Outreach

We are called to Christ: Serving the Lord in whatever you do

We are called to Christ

“Whatever you do, work heartily… You are serving the Lord Christ.”
~ Colossians 3:23-24

What comes to your mind when you think of “work”? Is work a curse or a blessing? Is work a means to an end? Do we only work out of economic necessity? Some Christians may even feel that secular work is a spiritual hindrance, thinking, “If I could just get out of the rat race then I can be holy and really go on with God to serve him in missions.”

A Christian mission is an organised effort to carry out the work of evangelism, education, medical and/or community development and services, with the goal of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Missions involve sending individuals and groups across boundaries, most commonly geographical boundaries. So, a Christian missionary is one who chooses to respond to God’s call—a summons or invitation—to carry out his work in an assigned workplace that we describe as “the mission field”.

Some say that Christian missions work is a “vocation”, while others say it is a “calling”. Which is it? Yet some others do not think that secular work should be described as a “calling”.

The dictionary definition of “vocation” is a particular occupation, business, or profession.1 A vocation is an occupation to which a person is especially drawn or for which they are suited, trained or qualified.2

Vocation is not a biblical idea. However, the significance of this idea is overwhelming in both modern secular and church culture. In the history of the church, “vocation” and “calling” became interchangeably used.3 This has caused confusion.

Which brings me to my point. We are not called (κλητός)4 to a vocation! Rather, we are called to Christ, to live out that calling in whatever vocation or workplace that we are placed in or choose to be in. The virtue is not in the vocation (that is, the occupation or profession we choose to be in) nor the workplace (for example,  the mission field) but in living the calling of God in our vocation at the workplace, whether one is a missionary, teacher, doctor, nurse, taxi driver, cleaner, etc. As the Apostle Paul urged, let us live a life worthy of the calling (κλήσεως)5 we have received (Eph 4:1).

“Rather, we are called to Christ, to live out that calling in whatever vocation or workplace that we are placed in or choose to be in.”

How then do we live out God’s calling, as a teacher in the classroom, an engineer at the worksite, a nurse in the hospital, or a missionary in the mission field? The same question is asked by Christians of different vocations everywhere. How may we be a part of what God is doing?

While we do not know the fullest work of God who makes everything (Ecc 3:11), we can contemplate the greatness and goodness of God (Job 38-39), knowing he works for good from creation to consummation. The fact that we are working at all is God’s sustaining work! Remember he is not limited to the Church; he is as present in Shenton Way as he is in a Cambodian orphanage.

So why do we feel a sense of resistance to work, whether it is secular work or working in full-time ministry or as a missionary? Perhaps it is because we are drawn to “mammon”, the biblical term for riches, often used to describe the influence of material wealth. Mammon represents security for most people, and Christians are no exception. Prosperity is a global goal. It is one of our three national goals, enshrined in our Pledge.

Then, there is technology’s powerful grip. Technology, like wealth, is essentially good, but they can become co-opted by the evil one. However, the good news is that Christ has disarmed these powers (Col 2:15).

To overcome, we need spiritual disciplines, ways of clearing aside the obstacles so that we can be found by our seeking Father.

How do we develop spirituality at our workplace? It used to be an in-thing to pursue work-life balance. Nowadays, we speak of work-life integration. Jesus did not live a balanced life. There were times when he was so engaged, he did not eat (Mk 6:31, 35). But he lived a disciplined life—when he dismissed the crowd and went up to the mountain alone to commune with the Father (Mk 1:35). We need this rhythm of engagement and withdrawal. We need to engage the world—our colleagues, family and friends in both secular and Christian arenas—and have conversations and social discourses that keep us relevant.

But we also need to withdraw from the world—to meditate on Scripture, read the Bible and commune with God—these are spiritual disciplines. Our challenge is that everybody is working harder and longer!

As William Diehl said, “The biggest gap between our confessed theology on Sunday, that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works, and our experience on Monday is ‘works righteousness’”.6 Our actions betray our belief that our identity and worth are based entirely on what we do and how well we do it. So, on Sunday we say, “Wah, saved by grace!” On Monday, it is “performance reviews”.

“Our actions betray our belief that our identity and worth are based entirely on what we do and how well we do it. So, on Sunday we say, “Wah, saved by grace!” On Monday, it is “performance reviews”. “

In developing spirituality at work, we need to exercise the consciousness and presence of God in our conversations at the workplace, like Nehemiah did (Neh 2:1-8). Build reflection and contemplation into our work as a routine. Have an object at our workplace that reminds us of God’s presence. Practise hospitality and kindness in our conversations and actions with our colleagues.

Work itself is the arena for personal and spiritual growth. It may also reveal our Achilles heel. It is where our (seven deadly) sins find expression— pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth. But it is also where the (ninefold) fruit of the Spirit can be manifested in us—love, joy, peace (godly characteristics), gentleness, loyalty, self-control (about us), goodness, kindness and patience (our relationships with others).

We can live out God’s calling in whatever vocation and workplace we are in with the Holy Spirit as our resource. Our vocation is our mission and our workplace our mission field. The virtue is not in the vocation nor the workplace but in living the calling of God in our vocation at the workplace. Whatever you do, work heartily, for you are serving the Lord.


1 https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/vocation#:~:text=(vo%CA%8Ake%C9%AA%CA%83%C9%99n,which%20involves%20helping%20other%20people.

2https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vocation#:~:text=A%20vocation%20(from%20Latin%20vocatio,are%20suited%2C%20trained%20or%20qualified.

3 In Protestantism, the call from God to devote one’s life to him by joining the clergy (i.e. clerical vocation) is often covered by the English equivalent term “call“, whereas in Roman Catholicism “vocation” is still used.

4 https://biblehub.com/greek/2822.htm

5 “Calling” (κλῆσις, κλήσεως, ἡ καλέω) https://biblehub.com/greek/2821.htm

6 William E. Diehl (1991), The Monday Connection: A Spirituality of Competence, Affirmation, and Support in the Workplace, San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.

Prof Dennis Lee serves as Director, Strategic Planning and Capacity Building, at Methodist Missions Society. He was a Visiting Professor with Copenhagen Business School, a Fellow with Singapore University of Social Sciences, a Professor with Shantou University, and an alumnus of Regent College (MTS ’88 & MDiv ’89). He worships at Kum Yan Methodist Church, and enjoys rugby, futsal, skiing and snowboarding.

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