References to, conversations about, and involvement in calling form an extraordinary amount of my time. Perhaps because my own calling puts me into contact with such conversations do these matters arise so often.
I have come to some conclusions, particularly in reference to so many of these conversations being with students. One, Christian calling carries at least a two faceted look. There is calling, initiation of communication from God, to salvation. This calling also entails a life of service marked by Christ-like character in this world. Two, the Reformers were onto something when they added back to the long term conversation between Christ and culture in which they and we find ourselves. That is, Christian calling does mean enacting in ways which could be called ministerial. Also, though, ministry, teaching, proclamation—all those matters which we contend are important about the Gospel—can and should be done by those who are not in a pulpit setting. Three, calling is an important consideration with more Christians than we might imagine. Four, with students, especially, the core of the dialogue is not whether they are called or not. The difficult part which they need to talk about is where and how they implement their sense of calling. Five, an important contribution is made to the work of the Kingdom as we keep talking about calling. Six, we need to keep calling on the table. The lack of such discussion will demonstrate a reciprocal erosion of the effectiveness of the Church.
How does one identify one’s calling? I have found two sources of particular interest over the years contributing to folks getting a better handle on their sense of calling. I offer a concise representation of their thoughts.
Findley Edge in his book, The Greening of the Church, provided some good guidance. He related three principles to assist in identifying calling. Principle one: When one discovers his or her calling to a place of special ministry, he or she “will have a feeling of ‘Eureka!. . .this is it?’” Principle two: When a person discovers his or her calling, he or she “will dream fantastic dreams about it.” Principle Three: When a person discovers his or her calling, he or she “can’t help but talk about it.” (Edge, 40-43).
Frederick Buechner developed an interesting glossary several years ago in Wishful Thinking: ATheological ABC. A portion of his expanded definition under “Vocation” says this: “It comes from the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a man is called to by God.” He concluded, after some further development, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Buechner, 95).
Read this issue of Window as one laid alongside these two spokespersons on calling. Our intent is to let some overflow occur reflective of the discussions which are ongoing at Logsdon. To that end, following is content presented to further the inner and outer dialogues you may be having regarding calling and living.
The first article, “The Vocation of Every Christian,” comes from Vernon Davis, who retired as Dean of Logsdon in 2003. Vernon’s perspectives reflect his long experience as a pastor, professor in theological education, and engagement of life as a genuine Christian attempting to bring biblical-theological dynamics to bear on that life. The next content piece allows Window to introduce one of Logsdon Seminary’s students, Stephanie Nash. Her largely autobiographical reflection relates how she came to a sense of being a minister in a local church, out of another vocational track. No doubt, many readers can find identification with her pilgrimage.
The last segment of Windows puts forward an abridgement of a conversation with Tom Stoker and Kelvin Kelley. Their perspectives provide something of a microcosm of a larger trend happening around us—that is, those who have served as vocational ministers on the staff of a congregation but who have shifted to another expression of vocation. The intent is that readers will be able, then, to identify this trend and how these two are expressing
something of which we will see more. Perhaps, even, some Christians will recognize their own need for vocational shifts and how to do such.
William M. Tillman, Jr.