Back when I started my faith journey, I recall trying to figure out the differences and similarities between a calling and a career. I would like to share some of those thoughts as I remember them and some ways we are thinking about this today.
In my world at that time, the thinking was a calling was essentially a heavenly summons to serve a church or para-church organization. Full or part time senior pastors, assistant pastors, choir or educational directors, and foreign missionaries were all examples of vocational callings in the strictest sense. By extension, you could also include those who served Christian orphanages, urban missions, Christian women’s shelters, and many more church and para-church volunteer organizations and programs. A calling was not considered optional. It was a mandate.
A career was considered very different from a calling. It was mostly optional. You could choose to be in education, music and the arts, engineering, marketing and sales, architecture, banking, technology, homemakers, and a host of other careers. Even if you only had an interest you could explore and pursue. No heavenly mandate required. It was misguided but some had the idea that our careers are independent and disconnected from our spiritual life and faith.
In my view, our thinking has rightly remained the same regarding our callings but I have seen a healthy shift in our thinking as it relates to our career choices. Callings are still considered to be a special mandate or summons from above. A calling is meant to steer us toward a level of commitment and devotion so we can become an undivided and unique instrument of the church. A calling is also still considered less optional than a career choice.
Yet, in many ways callings and careers are very similar. Many serious Christians are convinced that their careers are divinely appointed. When this happens a career choice equals the intensity and the passion of a calling. Sometimes the irresistible pull toward a particular career is even referred to as a calling by us and others around us. Many career driven Christians are every bit as zealous and committed to their careers as the most passionate church or para-church private or public servant. In addition, some of the same character and spiritual attributes needed to succeed in our callings also increase the probability of our success in our careers: prayer, faith, loyalty, industry, perseverance, trustworthiness, people skills, emotional intelligence, serving constituents and many other character and spiritual qualities.
When we are doing what we know we should be doing after thoughtful consideration, prayerful guidance, and advice from those who love us there is little difference in a heavenly calling and a God approved or appointed career. In the Bible, Daniel and Joseph had illustrious careers. Peter and Paul had illustrious callings. When God is directing us they are mostly one and the same!
Joseph C. Hutchison
Rochester Hills, Michigan
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