Os Guinness’s The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life is the best book I’ve read on the subject of calling. I read that book in one of my last classes at seminary a little over a year ago. This small book was inspired by that book and contains much of the best material from that volume.
Guinness states that there is no deeper meaning in life than to discover and live out your calling. He tells us that our calling is deeper than our jobs, our career, and all of our benchmarks of success. He states that it is never too late to discover your calling, and that at some point every one of us confronts the question: “How do I find and fulfill the central purpose of my life?” He tells us that answering the call is the way to find and fulfill the central purpose of your life.
One of the important points in the book is that there is no calling without a caller and down through the centuries God’s call has proved the ultimate “Why” in the human search for purpose. He writes that if there is no Caller, there are no callings—only work.
Guinness tells us that our primary calling as followers of Christ is by Him, to Him, and for Him. Our secondary calling, is that everyone everywhere and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him. Our secondary callings can be our jobs or vocations. Guinness states that these and other things are always the secondary, never the primary calling. They are “callings” rather than the “calling.”
Another important teaching in the book is the two distortions that Guinness states have crippled the truth of calling – the “Catholic distortion” (The “perfect life” is spiritual, dedicated to contemplation and reserved for priests, monks, and nuns; the “permitted life” is secular, dedicated to action and open to such tasks as soldiering, governing, farming, trading, and raising families), and the “Protestant distortion” (a secular form of dualism, elevating the secular at the expense of the spiritual. This distortion severed the secular from the spiritual altogether and reduces vocation to an alternative word for work).
Guinness writes that we must avoid the two distortions by keeping the two callings together, stressing the primary calling to counter the Protestant distortion and secondary callings to counter the Catholic distortion.
Guinness writes “Work takes up so many of our waking hours that our jobs come to define us and give us our identities. We become what we do. Calling reverses such thinking. A sense of calling should precede a choice of job and career, and the main way to discover calling is along the line of what we are each created and gifted to be. Instead of, “You are what you do,” calling says: “Do what you are.”
Throughout the book, Guinness share important features of calling. He states that to follow the call of God is therefore to live before the heart of God. It is to live life Coram Deo (before the heart of God) and thus to shift our awareness of audiences to the point where only the last and highest—God—counts. I also appreciated his discussion of the concept of an Audience of One.
If you are looking for a good Christian approach to calling, I would highly recommend this short book by Guinness as well as his full-length The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life.
The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler
We’re reading this excellent book from Albert Mohler, one of the best that I’ve read on leadership. It is broken down into 25 relatively short chapters. Won’t you read along with us? This week we look at
Chapter 18 – The Moral Virtues of Leadership
Leaders are involved in one of the most morally significant callings on earth, and nothing the leader touches is without moral meaning and importance. Leadership requires the possession and cultivation of certain moral virtues that allow leadership to happen. If the leader does not demonstrate these essential virtues, disaster is certain. Leaders are subject to the same laws, moral principles, and expectations as the rest of humanity, but the moral risks are far higher for them.
- Honesty – Truth telling is central to leadership.
One of the greatest temptations that comes to any leader is the temptation to tell something less than the truth. We must be ready to tell the truth at all times, even when it hurts.
- Dependability – The leader shows up when it matters, every time.
The leader is where he needs to be, always. This is not so much a statement of physical presence as it is an affirmation that the leader is always there in attention—in charge and ready to lead. The leader may have a day out of the office but never a day away from dependability.
- Loyalty – Without loyalty, human endeavors are doomed.
If we expect followers, employees, students, members, and customers to be loyal, leaders must be loyal in advance, and consistently so. Are the people who follow your leadership afraid that you are only looking for the next opportunity? If so, you can forget loyalty. Do they see you living with less commitment to the mission than you are asking them to have? Congratulations, you just undermined loyalty. Loyalty grows where it is cultivated and admired.
- Determination – You cannot lead without tenacity and the unconditional commitment to getting the job done.
Tenacity of purpose is what defines great leadership, and the greater the purpose, the greater the tenacity required.
- Humility – Get this straight—leaders will be humble, or they will be humbled.
Leaders have unique abilities, but they received those talents and the ability to develop them as gifts from God, given for the good and welfare of others. The gifts were given to us in order that we might serve others. The minute we forget that and begin to believe our own publicity is the minute we set ourselves up for humiliation.
- Humor –Humor is a public admission that leaders are completely human, and that, in itself, is a virtue.
We are not called to be comedians or humorists, but the effective leader knows that generous, self-deprecating humor is a gift that leaders can give to the people they serve.
Faith and Work News:
- Failure. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell looks at the word failure.
- Bold Leadership. In this month’s leadership podcast, Andy Stanley explores what it takes to be a bold leader.
- A Cultural Imagination. I’m currently reading David Brooks’ book The Road to Character. Here’s a video of a talk he gave at Redeemer Presbyterian’s Center for Faith and Work.
- The Most Liberal and Conservative Jobs in America. Ana Swanson writes “You can probably guess that environmentalists and yoga instructors are more likely to be Democrats — and oil workers to be Republicans. But what about flight attendants, talk show hosts, and neurosurgeons?”
- Major Body Language Don’ts at Work. Nikelle Snader writes “The nonverbal communication you use, even if you’re not aware of it yourself, can serve as major signals to those around you if you’re invested in your work, whether you’re open to input, and if you have the confidence necessary to succeed in your office.”
- Trend or Issue. Mark Miller writes “If you’ve never drawn the distinction between trends and issues, perhaps now would be a good time to do so.”
- Just Stop and Think. Here’s an oldie, but a goody, Watch this 15-minute video from Francis Chan.
- The 37 Best Business Books I’ve Ever Read. Michael Hyatt shares this helpful list broken down into different categories.
- Two Strategies That Turn People Into Partners. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “Fortunately, people are interesting, even though they’re not always charming. Yet the fact of the matter is — we’ve got to work with people. And every business that has ever been successful has learned how to turn people into partners. So how can you do that? Let me suggest two strategies from my new program, The Power of Partnership: Keys to Better Relationships and Greater Teamwork.
- People Over Profit: Easier Said Than Done. Dorcas Cheng-Tozun writes about the new book People Over Profit: Break the System, Live with Purpose, Be More Successful by Dale Partridge.
- Seven Thoughts on Taking Risks as a Leader. Brad Lomenick writes “So why do we risk and take courage as leaders? Seven things stood out to me on the whole issue of taking a risk.”
- Why Everybody Needs a Mentor and How to Find One. Chuck Lawless writes “A few years ago, I wrote a study called Mentor: How Along the Way Discipleship Can Change Your Life. That study was directed to college students because I believe every young person needs a mentor. Now, at age 53, I’m convinced EVERY person needs a mentor.”
- The 10 Characteristics of a Rockstar Executive Assistant. Michael Hyatt writes “A good executive assistant is like an air-traffic controller for your life. Not just your business—your whole life. They help manage not only the intricacies of the office, but all the treacherous intersections between work, family, social obligations, and more.”
- Lead the Many by Focusing on a Few. Eric Geiger writes “Jesus left His role as disciple-maker knowing “the words that you gave me, I have given them.” A time is approaching when you will vacate your role. Wise leaders envision their last day and work backwards. To make the biggest impact, the few need your focus. To bless many, focus on a few.”
- 6 Essential Principles to Guide You Toward Your Calling. Gordon Preece writes “Many of us sometimes wonder if we’re in the right place at the right time. In particular, we wonder if we’re investing our time and energy in the right job, career or work. How can we tell? Here are a few basic principles to help guide you toward your calling.”
- Quicksand. Mark Miller writes “With a decided heart and a disciplined approach to our work, we can win the battle over busyness – and avoid the leadership death that awaits its unsuspecting victims.”
Faith and Work Quotes:
- Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service. Os Guinness
- Great leaders lead by ideas. Rudy Giuliani
- Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. Stephen Covey
- If you are going to ask yourself life-changing questions, be sure to do something with the answers. Bo Bennett
- Make sure you enjoy every moment and live in the present. It’s the only most important moment you have! Ken Blanchard
- To “confront” doesn’t have to be aggressive. It literally means “to turn your face towards something or someone.” I.e. “Let’s look at this.” Dr. Henry Cloud
- Leaders who refuse to listen will be surrounded by people who have nothing to say. Andy Stanley
- Admit to and make yourself accountable for mistakes. How can you improve if you’re never wrong? Coach K
- “Joy.” What creates joy for you? Your heart needs it. God designed you to feel some joy….ask yourself what brings it & what destroys it. Dr. Henry Cloud
- If you find yourself wishing things were different, maybe it’s time to start doing something different. Michael Hyatt
- There is no deeper meaning in life than to discover and live out your calling. Os Gunness
- Your calling is deeper than your job, your career, and all your benchmarks of success. It is never too late to discover your calling. Os Guinness