One of my convictions is that the church needs to do a better job of adopting and advancing the Reformational doctrine of vocation.

Tim Keller points to the need and begins an introduction to this important topic in Redeemer’s Vision Paper #5:

Churches must equip believers to integrate their faith with their work. Most American Christians have been taught to seal off their faith-beliefs from the way they work in their vocation. The gospel is seen as a means of finding individual peace and not as a ‘world-view’–a comprehensive interpretation of reality that affects all we do. But the gospel has a deep and vital impact on how we do art, business, government, media, and scholarship. Churches must be highly committed to support Christians’ engagement with culture, helping them work with excellence, distinctiveness, and accountability in their professions and in ‘secular work.’ Developing humane, yet creative and excellent business environments out of our understanding of the gospel can be part of the work of restoring creation in the power of the Spirit. Bringing Christian joy, hope, and truth to embodiment in the arts is also part of this work.

Learning to integrate faith and work is a tall order. Christians need at least the following from their churches:

  • First, theological education about how to ‘think Christianly’ about all of life, public and private, and about how to work with Christian distinctiveness. They need to know what cultural practices are ‘common grace’ and can be embraced, what practices are antithetical to the gospel and must be rejected, and what practices can be adapted/revised for use by believers.
  • Second, they need to be practically mentored, placed, and positioned in their vocations in the most advantageous way. They need cooperation with others in the field who can encourage, advise, and advocate for them. They need help to do their work with excellence and in a way that really helps others and strengthens social cohesiveness rather than weakening it.
  • Third, they need spiritual support for the ups and downs of their work and accountability for living and working with Christian integrity.

There are two books I’m aware of that deal with this issue: (1) Gene Veith’s God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life (contents and intro available at the link); and (2) Os Guinness’s The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life. (I’ve read the former but not the latter.)

This weekend on Scott Moonen’s website I found a number of good resources on the doctrine of vocation. He points to this six-part series of articles that Veith wrote in the Lutheran Witness in 2001. (All the files are in PDF.)

This should serve as a helpful intro.

  • God at work (part 1)
    [Every Christian has a particular calling from God]

  • The masks of God (part 2)
    [God works through you in your vocation, whatever it may be]

  • Family vocation (part 3)
    [God works through us in our callings as parents, spouses, and children]

  • Calling (part 4)
    [We don’t choose our vocations; God chooses us for them]

  • Citizenship (part 5)
    [America is caught up in feelings of patriotism and national unity; Is it really OK to “wave the flag”?]

  • The gospel and the local church (part 6)
    [Christians, both laypeople and pastors, have a vocation in the church]

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5 thoughts on “Veith on Vocation”

  1. andre says:

    Justin

    Would you be so kind as to offer a couple of points on what you found particularly helpful about Veith’s book?

    My sense is that there are very few books that are both sufficiently theologically robust as well as practically engaging to the Christian in the marketplace.

    Perhaps this is because the topic integrating work and faith is either tackled by marketplace Christians that are not theologically grounded or theologians that lack significant marketplace experience. :-)

    Grace to you

  2. Stephen says:

    One of the obstacles to helping your congregation with the issue of vocation is that many paid gospel workers (eg: missionaries, pastors, seminary lecturers) subconciously view paid gospel work as the ultimate and every other vocation as second best.

    And although Eph 4 does set up something of a functional ‘hierarchy'(probably not the best word) in terms of word gifts versus the rest of the gifting in the congregation – it doesn’t set up the rest of the gifts as second best.

  3. Mark and Maki Wolter says:

    Not related to this post… Justin, did you ever leave a link to the Christianity Today article about Calvinism? I’ve been waiting for that one!

  4. Whitney says:

    Justin,

    I’ve actually read a lot about this topic (encouraged by several great sessions at the World Journalism Institute). Luther was brilliant and quite prolific on this subject. I would just find a large book on his writings and you should be able to find quite a bit.

  5. Lord Veritas says:

    I can recommend greatly Os Guiness The Call. A great read and re-read. Especially his chapter on the Audience of One where he says talking about his own life “..Growing awareness of the Audience of One has greatly helped me in the vicissitudes of my own calling. Part of my calling, as I have discovered it and tried to fulfill it, has been to make sense of the gospel to the world – as an appologist- and to make sense of the world to the church – as an analyst…”

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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