The unique way in which we live out our calling is what we call our vocation.
I used to think of vocation as nothing more than a job. When I was in high school, I had friends who would go to a place called “Vo-Tech” in the afternoons, which stood for “Vocational Technology.” There they learned various technologies that would help them get a job after high school. And that’s what a vocation was, as far as I knew—it was a job.
But a vocation is so much more than a job.
Your vocation is the unique way in which God has called you to bring healing and wholeness into the world. It is how God has called you to live out your secondary calling (you can read more about primary and secondary callings HERE). In fact, the word “vocation” itself has nothing to do with work; it comes from the Latin word, vocare, which means, “to call.” We also get the English word, “voice” from vocare—as well as “vocal” and “vociferous” (one of my all-time favorite words!).
Your vocation, then, is what you do in response to the voice of the One who calls you.
You Have Multiple Vocations
It’s important to recognize that God calls us to bring healing and wholeness—or shalom—into the world in many ways. Just as we have more than one secondary calling, we have more than one vocation.
You may have a vocation as mother or father, as grandmother or grandfather, as son or daughter, as neighbor, citizen, student, retiree, and so forth.
And, yes, your vocation also includes the work that you do for a living.
Your Vocation is Sacred
If we have these various vocations, which are our response to God’s call, then there is something sacred about what we do. Our vocation is the way in which we participate with the divine to restore shalom to a world that is broken and hurting. As you can see, an understanding of vocation as a response to God’s call—i.e., a theology of vocation—helps to undo the sacred/secular dualism that we talked about HERE.
It is so important to recognize the sacredness of each person’s vocation:
- When a business-person understands their work as a divine vocation, they begin to understand that their calling is to restore shalom to the world by facilitating the transfer of necessary and joy-giving goods and services.
- When a lawyer understands their work as a divine vocation, they begin to understand that their calling is to restore shalom to the world by working for justice.
- When a plumber understands their work as a divine vocation, they begin to understand that their calling is to restore shalom to the world by making the world clean and beautiful.
As a result, work is no longer simply a job—it is the way in which we do ministry in the world.
As we develop a healthy theology of vocation, we begin to understand that ministry doesn’t happen only on Sunday mornings and it isn’t performed only by a few special Christians (pastors, priests, etc.). It means that ministry is happening in every nook and cranny of the world. It means that all kinds of people are participating with God in bringing healing and wholeness into the world—often without even knowing it.
It means that ministry happens wherever God’s people are living out their vocation!