Vocation Envy

by Mike McKinniss

A few months ago, here at {re}fresh we explored a common misconception about the nature of Christian vocation, the notion that as believers we often sense that we are called by God to do specific works.  In that previous post we addressed the false notion that God is going to call me away to do something I’m going to despise.

There is another attendant falsehood that often sidles up alongside that one.  It is the notion that certain callings are “higher” than others.  Call it “vocation envy.”

I don’t know how often I’ve heard it, particularly as a student at a Christian college some years ago.  Many friends, all ardent in their faith, were studying for careers in engineering or education or nursing, say, but would at different times express a sense of inferiority because they were not pursuing some kind of pastoral career, as I was.

Since then, within the church itself, I’ve often heard a similar sentiment from folks in the pews.  They’ve got their jobs from Monday to Friday, but what they really want to do is to do ministry.  Their forty (or fifty or sixty) hours during the week just pay the bills so they can do God’s work on the weekends or on Wednesday nights.

Just as our desires and dreams are not necessarily contrary to the Lord’s hopes for our lives, so it is false to rank professional church work above other types of good occupations, as if building homes or keeping the company’s books clean were inferior to saying the Mass or preaching on a Sunday morning.  There are ample (and much needed) opportunities to serve the Lord in all arenas.

I’ve heard it said (I forget where) that pastoral work is really like being a coach.  We pump people up and spur them on so that they can have life-giving impact in their lives in the community.  We try to make clear the gospel message along with its vast implications for the entire creation.  We in the church are attempting to give people the tools necessary to escort the Kingdom of God on earth (including your cubicle) as it exists in God’s realm in heaven.

It is those who sit in the pews who are actually playing the game.  More often than I, those who work in the world encounter (more like, “smash into”) world views and mindsets that are completely contradictory to the good news of Jesus made Lord and Christ.  Nearly every day, regular believers have the opportunity and privilege to reveal a reality of hope and wholeness and peace to a world that didn’t think such things were possible.

Perhaps I should be jealous of them.