Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

When Your Calling Changes

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For nearly 38 years I was a leader in a Fortune 50 organization. I’ve previously shared “4 Reasons I See Leadership as a Calling”. But 10+ months ago, my time at that organization ended. Although I still lead in some ways, particularly at church, I no longer have a team that I provide day to day leadership to. What now? What about my calling?
Os Guinness, in his excellent book The Call, introduces us to two types of callings, primary and secondary. As Christians, our primary calling is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live and act entirely for God. So, our primary calling is to God. Our secondary callings can be our jobs or vocations.
Guinness tells us that our calling is deeper than our jobs, our career, and all of our benchmarks of success.  We should not let our jobs define us and give us our identities. Frankly, we spend so much of our waking time doing our work, this can certainly happen.
I believe we have multiple secondary callings (son, father, husband, employee, etc.). Both writer Jeff Goins in his book The Art of Work and pastor Bob Smart in his book Calling to Christ, refer to our “portfolio of callings”. Goins writes that our calling is more than our career. He suggests that we consider the variety of things that we do (work, home, play/hobbies, etc.) as our calling portfolio. Dr. Smart writes that calling formation is for a season, and usually takes from age 18 to 35, but is always renewing with changes in our particular, or secondary, callings.An example of this renewing is Gina, a friend and former colleague, that, as I write this, I just ran into last night. A few years ago, Gina and her family moved from the Midwest to California for her husband’s job. Gina was the best manager I ever worked with, and definitely had potential to add even more value. But, she made the decision to leave our organization after some time in California to focus on her two young daughters. Now, as those daughters are ready to enter school, she is preparing to reenter the workforce. Gina had many secondary callings, among them leader, daughter, wife and mother. For a season, she put her calling as a leader on hold to focus more on her daughters.
Goins tells us that finding our calling is a path, rather than a plan, with a series of intentional decisions along the way.  He states that our calling is not a destination, but a journey that doesn’t end until we die. We must see the journey as a process, and that takes time.
So, given this information on calling, what does it tell us when, like me, we are no longer in our primary work or vocational calling? Is it time to just relax, volunteer at a worthy organization, play golf and pretty much take it easy? Not at all. I’ve been helped a good deal in this area by reading (three times now) Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger’s book The Gospel at Work. They tell us: “No matter what you do, your job has inherent purpose and meaning because you are doing it ultimately for the King. Who you work for is more important than what you do. No matter what you are doing, you are doing it to glorify Jesus.” The authors tell us that if we keep that one big idea in mind, it will change the way we think about our work and engage in our work.
Did you catch that? They tell us that no matter what we are doing, we are doing it to glorify Jesus.  In my situation, I no longer have a team that I have the joy of providing leadership to on a daily basis. That season is over. Now, my focus is spending more time with my wife Tammy, doing more writing and a bit of speaking, in addition to yard work and running errands with Tammy. No matter what it is, my work has purpose and meaning because of who I am doing it for.
So, like me, your (second) callings will change over time, but if we remember who we are doing our work for – King Jesus – we can have joy in them, because we know they have meaning and purpose.
Have you thought of calling in this way before?

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 39 years and a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Before retiring I served as a manager at a Fortune 50 company; I'm a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and 2 Corinthians 5:21 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

4 thoughts on “When Your Calling Changes

  1. Thanks for this really helpful post. To be honest, I personally have been more preoccupied with my primary calling as a Christian, to the detriment of secondary callings. I think sometimes we put “full time” Christian work on a pedestal and think too little of “tentmaking”!

    • I completely agree with you Robert, and that thought fuels much of my passion to talk to people about integrating their faith and their work. Thanks. Here’s a great quote I found recently from R.C. Sproul: “Any vocation that meets the need of God’s world can be considered a divine calling.”

  2. Great post Bill-thanks!! EJ

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