DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Culture and Calling

Written by: on September 4, 2019

Calling is truly one of life’s great mysteries. Given the current cross-cultural milieu around terms like vocation and calling, it’s important to remember that these terms have a historically theological implication. Christianity has carried out the idea that our lives count for something because God created us with intention and had direction in mind for each of us.[1] Today, Christians tend to look for a definition of calling or vocation that fits somewhere between just an occupation, and a voice from heaven that gives specific direction on what one is to do with their life.

 

In his article, “Spirituality in the Workplace: Source of a Calling, Levels of Living a Calling, Job Satisfaction, and Life Satisfaction Among Indian and Ugandan Leaders”, Fred Wantaate reminds us that exploring the faith component of calling is one of the most important areas of research in the coming years.[2] Wantaante points out that a great deal of the literature and research on calling centers around how individuals might find a calling, no matter the culture.[3] He postulates that there are three prominent views regarding the source of a calling: “(a) an external source, (b) a destiny, and (c) a perfect fit for one’s interests, values, and skills.”[4] While these three sources are different, there is literature that shows that the differences between the sources of calling is negligible in terms of living out one’s own calling, job satisfaction, or overall life satisfaction.[5] The point of Wantaate’s work in this article is to illustrate the cultural difference in calling between those in India and those in Uganda. Given the cultural difference between the two, it was interesting to compare and contrast the literature around the Western world and calling as well.

 

In the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic tradition adopted the previously Protestant idea that any job can be a vocation. In contemporary Western society however, some believe another shift is taking place. The idea that any career or job could be a vocation has come to be viewed as a burden.[6] Since the development of the assembly-line, work doesn’t always belong to the worker. Employees are no longer feeling fulfilled by a craft, but disconnected from an actual calling to work.

 

Ultimately, a connection to calling in our work is important, no matter what culture you may find yourself in. Wantaante found that now, “The question that, more than ever, needs to be answered, ‘How can managers and human resource personnel redesign joys and tasks in ways that foster a sense of calling?’”[7], is incredibly critical. This is work is most evident as we look at the next generations.[8] How are we setting generations up to believe truths about their calling, not untruths about who they are in society? While we should definitely acknowledge that culture plays a significant role in understanding calling and the living out of ones calling, we remember that calling and vocation originally come from a theological perspective. Frederick Beuchner is often quoted for his view on vocation. He says that God has called us, “To the kind of work that (a)that you need most to do and (b) that 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.”[9] Beuchner’s kind of calling here is the kind of calling that transcends culture. Having a strong theological framework around calling is what grounds us, and reminds us that we are part of something bigger, something deeper, something outside ourselves – and that’s the kind of calling I want to live in to.

 

————————————————————————–

[1] William C. Placher, ed. Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), 3.

[2] Fred Wantaante, “Spirituality in the Workplace: Source of a Calling, Levels of Living a Calling, Job Satisfaction, and Life Satisfaction Among Indian and Ugandan Leaders,” Theology of Leadership Journal 1, no. 1 (2018): 50, http://theologyofleadership.com/index.php/tlj/issue/view/v1i1/v1i1

[3] Ibid., 50.

[4] Ibid., 50.

[5] Ibid., 50.

[6] William C. Placher, ed. Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), 8.

[7] Fred Wantaante, “Spirituality in the Workplace: Source of a Calling, Levels of Living a Calling, Job Satisfaction, and Life Satisfaction Among Indian and Ugandan Leaders,” Theology of Leadership Journal 1, no. 1 (2018): 62 http://theologyofleadership.com/index.php/tlj/issue/view/v1i1/v1i1

[8] Greg Lukinoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, (New York: Penguin Press, 2018), 4

[9] Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC (New York: Harper and Row, 1973), 95.

About the Author

mm

Karen Rouggly

Karen Rouggly is the Director for Mobilization in the Center for Student Action at Azusa Pacific University. She develops transformational experiences for students serving locally, nationally, and internationally. She completed an MA in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and is passionate about community development, transformational service and helping students understand vocation and service. Karen is also an active member at the Vineyard Church Glendora where she is a small group leader and serves on the teaching team. She is also a mom to two sweet boys, wife to an amazing guy, and loves being a friend to many.

8 responses to “Culture and Calling”

  1. Hi Karen. I was going to write on calling but changed my mind at the last minute. I’m glad the first issue of The Theology of Leadership did. The idea of calling has intrigued me for awhile. I have friends who have shared with me that their calling was unmistakably from the Lord. They’ve received it from dreams, from very specific direct signs, etc. Sometimes I wish that were true for me. I’m still unsure about this all works, specifically as it pertains to my own experience.

    I know experts, as you’ve mentioned in your blog, say there are three sources of calling: (1) External, (2) Destiny and (3) a perfect fit for ones values, skills and interest. I’m guessing the external source would include the sorts of things my friends say they’ve received their calling, namely from God. I’m not sure about destiny but I could guess. Although I think destiny might borrow heavily on “external” since the source is not from within. Typically when we say “it’s your (or my) destiny” we mean it’s a plan from on high.

    The third one is practical and makes sense to people. I’m wondering if there is a fourth category, a mixture between #2 and #3. But I admit this new source only applies to believers. I haven’t thought long enough to come up with one that applies to everyone.

    Perhaps a combination of #2 and #3 takes the deterministic nature of “destiny” which we can call God, combine that with the talents, values and skills of #3 and call it Gifting? The big issue I see there is that it limits the kinds of vocation available to individuals if I’m suggesting the biblical idea of gifts.

    I could also be overthinking this — very much like many of us who spend a lot of time thinking about the subject of “God’s Will”

    Do you know people who claim they’ve received an unmistakable call from the Lord? I’m always curious about their stories.

    • Karen says:

      Hey Harry!

      Thanks for your comments. I almost wonder if Beuchner’s quote gets at your idea of a 4th category. It’s an area where our specific gifts and the worlds great needs meet. I think that also speaks to the generosity of God, that God would give gifts to specific people for the life of the world.

      Good thoughts!

  2. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    This is the kind of calling I want to live into as well Karen, thank you!

  3. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Thanks, Karen. This is such an important topic to reorient the church in its mindset. I have been sharing a message on “The Three Callings of Influence” from Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 2:21. The three I see in scripture are the calling to be God’s child, the calling to be God’s servant, and the calling to suffer like Christ. It is a wonderful thing to see what the biblical text says about calling and realizing that the work we do in the world is living out all three and the influence is seen in who we are in the world while doing so. It changes our motivation and presence.

    • Karen says:

      So true, Tammy! My dissertation touches on calling and this semester I am writing on the biblical understanding of calling and vocation! I’m excited to dig into it more!

  4. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Karen,
    I really appreciated your conclusion statement, “Having a strong theological framework around calling is what grounds us, and reminds us that we are part of something bigger, something deeper, something outside ourselves.” You have caught the seminal truth of the critical place practical theology plays in how each one of us lives out our lives. Thanks again for your post and your thoughts!

  5. Digby Wilkinson says:

    I didn’t read this article too carefully, suffice to say I am one of those who has engaged in the conversation about call. In most cases I still wander away from them with questions. I do wonder is our self identity in Christ is more important than making sense of what we do. It is perhaps more a case of how we do it. Too often we think about this question from a position of choice, which is very western and privileged. However, the experience and voice of those without choice can change our perspective.
    A story by Edwina Gately (who spent her life working with abused women) from Robert Wicks, Conversations with a Guardian Angel was helpful when I read it, and it remains instructive.
    “Once upon a time there was a country ruled by a king. The country was invaded, and the king was killed, but his children were rescued by servants and hidden away.
    The smallest child, an infant daughter, was reared by a peasant family. They didn’t know she was the king’s daughter. She had become the peasant’s daughter and dug potatoes and lived in poverty.
    One day an old woman came out of the forest and approached the young woman who was digging potatoes. The old woman asked her: “Do you know who you really are?”
    And the young woman responded, “Yes, I’m the peasant’s daughter and a potato digger.”
    The old woman responded: “No, no, you are the daughter of the king.”
    And the stunned potato digger said: “I’m the daughter of the king?”
    “Yes, yes, that’s who you really are!” And then the old woman disappeared back into the forest.
    After the old woman left, the young woman still dug potatoes, but she dug them differently. It was the way she held her shoulders, and it was the light in her eyes because she knew who she really was: She was the daughter of the king.” What do you think?

Leave a Reply