Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Fifth of Worms (Exiles 4)

Today's daily serving of wormage (chock full of natural flavour, taste, and eighteen hundred essential vitamins and nutrients in a savoury sauce) comes courtesy of chapter eight of Frost's sagacious tome, Exiles.

Chapter eight is entitled "Working for the Host Empire", and explores how missional Christians should view their workplace or career. While this isn't news to many of us, Frost does an excellent job of sorting through the old false dichotomy of the "sacred versus secular" dualistic, Plato-inspired worldview, particularly focusing on our conceptualization of our work.

As usual, Frost stimulated the grey matter between my ears (which on CSI sometimes looks a bit like worms -- coincidence?), and I wanted to add my two cents to a thought that Frost presents:
"We routinely refer to people 'receiving the call' to Christian service, whether to church leadership or the mission field... We can easily think of a friend enetering church-ordained ministry as following God, but rarely do we speak of a decision to become a computer programmer or a nurse or a filmmaker or an accountant as similarly following God's calling in our lives." (Exiles, page 185)
First, on a personal note, I felt a definite sense of "calling" when I was seventeen -- however vague and undefined at the time -- to make myself available to God for "whatever". Our church's pastor had given an invitation at the end of a sermon, and while I had no real concept of what exactly I would or could be doing, I felt a resonance within me (otherwise known as the prompting of the Spirit) to respond. It was not a dramatic moment, but significant nonetheless.

The second time I felt a "call", I was nineteen, and was feeling somewhat at a loss when I looked at the seemingly impossible task of impacting my many non-Christian friends for the sake of the Gospel. At that time, at a party of all places, I felt God speak (not audibly, but very profoundly) to my heart that I was in over my head, and needed more training. I quit the Radio, Television & Journalism school that I was enrolled in, worked to earn some coinage, and headed off to Providence College the next year.

My point in delving into ancient history is that my sense of "call" didn't start with a conceptualization of full-time, vocational ministry. It was simply a response to God to make myself available for His use, in whatever form that might take. The more specific "call" to Bible college and later being a pastor came later. The "call" to missions came later still; the fulfillment of that call even later. It was, as is usually true of those who follow the wind of the Spirit (John 3:8), a journey.

Frost makes some excellent points in chapter eight about how many churches have succumbed to a dualistic, sacred/secular divide, and that this has resulted in the average working Joe and Josephine feeling like there is no God-given "call" on their lives in the vocational sense.

I'd like to suggest another reason why many working people don't experience a sense of God's calling in their chosen profession:
Namely, it was their chosen profession. They didn't think to -- and nobody encouraged them to -- ask God for His input about their vocation.
I have friends who, back in the day, actually avoided praying about their career choice, out of a mis-placed fear that if they let God have His say, they'd end up doing something they absolutely hated in a location that gave them hives just thinking about.

If people start off with the expectation that everything they are and have is God's, then praying for His leading into their future would be a pretty normal thing. Or as my dear friend Nico-Dirk once remarked during our DTS: "What's all this talk about 'giving up' ourselves to God? If you're a Christian, God already owns your entire a**!"