?

Guinness: Simply put, the Call is the idea that God calls us to Himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we have, and everything we do is invested with a dynamism and a devotion because it is done as a response to His summons. In other words, those two words of Jesus Christ–"Follow me"–changed the world as millions since have risen up to follow His call.

R&L: In the book [Calling], you note two primary distortions of the concept of calling. Can you elaborate on them?

Guinness: Over the course of the past two thousand years, the concept of calling has been distorted in two ways. I label these–although this is slightly unfair–the Catholic distortion and the Protestant distortion, and both are reflections of a spiritual/secular dualism.

The Catholic distortion is the idea that spiritual things are higher than secular things; so, calling is reserved for monks, nuns, and priests, and lay people are let off the hook, so to speak. This idea was introduced first by Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, and was picked up by great thinkers like Augustine and Aquinas.

The Protestant distortion is the other way around. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin taught that calling includes your work, but about one hundred fifty years after the early Puritans, we see the words calling and vocation become merely synonyms for work and employment. Over time, that was distorted until it came to be seen that one’s work simply was his calling. So, we have a situation where calling is being secularized and work is being sacralized.

WHAT DOES IT MATTER? It matters a great deal... it matters even in the way we 'do church' and it matters even more in the way we 'do army'. Do you figure the current training/recruiting issues in the Salvation Army Western World has to do with this confusion?

Guinness suggests that we have almost become Catholic in our understanding of Calling again in Protestant churches. When people become saved it soon becomes evident that they should be 1. a missionary 2. a minister 3. a para-church worker
- every other profession is almost considered a distraction FROM ministry.

What is most horrible about this to me is that our tradition in the Army was established for exactly this reason. William Booth said, "if you want to get a mill-worker saved, send a mill-worker." Even here in Vancouver 614 (in the downtown eastside) we understand that when Isaiah 61:4 says, "THEY will rebuild' he is referring to the ones FROM the downtown eastside that have been set free... not us (the 'professional' Christian type). We empower people to respond to the calling God has on every believer, "Go, into all the world...."


Joe West said...


I think I'd have to agree with his suggestion. What's worse in my experience, is we tend to "pick out the daisies from amongst the weeds" in our congregations, finding the people with the best social, administrative, or whatever other gifts the world praises, and begin to place them in "leadership", and find out their "calling". Disgusting.

Christ appointed Fishermen for goodness sake (sorry if you're a fisherman). But he also chose Pharisees. He understood the power of God's grace, and it's infinite bounds, that can't be held back by speech impediments, social disorders, retardation, or anything else for that matter.

Okay i'm done :)

Danielle I dig your blog man

Danielle said...

thanks Joe.
I think you are on to something... with the inclusion of both the 'unlearned' and the 'learned' jesus invited EVERYONE to follow Him. It's not so much about the 'place' we serve (whether in the church or in the world) but the way we follow... how we are truly engaging the people around us to come to Jesus.

That's a big challenge for me... some may call it the only calling. Let's live up to it.

SEL said...

Words and their inherent historical meaning have undergone a steady devaluation over the years. As John Stott has shared, “Vocation”, in its popular usage refers to one’s work or career. It’s a grandiose way of asking, “What do you do for a living?” And, the common term “vocational training” means training for a specific trade. Historically however, the word “vocation” had a much nobler connotation. Its emphasis was not on what one does, but rather, to what one is "called" to do. The difference is found in the word "called". “Vocation” is in fact a Latin word, whose Anglo-Saxon equivalent is “calling”. It was not a calling “to do” (a job) but “to be”, a "calling to purpose".

As an educator I often hear colleagues refer to their calling, perhaps somewhat portentously, and many indeed view it as a higher calling. I remind them that all are called...

Teaching is the place where I celebrate my calling, where I elaborate on my philosophical and Christian foundation seeking to move my students to that eternally significant moment when values and a sense of vocation forms.

Carl Gustav Jung, who exhibited a unique passion for connecting persons with their vocation/calling said that, “in the face of the very real powers that dominate us, only an equally real power or encounter can offer help”.

Browning’s description was,

Sure tho’ seldom ……………
When the spirit’s true endowments
Stand out plainly from its false ones”

Every Christian’s calling demands that we come to that moment, surrender to it, and lead others to it as well.