Home » Equipping » A new thing, part III

A new thing, part III

Next question: So what?

(In order to follow, you need to have read part I and part II.)

It’s time we help folks move from looking at ministry as their avocation–something they do in their discretionary time–to looking at their life in terms of vocation.

Back to Wikipedia again: Christian vocation includes the use of one’s gifts in their profession, family life, church and civic commitments for the sake of the greater common good.

What happens when we guide someone through a discovery process designed to help them look at the whole of their life, rather than just how their spiritual gifts apply to ministry in and/or through our church? What if we encourage them to apply what they learned through that discovery process to their 8-5 job, their family life, their friendships, their neighborhood… to their 24/7 life? Our questions might be…

“How do you see your spiritual gift of mercy applied in your workplace?” rather than “Would you like to exercise your gift of mercy by helping with the church’s benevolence ministry?”

“I see you are using your experience of God healing your marriage as you listen to your manicurist share her frustration with her own marriage,” instead of, “Would you like to teach a marriage enrichment class for the church on Wednesday nights?”

Do you see the difference? If we shift our paradigm away from task-based ministry in the church toward equipping people to see the whole of their lives as ministry–as vocation–what effect might that have? Would the church become the diaspora (the church dispersed) at least as often as she is the ecclesia (the church gathered). Would the gospel spread more effectively? Would people’s lives be more holistic and less fractured if we stop compartmentalizing ministry? Would we hear less, “I just don’t have time for ministry!”?

In my experience, the majority of church members don’t see their lives in terms of Christian vocation. They consider themselves Christians because they believe in Christ and they go to church regularly. What a shallow view of the life hidden in Christ! But if we show them how to intentionally apply their unique vocation in their every day living, wouldn’t that lead to spiritual formation* at its best?

The last thing I want to say about this (well, for now!) is that the equipping processes we use may not really need to change much. It’s the context in which we preach, teach, and lead those processes that needs to change. To approach equipping in the context of true vocation, however, will require that we let go of our need to fill ministry slots–no matter how thoughtfully and effectively we think we are doing it–in order to gain the attention and trust of those we lead. In the end, however, I think it will be much easier to get the “ministry tasks” done as each individual discovers their unique vocation in the whole of life (which includes church!) and delights in fulfilling their role when the body of Christ gathers.

*Spiritual formation: the process of being conformed to the likeness of Christ for the sake of others.  -Dr. Robert Mulholland (emphasis mine)

10 thoughts on “A new thing, part III

  1. Andee: I am so excited about this set of blogs, because I really agree and haven’t heard it said so well. Instead of saying “This is church: Women’s ministry, men’s ministry, nursery, outreach” and then finding people to make it happen, I really think we should look at the church as a bunch of people, and then see how that bunch of people can help each other, build each other, encourage each other. We use our gifts, our experiences, etc to create community, which is just another word for living our lives together. And when we do that, we grow in Christ, and we draw others who want what we have, that intimate community. Not programs and busywork, but life with others who will love us and catch us and pursue us as Christ does.

    • Thank you, Jill. Viewing all of life as our Christian vocation means there is more likelihood of congruence between what we say and what we do. Christians are created for community. Often we talk about it, but fail to create it!

  2. Using the term vocation is critical to the case you make. I would suggest that our first vocation is to be divine image bearers. As bearers of the image of God our vocation is to care for, rule and cultivate created life. This means, among other things, that being equipped to do good works has to do with being equipped to do God’s will in every aspect of life.

    Salvation in Christ involves a mystical union with Christ and his Church. Therefore, my vocation to be an image bearer is centered in my life in Christ and his Church.

    Here’s what this looks like. Because of my vocation as an image bearer, I am doing God’s work when I:
    – Tend the flowers in my front yard
    – Serve as a nursery worker at Church
    – Help needy children with there reading
    – Own and manage a profitable business that benefits the community and my employees
    – Cook supper every evening
    – Read scripture in Sunday worship
    – Put 40 hours of good and honest work for my employer
    The list could go on.

    Equipping is includes helping Christians discover their gifts so they can serve the practical needs of a local parish. However, equipping goes much beyond this. The boundaries of equipping align with the boundaries of vocation which align with the boundaries of life.

  3. Andee –
    I have to say I’m a little perturbed with you right now. JUST when I think I’m starting to figure all this out, you have to write this phenomenal blog. A few years ago I purchased the book “Life @ Work” by John Maxwell and I haven’t done anything with it. The premise is really what you’re talking about here – our gifts, our spiritual life and our secular “job” should all intersect – not be compartmentalized. You’ve forced me to dust the book off and I’m going to read it. There is even a handbook and I’ve always dreamed about offering a class on this at church to bring all of this “equipping” stuff together.

    Thank you for your insight. You are truly a gift from God!

    • It’s always good to stretch, even though it’s a little painful at the beginning, Andrea! LOL! I can’t wait to hear more about your process as you grapple with this “paradigm shift” and figure out how to incorporate it into you teaching. I’m praying for the Spirit to give you great insights–just don’t forget to share them with the rest of us!

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