The etymology of the word vocation is linked to the Latin term vocatio, which means “call” or “summons.” Yet often the term “vocation” is misunderstood as only applying to those individuals who have sensed God leading them into full-time ministry. But in much the same way as I want to show that apologetics is something which is relevant to every Christian, a vocation, I believe, is something we all have as Christ-followers. In the most general, and universal sense, our vocation first involves responding to the call of salvation that God extends to everyone. Extending from that, we then as Christians all have a calling to model the love of Christ towards others. As the Catechism of the Catholic church aptly phrases it: “Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being”. Then of course we all have our particular vocations—but just because God has not called someone into career ministry, does not mean that that person is not a “minister.” After all, some of the most effective works of evangelism, preaching, teaching, and pastoral care are performed by the “laity.” The bottom line is we need Christians in all different fields of human endeavor. Thus people are called to go into their particular career and serve as Christ-honoring doctors, lawyers, teachers, police officers, coaches, businesspeople, and so forth. While such occupations may ostensibly fall outside the setting of the church, those who seek to be Christian in their chosen jobs are following the injunction of Paul in Colossians 3:23—“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”
One of my favorite things about the Baptist denomination is the extent to which we have historically understood the importance of the laity and empowered them to serve in the church. In fact, you don’t really even hear the term “laity” used very often in Baptist circles, and I believe that’s because it’s simply understood that the heart and soul of the church is not really the pastoral staff, but the membership–the everyday Christians whose tireless and faithful commitment makes the work of the church possible. As a vocational minister, I never want to forget that there are many dedicated men and women of God around me who in addition to working demanding jobs, selflessly give up much of their free time in order to assist with and facilitate the work of ministers.
This point has been particularly underscored for me lately as I have been engaging in ministry partner development. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this terms is not some sort of euphemism to get around the economic realities of “support raising”. But money in fact is only one aspect of the equation. When I meet with a potential ministry partner, first of all, I have the unique privilege and blessing of getting to “tell the story”, to borrow a line from a venerable old hymn. That is, I get to continually share my own testimony, and why I am passionate about collegiate ministry!! Those ministry partners who come alongside me become vital and much-needed prayer warriors, whose intercessions are helping to lay an absolutely critical foundation for all of my future ministry in Boulder. Some also choose to support me with their financial gifts. While a few of my ministry partners are fellow clergy, the vast majority are not. They are faithful men and women of God, whose support of me is really but an extension of all of the Kingdom-building service they are already engaged in through their local churches. My ministry would simply not be possible without them! So to return to the idea of vocation—I now know from firsthand experience how important it is for us to understand a vocation as something that all Christians receive. My ministry partners have embraced a calling to be facilitators of missions and they make it possible for people like me to follow our respective calling to full-time ministry. I thank God for the diversity of the vocations He has given His children, and I pray that we would never create a hierarchy or division within the church where some positions would be seen as more important than others. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:4-5…“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.”