The main point of the previous post is that our calling is premised on the idea that Someone beyond ourselves speaks. Vocation is a divine summons.

Go to the land that I will show you.

Come, I will send you to Pharaoh. 

Whatever I command you, you shall speak.

Follow me.


Vocational Angst

But in raising the theological profile of “calling” and “vocation,” we also tend to elevate our anxiety levels. With the stakes so high, we squirm beneath the pressure of hearing rightly from God as the One who calls. We strain our ears. We wait for the Caller’s specific instructions.

Some are confident that they hear, and off they go. Yet many of these who so confidently receive the divine summons must backpedal and find their way back to ground zero, vocationally bruised and beaten, wondering if they ever really heard that voice or if they had just imagined it. Some never hear a thing and remain vocationally immobilized. Others pick up something faint, some whisper that could be a divine call, but might simply be the wind. So they tread softly and gingerly, twisted up with concern that they may well be missing God’s voice and unsure about how to confirm the source of what they faintly hear.

Those who lack a theology of vocation may actually be much less anxious about their lives because they do not have to bother with all this ear-straining for a divine voice. So is it a bad idea to think theologically about calling? Are we freighting vocation too heavily by premising it on a holy vox?

I think part of the problem is that we have individualized our theology of vocation. In other words, we process our understanding of God’s call through our culture’s lens of individualism. Thus the language of “my” calling or “your” (singular, not plural) vocation.

God told Abraham to head for an unknown land. He told Moses to confront Pharaoh. He assigned Jeremiah the unpleasant task of prophesying to a stubborn nation. But when Jesus says “follow me,” he is speaking not only to individuals, but also to a corporate people.

Our individualistic mindsets lock onto the “individual callings” in Scripture. But we are quick to miss that humankind in general was issued callings, that Israel had a calling, and that the Church has a calling. These “corporate callings” are more important than the “individual callings” in the Bible.

Hear, O Israel… you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

He has told you O man [collective humanity] what is good… to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ.

Christians operate within the realm of God’s vox. This voice has spoken Christ to us. And within this acoustic range of Christ our lives are addressed, redirected, re-oriented. What we do in the daily grind is labor summoned into divine service. Whether we eat or drink or plow or preach or hammer or write, it is devoted to the glory of God. As addressees of this voice, our “careers” are owned by the Speaker. And this is true whether our jobs have been specifically assigned to us by an individual address.

But how does hearing and obeying the “corporate calling” or “individual calling” work in the gritty realities of everyday life?

More to come….

One thought on “Vocational Anxieties: Thinking through Individual and Corporate Callings”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.