THE BIG PICTURE               

Volume 2 Issue 2 Trinity 2000 page 8

 

 

The equipping Church

Resources for ministry in daily life.

By Alistair Mackenzie

 

Alistair Mackenzie wrote a thesis exploring historical developments in the theology of work, vocation, ministry and mission as these apply to the everyday work of God’s people in the world. In the last chapter of his thesis, Alistair suggests ways that the church can use these insights to better equip and support its members for their everyday work in the world. With Alistair’s kind permission, we have summarized this last chapter, the first half of which is reproduced below. The section begins with a summary of some of the biblical and theological resources to which the church needs to introduce its members. We are grateful to Geoff Hall of Bristol, UK, for his work in shaping this thesis chapter into article form.

 

Biblical and Theological Resources

Historically, Christian understanding of the relationship between faith and work has tended to oscillate between two extremes; work has nothing to do with our calling as Christians and work is our calling. An intermediate position is, our primary calling is to live as disciples of Jesus and daily work is part of that calling. An important task for the church would seem to be helping people to locate and discuss where they see their work fitting, both practically and ideally, in that continuum. One approach developed by Moynagh (1995) distinguishes five different historical models for explaining God’s call in relation to work:

 

Vocation is outside of work (e.g. medieval view)

Vocation equals work (e.g. Luther and other Reformers)

Vocation within work (e.g. Karl Barth)

Vocation reforms work (e.g. ‘social gospel’ Christians)

Vocation judges work (e.g. Jacques Ellul).

 

After briefly examining the strengths and weaknesses of each of these models Moynagh concludes each of them contains insights that should be held together for a rounded doctrine of vocation.

 

The Theology of Work

Perhaps this would be better designated ‘theologies of work’, to recognize that a number of different biblical starting points have been used as foundations upon which to build a theology of wor. But some of the most helpful schemes suggested by our study for more simplified introductions to these issues would include:

 

Bible Survey: An introduction to some of the key biblical texts upon which theologies of work have been built. Richardson (1952) provides a useful survey of the biblical material and Westcott (1996: 17-47) and Ryken (1978: 119-179) both develop biblical themes in ways that provide a good resource for more popular exposition.

 

Theology: A view of work from the perspective of the great Christian themes of God, Creation, Humanity, Fall, Incarnation, the Cross, Resurrection, the Spirit, Redemption / Liberation and Eschatology. Higginson (1994: 153-164) adopts this approach built around five themes -God the Trinity, Creation, Fall, Redemption and Eschatology. Westcott’s survey of the biblical view of work follows four distinct but closely connected paths - God as worker, men and women made in the image of God, the consequences of the Fall and Jesus and work (Westcott 1996: 17-47).

 

The Trinity: The Trinitarian view of work and vocation developed by Gordon Preece (in Banks 1993: 160-170) lends itself to further development.

 

Themes:  It is possible to pick up major themes developed by different theologies of work and use them as the basis for people exploring their own experience of work. These could either be developed singly at length, or together as a checklist against which a person could evaluate which elements have meaning for their present work. These themes could include:

 

Work as:

anticipation

calling

co-creation

conservation

curse

duty

justice-making

necessity

peace-making

redeeming

service

stewardship

truth-telling

witness

worship

 

Biblical narratives that revolve around daily work

Most of the classical theologies of work fail to refer to workplace stories in scripture. A few refer fleetingly to references about Jesus the carpenter and Paul the tentmaker. Yet many, if not most, other leading figures in the Bible story were not professional religious people, but people God spoke to and through in the midst of their everyday working lives. Clearly most believers were not required to leave their workplaces in order to follow God’s leading. Hence, many of the most useful sources to highlight workplace perspectives, issues and ethical dilemmas are to be found in the narrative portions of scripture. The stories of Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah and Esther are some obvious examples. But to explore these stories from a workplace perspective may involve bringing to them new questions and understanding them in new ways, because this is seldom the perspective from which they are normally explored in our teaching and preaching. Nehemiah for example, is extolled as the example of a prayerful person, a dynamic and effective leader and sometimes as justice-maker, but rarely is it made plain that these attributes belong to a man whose primary role was to manage a very difficult and demanding building project and whatever else he was had to be integrated within the pressures of his construction deadlines.

 

The workplaces of Joseph, Daniel and Esther were all environments where foreign gods were wor­shipped and they were misunderstood represent­atives of a religious minority. Isn’t this how many Christians feel today? Bringing to life familiar biblical characters with a new sense of how their faith and daily work were integrated offers us a rich fund of important resources to be exploited more fully, and the possibility that they will become much more powerful models of faith at work for ordinary Christian people who can identify’ with their struggles.

 

Biblical images drawn from daily work

Many pictures drawn from daily work are used analogously or metaphorically in the Bible to illustrate other realities. However, even in this process, such pictures can end up suggesting some strong messages about the nature of work and life in the workplace and its spiritual significance. In fact, the first glimpses of work we get in the Bible are pictures of God at work. And the Bible draws many of its descriptions of God from the world of human work. Robert Banks has explored a number of these images creatively in a way that connects with human work. Banks looks at the images of God as

Shepherd/Pastoralist (Psalm 23:1-4; Isaiah 40:11),

Potter/Craftworker (Jer. 18:1-4; Romans 9:19-21),

Builder/Architect (Proverbs 8:27-3 1; Is.28:16-17),

Weaver/Clothier (Psalm 139:13-16),

Gardener/Farmer (Genesis 2:8-9, 3: 8; John 15:1-2. 4-6, 8),

and Muscian/Artist (Deut. 3 1:19; Job 35:10; Zephaniah 3:14, 17).

 

Banks is concerned that talk of God’s work generally has a more religious, less everyday, flavour than these images suggest. Also, that if each of these occupations reflects, literally or figuratively, some aspect of God, should we not begin to see them as extensions of God’s work in the world? And, if we begin to see them as such how would this change our attitude toward them?

 

Another source of many images drawn from the workplace are biblical parables: most obviously, the parables of Jesus. Jesus was an acute observer of everyday life. His parables draw on a variety of images relating to daily work - from weddings, funerals and parties, to building construction, buying and selling etc. These are all stories of daily work that are used to illustrate faith principles. This is not to suggest that they all provide simple and straightforward examples of how the life of faith and daily work are connected. The history of interpretation warns us that it is easy to try and read far too much into parables. Nevertheless such a rich fund of illustrations drawn from everyday work must suggest some connections between faith and daily work.

 

Life Planning Resources

A person’s vocation is worked out in the context of a variety of different elements which interact. These include:

1. A person’s unique makeup, personality and gifts.

2. Sociological factors which limit or shape choices.

3. The home and faith community that shapes a person’s early understanding.

4. Bio-social development.

5. Changing family circumstances.

6. Career stage.

7. Faith development.

 

During the course of the 20th century a lot of study was done on career development theories. The roots of this work can be traced to Frank Parsons who started the Vocation Bureau in Boston in 1908 to help workers choose jobs that matched their abilities and interests. Since then pioneers of career development have included differential psychologists, developmental psychologists, personality theorists, and sociologists. Duane Brown, Linda Brooks and Associates survey this work in Career Choice and Development (1990 and 1996). Brown et al. conclude, ‘some theories have been more influential than others, but none have emerged as “finished products”... future theorizing will involve collapsing current theories into more comprehensive theoretical statements (1990)’. As we refer to some of the more easily accessible practical resources which explore the factors named above it is important to understand that these interact and any holistic view of vocation will seek a comprehensive understanding of how these factors work together to shape a person’s life.

 

A person’s unique make-up, personality and gifts

Most of the more popular life planning and career development tools that have been developed tend to use a mixture of the trait and factor, and personality approaches. Probably best known and most widely used is the work of Richard Bolles including What Color is Your Parachute? (updated every year), How to Create a Picture of Your Ideal Job or Next Career (1991b) and The Three Boxes of Life (1981). Bolles invites the job-hunter and/or life planner to participate in a series of exercises designed to identify skills and abilities, preferences and values.

 

Richard Bolles is a Christian and in recent versions of What Color is Your Parachute? he has provided as an appendix an explanation of how to find your mission in life (1988, also published separately as Bolles 199 la). Although Bolles uses the word ‘mission’ he explains that ‘vocation’ and ‘calling’ are the historical synonyms. Bolles identifies three parts to a person’s Mission on Earth. The first two apply to all people. The third relates to a person’s uniqueness:

 

1.         To seek out and find in daily - even hourly - communication, the One from whom your mission is derived.

 

2.         To do what you can, moment by moment, to make this world a better place - following the leading and guidance of God’s Spirit within you and around you.

 

3.         To exercise that talent, your greatest gift,

(a)    which you most delight to use

(b)    in the place(s) or setting(s) which God has cause to appeal to you the most

(c)    for the purpose of doing what God needs to have done in the world.

(Bolles 1988: 295-296)

Bolles quotes Frederick Buechner:

 

“…there are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work and the problem is to find the voice of God rather than that of society, say, or the super-ego, or self-interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this: the kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work a) that you need most to do and b) the world most needs to have done…The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”. (1988: 309)

 

This approach of Bolles notes that discerning the gifts God has given us provides us with some very good pointers towards helping us discern how our vocation is best worked out. The aim of working through such a process is to help a person draw up a personal profile that captures a glimpse of the person God created them to be, along with a description of their life experiences.

 

Graham Tucker, who developed a programme for unemployed business people in Canada, was surprised at the high percentage who, even in their 50’s, had not yet decided what they wanted to be when they ‘grew up’. Tucker writes:

 

In the program we learned that the most effective way to arrive at a sense of life and career direction is first of all to clarify one’s self-identity, one’s gifts and strengths and one’s sense of vocation. Then a personal profile is drawn which states, “this is who I am and the kind of person I am, this is what I enjoy doing and am good at, and this is what I feel called to do with my life” By the time one has sorted out these criteria, the ljfe and career direction usually becomes clear. (1987: 142)

 

A useful resource specifically designed to help a person construct a comprehensive personal profile using a variety of different tools is the Career and Life Planning course developed by Denise Edwards at the Bible College of New Zealand (1992) and further developed by Mackenzie (1997). Covey and Merrill describe a series of exercises designed to help a person prepare a personal mission statement in their book First Things First (1994). And Boldt’s How To Find the Work You Love (1996) proposes that one’s true vocation is found by addressing four questions to do with Integrity (What speaks to me?), Service (What touches me?), Enjoyment (What turns me on?) and Excellence (What draws out my best?).

 

The home and faith community that shapes a person’s early understanding

Another very important set of influences is the one coming from the faith community that shapes a person’s early understanding and home life. This is often complicated where family members have only a nominal association with a particular faith community, or where there is clearly a significant discrepancy between the values proclaimed in theory on Sunday and those lived out in practice on Monday. But where faith and home and work life are, to some extent anyway, integrated and under-girded by a particular theological understanding, this will be influential in a person’s life. Whether these influences are adopted, or adapted, or rejected, they need to be understood. Both explicitly and implicitly, in theory and in practice, these influences will shape our understanding of vocation. And even if we are moving toward new understandings it is important to examine the place from where we have come, the road we have traveled and the various influences that have made an impact on us.

 

The more the dialogue and interaction between old and new understandings can be brought to consciousness and worked through to a resolution, the more likely it is that whatever vocational understanding results, it will be adopted and embedded deeply as part of a person’s core values. This can help to reduce what is otherwise experienced as an ongoing conflict between inherited values and new understandings. It can also help us to clarify and evaluate more carefully the vocational understandings we have grown up with, which otherwise often remain vague and unexamined.

 

Faith Development

James Fowler has been prominent in his pioneering work on faith development. Fowler uses the concept of vocation as an integrating factor in his understanding of faith development. He maintains that a revived notion of vocation is just what is needed to give rise to a sense of partnership with the action of God that will serve as an integrating principle to orchestrate our changing adult life structures (1984: 105).

 

Fowler’s concept of faith development is built on two processes, conversion and development, which taken together constitute, what he calls the ‘dance of faith development’ in our lives. Conversion involves radical and dramatic changes in our centers of value, power and master story. Development involves a less radical, maturing evolving, similar to the biological process of maturation. Fowler clearly distinguishes between conversion and stage transition. Conversion is principally about the ‘contents’ of faith; where stage transition is about the ‘operations’ of faith (i.e. the operations of knowing, valuing, and committing).

 

Drawing on the developmental theories of Piaget, Kohlberg, Ericksen and others, Fowler proposes a six-staged progression for faith development that begins at around the second year of a child’s life, although he does recognize the significance of primal faith learned prior to this age. Fowler warns that his is a ‘descriptive’ rather than prescriptive’ theory. While he does describe a generalized faith journey he does not wish to imply that a particular stage needs to be reached or attained. The goal of faith development is not to get everyone to reach the universalizing stage of faith, his last stage. Adults equilibrate at various stages, and it is quite clear that people located at each stage can experience a fulfillment of faith. Fowler does not mean to imply that people described at one stage are in some way better or more advanced than those of previous stages. Throughout his writings, he is at pains to clarify that each stage has its own integrity, strengths and weaknesses. Fowler describes the goal of faith development as being for each person or group to open themselves, as radically as possible - within the structures of their present stage or transition - to synergy with spirit (his later work is more explicitly Christian than his earlier writing).

 

At the same time Fowler also makes plain that for each individual there are a number of significant changes that occur in the faith journey. The development of faith is not a gentle undemanding stroll through life, involving gradual imperceptible maturing, but a series of growth stages followed by radical upheavals in our faith operations. These upheavals that may result in a person moving to another stage of faith development do not necessarily involve a change in the content of one’s beliefs. However, it is clear that the transition between stages is a difficult and often painful process; ‘it fre­quently involves living with a deep sense of alienation for considerable periods. People may spend long periods of time and energy ‘transitioning’.

 

Because of the difficulty of the transition process, ‘it is understandable why we defend, shore up and cling to our constructions of the ultimate environment (faith) even when these prove constricting, self-destructive, or distorted. In fact, Fowler suggests that many people revert to a previous stage rather than face the difficulty, or uncertainty, of the transition. Fowler’s denial that he understands stages of faith as a progression on to more advanced stages would seem to be strained by these remarks, especially as he also refers to people at less developed and more developed stages.

 

However, it is important to emphasize again that the goal of pastoral care that employs developmental perspectives is not to try to propel or impel persons from one stage to another. Certainly people should be supported and encouraged to engage the issues of their lives and vocations in such a way that development will be a likely result. But development takes time. Transitions cannot and should not be rushed. Pastoral care will seek to involve people in disciplines and actions, in struggle and reflection, which will keep their faith and vocations responsive to the ongoing call of God. The aim is to help people extend the operations of a given stage to the full range of their experiences and interactions. Integration and reconfiguration of memo­ries, beliefs and relationships in the light of the operations made possible by a new stage, are every bit as important as supporting, encouraging and pacing people in the move from one stage to another.

 

Fowler also explores how this view of vocation and partnership with God can be enhanced for people at each stage of development. He highlights the challenges for pastoral care at each stage as well as for preaching, Christian education and counseling. He challenges churches to learn to operate in a way that embraces people at different stages of faith so that no one development mode dominates in a way that makes people exploring other modes feel deviant. In order to do this however Fowler suggests that the church itself must have a stage level of aspiration of conjunctive faith. This encourages us to begin exploring the strengths, weaknesses and characteristics of churches of each adult modal development level.

 

The relationship between faith and the dynamics of change is also explored. Fowler acknowledges that challenges to our faith are often precipitated by other events: developmental events, reconstructive events or intrusive market events. As Fowler explores the nature of the changes such events give rise to, the breaking free from old connections or understandings, the disorienta­tion, and the process of reconstruction and growing new understandings, we begin to see how the faith journey that Fowler describes is intertwined with, and interacts with, different stages of our own biological, social, career and family development. Although they do not correspond exactly, they are clearly inter-related and further investigation of this relationship would seem to provide fertile ground for further study. Fowler’s Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian (1984) does begin this exploration for us, in particular, Fowler’s conclu­ding section which isolates the crucial questions about vocation that are posed in young adulthood, middle adulthood and older adulthood. He talks about youth exploring the formation of a vocational dream, the purifying and deepening of vocation in mid-life, and the importance of older people acting as witnesses and guarantors of vocation. Wiebe also explores this latter concern as she probes to find ‘what God has in mind for the older adult’. Fowler provides a useful description of the way our understanding of vocation needs reprocessing at different stages of development.

 

It is essential that the pastoral resources of churches be made available to people who are working through such stages. Times of transition are full of new and impor­tant possibilities for growth and for the development of fresh understandings of faith and vocation. Yet most churches have not deliberately equipped themselves for such ministry in any purposeful way.

 

In his conclusion to Faith Development and Pastoral Care Fowler (1987) encourages churches to become environments of development expectation. We must begin to ‘draw on the rich process imagery our tradition offers in the themes of journey, pilgrimage, wilderness, ship wreck, struggle, rescue, growth from being milk eaters to being meat eaters, healing, the new being in Christ, and the promised land’ (Fowler 1987: 116). He suggests we need to offer more dynamic images of faith and calling in our preaching and teaching. Building on the work of William Willimon and John Westerhoff on liturgy and the life cycle (1980), Fowler urges churches to begin developing liturgical celebrations of rites of passage and to recognize and encourage the develop­ment of faith and vocation. He suggests specific ways in which the community of faith can celebrate the forming, renewal and regrounding of vocations for people at different ages and stages. It is proposed that churches begin to offer periodic faith development inventories or check-ups. These could be offered in a retreat or spiritual direction format for individuals or groups. Fowler even offers a worksheet for this latter exercise called ‘The Unfolding Tapestry of My Life’.

 

The Balanced Life

One of the most difficult practical challenges that people face in their daily work is maintaining a healthy balance. It is usually a case of how to juggle home and family responsibilities, plus voluntary and church work and leisure pursuits, around the demands of a career in a context where economic restructuring is pressing for more productivity, and often longer hours, from fewer employees. The questions this gives rise to are ‘How can I fulfill all these claims on my time? How do I clarify’ my priorities? What matters most and what must I let go?’ These are questions that a clear sense of vocation should help to answer.

 

These pressures have increased in recent times with the growth of a more aggressively competitive free-market environment. An international survey of 5,000 office workers in 16 countries, including New Zealand, con­firms the common belief that work is the biggest cause of stress in people’s lives (Press 1994). According to Anne Else (1996), people, and especially women, are being crushed by the economy. This is because the entrance of many more women into the paid work force, combined with the expectation that they are still responsible for most of the unpaid work as well, means they simply have too much work, and it is snowballing on both fronts, paid and unpaid.    People           are struggling to get their lives into better balance inside and outside the home.

 

The experience of many of these women has begun to be documented and makes fascinating reading, particu­larly in the way that it challenges traditional understan­dings of vocational roles, identity and the relationship between private and public lives. Several noticeable trends have been documented. These include, a decline in religious beliefs and practices for women who have entered employment; recognition that many women enter the workforce as reluctant conscriptees who would rather be at home with their families; and the with­drawal from the workforce of women who have pursued career options (but not out of economic necessity) and now find these much less attractive than they first thought. But women are also deeply aware of other pressures, including the problem of reconciling and integrating public and private lives. Shelagh Cox explains:

 

In order to live well at home, I did things and thought in a certain way. In order to do well in the outside world I became a different person. As long as I kept my two selves separate, I got by. But whatever means I developed for reconciling the two, there was a hidden complexity. The half of my ljfe I was failing to acknowledge was present in the other. Sometimes its presence distracted or disturbed me and sometimes it nourished me. Aware as I was of this double existence, I could make little sense of it and felt I could do nothing about it. I wondered if other people fared better and, if so, how they managed it. (1987: vii)

 

A book that explores the re-weaving of women’s public and private lives by developing the idea of Christian vocation is Loving and Working by Rosemary Barciauskas and Debra Hull (1989). Barciauskas and Hull note that even in evangelical and Roman Catholic circles the tide has turned. Women’s public vocation is no longer being denied. Yet such affirmations mean little if women’s traditional domestic responsibilities remain exactly the same - that is, if some of those responsibilities are not assumed by men and by society at large. They discuss ‘the shared human need we all have, to live lives in which we are able to define our uniqueness through our work and affirm our connected-ness through our intimate, nurturing relationships’ and conclude ‘when women are denied work and when men are denied intimacy, both women and men fail to achieve their full human potential and all of us are diminished’.

 

For Barciauskas and Hull the answer is to rediscover a view of vocation that provides for both loving and working. However, this is not just an individual but also a societal task. In the mostly ‘feminine’ private world of the home, the primary virtue is self-sacrificing care for others. In the mostly ‘masculine’ public world of work the ethic of individual achievement dominates. Both family and workplace changes are needed to integrate the virtues of individualism and self-sacrifice into a new society. These changes are not only social but also spiritual. Only by more fully realizing the Judeo-Christian ideal of Agape love will we be able to forge a future equally committed to loving relationships, family nurturance and humane, productive work. Barciauskas and Hull conclude:

 

In the end, we are faced with a task that is often a lonely one ... And yet these private tasks are being multiplied by the millions. If the sharing of these personal struggles can lead to solidarity among women and men, the re-creation of a balance of work and family life will be genuinely possible. Values of intimacy and connectedness can become public virtues. (1989: 177)

 

Barciauskas and Hull explore how these principles can be worked out in marriages, in family life and developing new patterns of work.

 

Shelagh Cox (1987) develops the idea that men’s and women’s lives too, are separated: men belong primarily to the public and women to the private sphere. Women who have found their identities bound up in a new analysis are now questioning the dualism that undergirds this division.

 

Cox identifies four different ways of dealing with the division between public and private spheres

1.       allowing women to enter the public sphere

2.       rethinking and remaking the private sphere

3.       abolition of the private sphere

4.       challenging the divisions between the public and the private.

 

The first two rest on the assumption that private and public worlds are fundamental and unalterable divisions. Cox favors the fourth approach. She proposes that we explore the borderland between public and private life where inconsistencies in the ideology of separate spheres is revealed and where the contradiction in men’s and women’s lives can be identified. Rosemary Novitz, in the same book, looks at ‘Bridging the Gap’ between paid and unpaid work (Novitz 1987: 23-52). According to Novitz, the division between public and private worlds grew in the 19th century against the background of the development of capitalism, industrialization and the increasing tendency for paid work to be located outside the home. The idea that men ‘go out’ to do paid work while women engage in unpaid work at home was spread abroad by British settlers. And this still persists, for despite the fact that more men are becoming convinced that they should increase the time they spend in child care and domestic work, the burdens of trying to juggle time between the spheres of paid and unpaid work are still primarily borne by women. According to Anne Oakley, women have not been able to develop an alternative model of involvement in both paid and unpaid work which does not carry with it substantial penalties, traps and pitfalls:

 

For [women], the problem since the present social structure was established in the 18th and 19th centu­ries, has always been to reconcile the conflicting demands of home and work in such a way that they appear to be conforming either to the feminine housewife model or to the male career model. An acceptable alternative pattern has yet to be established - either for women or for men. (1987)

 

Women’s experience of the double burden of paid and unpaid work, and the realization by many men that they do not, and will not, earn a ‘family wage’, lie behind increasing questioning of the inevitability of female domesticity. They also challenge traditional ways of organising employment and family life. As Novitz concludes:

 

…many of us have developed individual strategies for combining paid and unpaid work that daily test our ingenuity and our energy. Through these strategies we try to accommodate demands on us as parents, and as the children of our parents, as we/l as employees, husbands, wives, lovers and friends. Changes to the way paid work is organised and the division of work between women and men (in the home and outside it) are necessary ~f we are ever to bridge more creatively the gaps between our private and public worlds. (1987: 51-52)

 

Elizabeth McKenna is another writer who explores the complexities of women’s relationship with their work. She looks at questions of identity, success, money, meaning and balance. She then goes further than most other women writers, exploring the relationship between work and identity for men too. According to McKenna, powerful forces are at work, changing circumstances for women and men that will take at least another generation for us to work through, and even then only as women and men are able to establish new patterns of partnership.

 

These writers highlight the search for something that will help to integrate and provide a sense of balance in lives that are made up of a variety of disparate activities. This is why something like the doctrine of vocation is so necessary. But the difficulty of combining paid and unpaid work, public and private lives, makes plain that this is easier said than done.

 

When we add to home and work categories the additional spheres of community, church, personal and leisure pursuits, and start pondering how we define our vocation in relation to each and all of these, numerous complicating questions arise. Do we see a single inte­grated vocation being worked out through a combina­tion of these, or different callings being worked out in different spheres? Is each of equal significance or is it the strong pull of one calling that dictates the shape of the other aspects of our lives? Are the boundaries sharp between different spheres of activity or are they quite blurred? We are forced to clarify what we understand to be primary and secondary callings for us. Primary callings give overall shape to our lives. They usually operate in an integrating way, giving expression to what we understand to be the most important elements of our true vocation, in a fashion that is so much a part of us that it will almost inevitably spill over into all other aspects of our lives. At the same time, we may still choose to pursue other secondary callings in what may be a more segmented way.

 

There is no simple universal formula. The mix and extent of overlap is different for each person and also different at different stages of life. But it is important that in times of confusion and struggle we do conscious­ly examine that mix, and that we understand the nature and degree of integration and segmentation that we have arrived at. Also that we evaluate the extent to which our primary and secondary callings, as we understand them, have led us to establish a healthy balance that reflects our true priorities at this particular stage of life. This is a process of vocational scrutiny that is likely to result in different decisions at different stages and that regularly needs re-examining and re-negotiating to maintain a good balance.

 

The church needs to help women and men gain a glimpse of how the different aspects of their lives fit together in God’s purposes - particularly family, work and church. If the church will begin to invite its members to identify their life issues, explore the faith dimension, identify gifts, clarify their vision, choose their priorities, name the people and resources they need to assist and encourage them on their journey and consider options for continuing this exploration, it will have begun to fulfill a very pressing need.

 

Alistair Mackenzie

has pioneered the Faith at Work project in partnership with the Christchurch branch of The Bible College of New Zealand. It combines training, research and consultancy func­tions with a focus on providing resources useful to Christians in their everyday life. Further information is available through the website http://www.faithatwork.org.nz Alistair is also one of the pastors of Ilam Baptist Church in Christchurch

 

THE BIG PICTURE

Volume 2 Issue 2 Trinity 2000 page 8