Generations of people in this country find their identity in their jobs. But that is an empty life, a life that leads you down a path of nothingness. But what might it mean if God says, “Now you are the one to go deliver the message.” You life must be interrupted if you are to be an instrument in meeting the world’s needs. You must be ready to respond to the calling that God has on your life. Think about the untouchables in India. What if God said, “I want you to be the one to travel over there and give them the message? What about the epidemic of AIDS in Africa? What if God is calling you to go do something about it?
After quoting the words above from the preaching of a “freshly ordained seminary graduate,” John Knapp in How the Church Fails Businesspeople rhetorically asks: “Must we really go to India or Africa to be instrumental in meeting the world’s needs? Could it be that God also needs Christians to serve the world as factory workers, hairstylists, and bond traders?”
What is tricky about the sermon quoted is that almost everything in it is right. Sadly, many people do find their identity in their jobs. And that is an empty life. If God says to me, “You need to go India,” I must obey that call. If God is calling me to do something about AIDS in Africa, I must do something about it.
The error is in “elevat[ing] an ecclesiastical elite [i.e., missionaries to India or Africa] while subtly devaluing the rest of the body,” says Knapp. One may infer from this that “God is more concerned with church-sponsored work than with Christians being faithful in a thousand other daily contexts,” betraying a “distorted conception of Christian vocation and calling, one that sorts human activities into contrived categories of secular and sacred.”
Here is a personal example.
In college, as we tried to figure out what to do after graduation, all who considered attending a seminary and becoming pastors spoke of discerning whether they had a “calling” to be a pastor. The rest of us did not speak of a “calling” to be a lawyer or a “calling” to be a financial analyst. God specifically “called” certain people into full-time ministry, we assumed, I think. The rest of us weren’t so special, and were left to figure out which “doors” were open and which “options” we should take.
In our young minds, in retrospect, a hierarchy of occupation was already in place. Becoming a minister, a “holy” occupation, was a special path, requiring a special “calling.” Becoming a lawyer or a financial analyst was something else. And, many of us thought, something less.